So I read this article: “What Crossfit Masters Wish Every Crossfit Trainer Knew.” If you’re inclined, you can read it here (http://wodmasters.com/crossfit-masters-athletes-wish-crossfit-trainers-know/) The crux of the article is to try and help resolve the following issue: “Many Masters Athletes have felt ignored or that our unique experiences, injuries and needs are misunderstood by crossfit trainers who have had little knowledge about working with our age group.”As a Master’s Athlete (age 47), a reasonably experienced (6+ years) Crossfitter, and an always developing (2+ years of experience) Trainer, this might be the first fitness article I’ve felt I have reasonable credibility to discuss. To be clear, what follows are my opinions based on experience. This is my perspective. This AIN’T Science! There are no links to peer-reviewed, scholarly papers here. Please just keep that in mind.Here’s my primary train of thoughtAre Master’s as a group truly unique that require specific attention? I’m not convinced.

I submit that INDIVIDUALS are unique and based on where they sit on the CF Wellness spectrum somewhere between sick and fit, as well as the NEEDS of our lives, then the DEGREE of intensity at which we train changes. And EVERY athlete regardless of age or ability needs to communicate and collaborate with their coaches.

Yes, we all scale/modify our workouts, but age is only one variable in the equation. Do coaches need to be aware of and sensitive to that variable? Absolutely. Yet it’s still just one of many of which trainers should be mindful.

Additionally, those of us who have stepped into the role of coach/trainer have embraced a leadership role and therefore the onus is on us to lead the conversation/collaboration and try to consider all the variables. But I’m still not sold that Master’s are inherently different than any other category of athlete.

The first part of the article where I get hung up is the “For Crossfit Trainers working with Masters Athletes: what you should know” section. It appears the author solicited community feedback and MUCH of it looks to be individuals projecting their unique needs across the group. That’s tough to do. Masters are generally accepted as 40+ years old (35+ if you adhere to the Crossfit Games rule book). That’s a pretty broad spectrum. It’s REAL tough to make generalizations.

Everything that troubles me with the article comes back to this statement: “We want to be treated like athletes, but there are some things that make us different than other athletes.” That impresses me as a “we want to have our cake and eat it too” sort of statement. My response as a trainer is, “We’re ALL different. That’s why everything scales and we customize each workout to the individual each day!” Please understand, I say that from the heart and with some experience. I work with a broad range of athletes, from kids 5 and up through to retired gym members as well adaptive athletes. I’m not being glib when I say, “We are all unique.”

I lead the First-Timers Workout at the box where I train. It’s the workout session where we explain the fundamentals of Crossfit to visitors who are thinking about becoming members but may have never experienced it.

As I’m prepping them for their first CrossFit workout, I explain to all of them that the keys to being successful are the ideas of degree vs need and prescribed vs scaled. I tell them, “we all have the same basic physical needs each day. We all have to get out of our beds and meet the physical demands our days place on us. What changes from individual to individual are the degrees the physical demands each person’s life impose upon them.

My 8yo daughter, me, my 70+ year old mother, and the elite athlete training for Regionals all have the same physical needs. When the sun rises, we all have to get up out of bed, fuel our bodies through out the day and meet the physical challenges ahead of us. What changes are the degree to which those physical demands challenge us. The key to ensuring that each of us gets the best workout possible safely taxing us to the best of our abilities maximizing our effort, but minimizing the risk of injury is through the concept of prescribed work vs scaled!”

Every workout every day, the coaches should be talking to all of their athletes, regardless of age/ability, and asking, “how are you doing? What’s working today? What aches today? How are you thinking about modifying the workout today?” In doing this, that coach is customizing the work of the day to help their athletes meet their goals.

As an athlete, my primary goal in Crossfit is to be able to keep up with my kids (in every sense of the expression). If I get running around the yard with them and they say, “Time Out, Dad. We need a break,” that’s it! Crossfit for the win! That goal defines the DEGREE of MY Need. It drives every training, nutrition and recovery decision I make. If I over train so that I’m unable to keep up with my kids, then I have to take time to re-evaluate things and adjust accordingly. Every person should be taking the time to do that. Figure out your goals, train, evaluate, adjust…repeat.

Now, the idea of ‘over training’ raises a couple of interesting aspects: rest and risk aversion. I would concede that these two concepts are frequent challenges within the Master’s bracket.

