A couple months ago my head coach challenged me to take on the task of organizing and coaching a CrossFit Masters Class. I searched the web for examples of such classes for ideas, templates, obstacles, etc.
Since I found no single source of such information, I decided to organize my notes and publish them for the convenience of others.
Where to Begin?
I envisioned my typical client/athlete to be at or near retirement age, and probably de-conditioned, self-conscious, and pharmaceutically enriched (no, not “roids”, but scripts for hypertension, diabetes, arthritis and more). As some athletes grow fitter or stronger they may feel encouraged to go into the mainstream class structure.
I have spent the past month researching the viability of a CrossFit Masters Class for my Box. These bullets provide the highlights of what I have discovered thus far:
- I have read over two dozen articles about Masters Athletes (Aging Athletes, Health & Fitness)
- CrossFit Journal has begun to focus a fair bit of attention on Masters (though little on how to attract them)
- I have viewed several videos of Master “Poster Children” from YouTube and National TV
- To date, I have located 18 CrossFit Affiliates that offer CrossFit Masters Class
- One affiliate has a Doctors Only CrossFit Masters Class, to encourage them to see fitness as a Prescription for Health
- I have determined that the most common offerings are 2x/week T & Th, and 3x/week M, W & F
- Prices range from $100-$215 depending upon geography and demographics, sweet spot seems to be about $125.
- Some affiliates encourage Hybrid Memberships which blend a 3x/week monthly rate, with a bi-monthly one-on-one personal session
- Most of the affiliates researched have this as a full-time offering, though a few view it simply as a six-week On-Ramp.
- Programming varies from On-Ramp, to glorified On-Ramp, to CrossFit Lite, to properly scaled CrossFit. None of the programs I researched were doing boot camp style WODs, the focus was on functional movements, body weight and appropriate weight training.
- Many Affiliates offer a free Consultation with prospects to help qualify them and to answer any questions to put any fears or apprehension to rest
- Fun and Socializing seems to be a big part of this, to encourage participation and consistency in attendance.
- I have read the entire CrossFit Masters Course Handbook (though I have not yet taken the course)
- I have completed the CrossFit Online Courses – Scaling, Spot the Flaw and Lesson Planning
- I have compiled a list of 16 Affiliate Owners/Coaches, that are offering Masters Classes, to contact with questions and to pick brains.
- Since the demands of aging athletes are greater, affiliates seek to keep the coach-to-athlete ratio low, sometimes capping classes at 8 people.
Walking is Not Fitness:
…we might begin to think of training elderly individuals as an exercise in scaling and re-establishing unused motor patterns rather than implementing minimal physical-activity recommendations or arbitrarily low-intensity and non-progressive exercise based on concepts of disease. Dr. Lon Kilgore
My Approach to Planning a CrossFit Masters Class:
I simply scoured the internet to find who was already doing a CrossFit Masters Class. I gathered articles, videos, coaches names, e-mail addresses and phone numbers. After reading, watching and listening to everything I could access, I compiled a list of outstanding questions or concerns and I started e-mailing people. Every coach I approached was like an open book, eagerly sharing information. Some corresponded via text or e-mail. Others took the time for phone conversations. All left the door open for future follow-up.
Shout Out to: David Osorio and Christian Fox of CrossFit South Brooklyn, and Carol Beliveau of CrossFit Blacksburg. These folks were very generous in sharing their experience and offering advice and encouragement. And also to the Facebook Group “CrossFit Masters 60+” – this gang was very supportive and encouraging, and gee – they’re my peeps for this project.
My questions focused primarily on programming, and drawing people over 50 years old, into the gym.
Regarding Programming, most simply scale as needed (the true CrossFit Methodology), some developed unique programming for Masters. Most scaled their daily WODs focusing on appropriately reducing high repetition movements, minimizing cardio and encouraging proper recovery.
Regarding drawing people in, the typical response was “slowly”. The growth is typically organic, it’s word of mouth. It’s a Master who is already in-house, inviting a friend for a One-on-One Session. It’s a 30 or 40-something athlete encouraging their Mom or Dad to give it a try. There is no magic marketing pill that is going to deliver ten 60-year old prospective athletes to your doorstep on Saturday morning. It is a slow, drawn out process.
Another point addressed the issue of intimidation. Many older prospective athlete’s only exposure to CrossFit is supporting family at local competitions, or watching the CrossFit Games on television. While we aren’t changing the WOD programming, we place more emphasis on the generic term “functional fitness”, than we do on the CrossFit brand. Once they get onboard, they will understand that scaling the workout is still CrossFit – but it is appropriate for them.
So far, I send out weekly reminders to members that my class is scheduled (we named it ONE Nation Longevity), and I encourage them to visit. I have also conducted a Saturday morning Buddy WOD, where a member can bring an older friend or relative for a workout, which is a disguised On-Ramp and a short WOD. This is good because they have a friend there to encourage them and to make them feel at ease.