Rest:  “How many times a week should I WOD?” The answer is, “well, how do you feel?” Do you wince when you raise yourself up from your desk because you’ve done heavy squats 4 days running? You might need a rest. But again, you have to be honest with yourself and talk to your coach and balance your goals vs the feedback your body provides you as well as the demands the needs of your individual life place upon you. In broad strokes, is your workout interfering with your ability to get through the rest of your day? You may need to consider reducing your intensity and or increasing your rest and mobility work.

Risk aversion: This is another area where there may be a common trait/tendency in the Masters’ class of which coaches should be cognizant. Masters may be hyper-sensitive to the potential for injury. It seems like a reasonably fair statement to generalize and say Masters take longer to heal, if we get injured. So where younger athletes may be more inclined to step up to any physical challenge presented; a master may hesitate and spend more time mulling over the “actions have consequences” possibility.

My wife is a prime example. As she explained: “can I DO twenty inch box jumps? Sure? But if I miss one and wrench an ankle or split my shin, I’m out of the gym for weeks while I heal. Plus, it makes my life as a mother, wife, etc that much harder. I’m not going to risk that. So I either scale the box height, or do step ups. I understand it’s not exactly the same movement and I’m trading stimulus for safety. But that’s my choice.”

That’s a very fair risk/reward analysis and it’s worth coaches and athletes talking over…no matter the athlete’s age.

Some bullets in the original article talk about wanting more time for warm up, cool down and stretching because masters need more time with that. I can attest to needing more time than some of my younger peers. However, there’s an element of individual responsibility here and it’s two-fold.

One, if you’re an experienced crossfitter, then likely you know which joints/mucscles need extra TLC. So take care of yourself. Take the time to lube those spots up. For myself, I know that if I fail to foam roll the small muscles above and below the backs of my knees, then there will be no explosive squats/jumping movements. So I build 20 minutes into my morning to roll those areas out before I go out the door to train.

The second consideration in this, If you’re new to training, then you may not yet know your body’s patterns and tendencies. In that case, TALK TO YOUR COACH. Any competent coach should proactively be providing warm up/cool down guidance based on the work out of the day as well as their knowledge of the programming over time. If you’ve been doing huge numbers of pulls ups, that coach should be guiding you to roll your lats, stretch your shoulders, etc. If you have something else that’s sticky, ask your coach. They will be more than happy to provide suggestions of things you can do both in the box and probably at home.

So that’s my take. Master’s athletes aren’t particularly ‘special’ as a group. Every athlete is unique in their placement along the Crossfit Wellness continuum. That placement is a combination of:

• Their life experience

• Their fitness knowledge

• Their goals (both in fitness and life)

The role of the trainer is to take the time to evaluate each athlete and establish where the athlete sits on that continuum at that particular point in time. Then get to know the athlete’s goals, their needs and collaborate with that athlete to understand the degree to which they may need to scale their training (Down..or UP! As I like to point out to the First-timers, “anything I can make easier, I can make harder!”) on any given day, to provide them the most beneficial training experience over time.  How does a coach achieve that? Through two-way conversation between them and the athletes they train.

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39 Days until War of the WODS and I have fallen way off my training plan over the last two weeks. Not real pleased with myself.

Built this plan, this calendar because I KNEW things would get weird. I KNEW I would need tools to stay focused. Still, I have let things slide.

There’s still time.

Time to refocus.

Time to reset.

Time to dedicate to being disciplined and making the right decisions.

So now, as I’ve done evey day since I started this plan I ask myself, what have you done today? The goal from here on out is to ensure that I’m honest with myself and satisfied with my answer.

 

 

In both training and accountability, I have been a bit lax. I’m still getting the foundational work outs in and getting advantage from those. The rehab, mobility and skill work have suffered of late.

Thursday, 11/9
Est 1 RM with Good Form – Deadlift

This lift was a serious disappointment today. My all time best at this lift is 385#. I was no where near that. I lifted 315# successfully. I attempted 345# twice and failed badly. Issue is the instant I make the decision to lift, I’m rocking forward in my feet and once the bar leaves the ground, I’m forward and the lift is straining my back. So I bail.

I was so disappointed in the standard deadlift that I took the bar back to 315# and did successful sumo deadlifts at 315# and 345#. Thanks for the latitude on that Coach Tori.

Est 1RM with good form – Overhead Squat
Lift progression for this one was: 115#, 135#, 155# 165#, 185# and finally 200#!

That final lift is a 5# PR and was VERY Satisfying. After the disappointment of the deadlift, it felt really good to come back and succeed on this lift.

Friday, 11/10
Segment 1:
On the 2:00 x 7:
3 Hang Squat Cleans + 1 Jerk

I did two rounds at 75#, three rounds at 95#, and two rounds at 105#. This was light based on the percentages suggested, but given all the work in front of us and it being the fourth WOD of the week, I was comfortable with the decision to keep things on the light side.

On the 2:00 x 5:
2 Front Squats

Did one round each at 105#, 125#, and 155. The round of 155 was the fifth and final round. There were two rounds of 135# before it.

On the Minute x 3:
1 Front Squat

I completed these, but didn’t record the weight.

Segment 2:
3 Rounds:
7 Ring Muscle ups (scale as needed)
50 Air Squats
10 Hang Power Snatches (Rx: 115/80 S1: 85/55 S2: 65/35)

While there was a 12 min cap assigned to this METCON, Coach Doug advised that he wanted everyone to scale to a level where they could do all movements unbroken and try to be done under 10 minutes.

With that guidance, I scaled the Muscle Ups to Ring Rows and the Snatches to 95#.

Finished in 8:05. Very pleased with that.

Monday, 11/13

Segment 1:
Back Squat
4 Rounds:
In a :30 Second Window:
Max reps @ 70%
Rest 2:30 between sets

I completed sets of 8, 9 and two sets of 10 reps during this portion of the workout. I used 165#. It was a very interesting exercise in breath control.

Segment 2:
AMRAP 20 minutes:
10 Thrusters (Rx: 135/95 S1: 95/65 S2: 65/35)
30 Box Jumps (Rx: 24/20 S1: 20/16 S2: 16/12)
16 Chest to Bar Pullups (S1: Pullups S2: Banded)

I did the WOD with 95# thrusters, the 24″ box and chin over bar pull ups. Completed 3 full rounds and 14 reps in the time allotted.

Every now and then you run into a WOD that just WRECKS you. This turned out to be on of those WODS for me. At the time we finished the WOD, I didn’t think too much about it. I was tired and a bit achy, but it didn’t seem exceptional.

About two hours post-WOD, I felt awful. I was fatigued. My limbs all felt heavy. I just felt wiped out. I haven’t had that feeling in a long long time. I had done all my standard post-WOD things: hydration, nutrition. There was nothing unusual about that part of my routine. It seems the 94 box jumps, and they were all jumps, ate me up. In hindsight that probably shouldn’t be a surprise. It was a good hour before I got back to feeling normal again.

Tuesday, November 14
Segment 1:
Handstand Pushups
Max Handstand Pushups
Rest 3:00
3 Sets of 30%
rest as needed between

I was definitely feeling beat up from yesterday’s work this morning. Plus, the last two times I attempted HSPU practice, I left the gym with a stiff neck. So today, I simply worked holds trying to see how long I could do free standing holds off the wall.

Segment 2:
Power Snatch
On the Minute x 10
2 Reps

Two rounds at 95# and 9 at 115#. Not much to say here other than I am relieved these weren’t assigned as squat snatches.

Segment 3:
5 Rounds:
15 Power Snatches (Rx: 75/55 S1/S2: 55/35)
30 Double Unders (S1: Attempts S2: Singles)
200m Run
15 min cap

I attempted to run this WOD Rx. However, the double under gods were not friendly today. I could not find them at all. So, per Doug’s direction, I scaled to 35-40 seconds of double unders each round and dropped the rope no matter the count when that time lapsed.

I haven’t run in quite some time. I didn’t feel like I had any sort of stride until the third round.

When time expired I had completed 4 rounds and 12 of the 5th set of Snatches. Not thrilled with the day’s results, but I understand them and can accept them.

Very much looking forward to a session of mobility, rehab and some skill work tomorrow.

There are 61 days remaining until the War of the WODs.

Some days we scale…some days it’s best to take the WOD at face value, accept your strengths and weaknesses and just hit them head on.

Tuesday, November 8

Segment 1:
Handstand Pushups
10 minutes of practice

Worked on kipping form here trying to string one or two handstand push ups together with mixed results. The most significant thing to come from this segment was a strained muscle in my neck. It was annoying, but not debilitating. Enough to make me self conscious of just about every movement after it occurred.