For those of us who do CrossFit in our 60’s we know how tough it can be. BUT, we make appropriate adjustments to incorporate it into our lifestyle. CrossFit Games Athlete and Affiliate Owner Freddy Camacho has some blunt advice to those who want to begin or continue this style of fitness. Read the entire article, or simply digest the quotation below. Be smart!
We don’t have to many older folks at One World. The majority of our athletes are in their 20’s and 30’s. We’ve seen a lot of older folks come and go. The fact of the matter is CrossFit is hard and it hurts. Recovery is an issue as you get older, thus making consistency in training hard. If you don’t eat smart, sleep lots, and take some good supplements, trying to keep up with the youngsters or even trying to keep up with your own goals can bite you in the ass.
So to all you old farts out there in CrossFit land, do yourself a favor. Turn off your ego. Train smart with more emphasis in strength training (strong does an old body good). I would avoid gluten as you get older to increase gut health and decrease inflammation. Sleep more, it’s great for recovery. Don’t work “through” an injury or pain, work “around” them. Avoid high rep workouts and overuse of the joints. Even when scaled down, workouts with multiple reps at high intensity can be doing more damage to tendons and ligaments than they do good. – Freddy Camacho
Though it has been six years since Freddy wrote those words, there is a great deal of truth and wisdom that must be considered when programming or scaling workouts for older Masters athletes.
Consider the following points:
- Focus on Functional Fitness – look at nine functional movements
- Balance – do NOT Fall
- Bone Density – do NOT break
- Tendons and Ligaments are more susceptible to damage
- Range of Motion
- More focus on Strength than Cardio
- Avoid High Repitition
- Recovery – a priority
NOTE: My Masters Level Programming is NOT targeted towards competitive athletes.
CrossFit Journal – Functional and Fit Over 50 (one of the BEST articles I’ve seen on the subject)
CrossFit Journal – Lon Kilgore – Seniors – How to Say No to Chronic Disease
CrossFit Journal – Aging with Grace
CrossFit Journal – The Silver Market
CrossFit Journal – Girls for Grandma –
CrossFit Journal – Mike Suhadolnic – Live to 100 and Die on your Feet –
CrossFit Journal – The Silver Market
CrossFit Prototype – Fitness Over Fifty – good info
Recover Like a Master – Tips from Vintage Athletes
“Exercise for Older Adults” – a VERY SAD example of what government “experts” call fitness – scroll down to page 40 for “strength training”.
Dr. Jonothan Sullivan – The Barbell Prescription and Grey Steel Strength and Conditioning – FYI Sully is not a fan of CrossFit for us old timers, but his commitment to weight training for us is excellent.
Darin Deaton – Why Masters Athletes Quit
Jacinto Bonilla – Today Show Article
AMRAP Nutrition – CrossFit Masters
Del LaFountain – Training Volume for Masters
Billy Goodson – Staying Healthy as a Masters Athlete
CrossFit Central – I’m too Old for CrossFit
Making Training Injury Free – Breaking Muscle
Aging Gracefully with CrossFit after 60 – Invictus
CrossFit Cedar City – Misconceptions about CrossFit
Lon Kilgore – Aging, Performance and Health
Constance Tillet 77 year-old CrossFitter – CBS TV piece
Affiliates with Master’s Classes
San Francisco CrossFit – Masters Program
$200 for 10 Class Card
CrossFit Happy Valley – Legends/Masters Program
$129 per month 3x/week
CrossFit South Brooklyn: Fit 55+ Program
$215 per month 3x/week OR $200 for 10 Class Card
CrossFit Megalodon – Masters
$TBD per month 3x/week
Stadi CrossFit, Helsinki, Finland – The 50+ Program
132 Euros per month 3x/week ($159 US)
DeathProof CrossFit – Masters Program
$75 per month 3x/week
CrossFit Canton, GA – Masters Program
$TBD per month 3x/week
CrossFit 386, Port Orange FL – Legends Program
$110 per month 3x/week
Bayou City Louisiana – Masters Program
$125 per month 3x/week (they have more pricing models too)
Cypher Masters (is a six-week course) – This may simply be a “Seniors On-Ramp”, I’m not sure.
$275 for 6 weeks 2x/week
CrossFit Virtuosity, Brooklyn, NY – Masters 55+
$100 per month 2x/week (45 Minute Classes)
CrossFit Dexter, Dexter Michigan – Fossil Fitness
$TBD per month 2x/week
Jungle Gym, Hawaii – Jungle Life
$150 per month 3x/week
Rock Creek CrossFit, Kensington, MD – The Mighty Masters
$TBD per month 2x/month
CrossFit Instinct, Springfield, IL – Doctors Get Fit – (actually old physicians learning about CF, by doing CF for 90 days) – here is a video interview with one Doctor – Here is Savan’s Podcast Interview with Coach & Doc on the CrossFit Podcast.
$No Charge for 90 days
I am still in my first month of kicking off my Longevity Class. I look forward to sharing my experience in future posts.
In the meantime, if you know other web-based resources that could expand this set of links, please shoot them off to me, or comment below.