Segment 2:
EMOM for 8 minutes
5 HSPUs or scale

In light of the stiff neck, I elected to do handstand holds here. 7 rounds of 25 second holds. The final minute I went upside down with the intent of doing a max effort hold, with the hope of staying inverted the full minute. Didn’t happen. Brought my feet down between 25-30 sec.

Segment 3:
AMRAP 15 minutes:
30 Double Unders
15 Power Cleans (Rx: 115/80 S1: 85/55 S2: 65/35)
30 Double Unders
15 Toes to Bar (S1: Knees to Elbows S2: Hanging Knee Raises)

I’ve been avoiding double unders for a while because they aggrivate my calf. Decided to test my rehab efforts today.

Coach Doug was pretty explicit that if our double unders were failing us and they were taking longer than 30-40 seconds each round, we were supposed to abandon them at that point and move forward with the WOD.

It’s not possible to modify that way during a competition. You kind of have to take the WOD as it comes and manage the best you can. So that was the mindset I used for today. I told myself, “Accept that the double unders are likely going to confound you and slow you down. Don’t get frustrated as the group runs away from you. Stay focused. Do the work and do what you can.”

Things went ok. I completed 2 full rounds, plus an additional 59 reps. Some rounds of double unders when better than others. At least twice I was able to finish in just two sets. At least one round contained multiple times where I only stuck a single rep then tripped. Mostly, I’m glad I was able to stay calm and keep moving forward. Will I be that calm on competition day? Who knows? For today, I’m satisfied that I was a bit stubborn, a bit tenacious and didn’t freak out when things didn’t work my way. That’s enough for today.

As for the crick in my neck? A day spent alternating between mobility and employing a warm rice bag has it feeling much better, but not completely pain free.

Training focus has tightened up a bit and feels like I’m back on task. Nutrition is going ok and paying off. Still, couple of tweaks are necessary and didn’t accomplish everything I would have liked since last post.

Saturday, Nov 4

Did some light mobility, then modified the schedule a bit and attempted a 1RM Back Squat. My all time best is 325# back in 2015. I would have considered any lift over 300# a success.

I got 285 and it was work, but I was pretty confident there was more. Question was how much? Turns out it wasn’t 20#. I attempted 305, just to try and hit that 300lb plus goal. It pinned me deep and there was no recovering. Had to dump it off.

Disappointed that I wasn’t able to hit that lift. It’s curious. For reasons that I’m not entirely clear about, I have it in my head that if I could clear that 300# mark, I can declare my knees healthy/strong. Being within 10% of that all time best would go a long way to putting some questions behind me and establishing some confidence.

Ah well. Another day, I guess.

Segment 1:
Muscle Up Practice
10 minutes
Then, 3 MUs (or scale) EMOM for 8 minutes

Did 4 rounds alternating 2 strict ring dips, then 2 strict pull ups. That was kind of humbling. Once this was complete, I tinkered with some kipping chest to bar pull ups. The good news there is that my shoulders felt very mobile and it felt as if I was able to get into a really good Superman position forward of the rig. That’s frequently a big challenge for me. Felt good to be flowing into that position.

Segment 2:
Squat Snatch Complex
On the 1:30 x 7 rounds
Hang Squat Snatch + Squat Snatch
Drop between repetitions. Add weight each round

Worked these at weights of 75, 85, 95, 105, 115, 125 and 130 pounds. Things were moving really well until that last set. Bit of fatigue and heavy weights, they got a bit sloppy.

Segment 3:
Ascending Ladder for 7 Minutes:
3 Thrusters (Rx: 115/75 S1: 95/65 S2: 75/55), 3 Barbell-Facing Burpees
6 Thrusters, 6 Barbell-Facing Burpees
9 Thrusters, 9 Barbell-Facing Burpees
Etc

I chose scale 1 (95#) for this METCON. This seemed like a pretty good competition style WOD. So I tried to keep that in mind and stay aggressive without letting myself blow up and stand around. I was moderately successful. Rounds of 3 and 6 were unbroken and uneventful. Round of 9 I broke after 5 thrusters and I stood around longer than I’m comfortable with waiting to get back on the bar. Round of 12 I broke the thrusters into 6 and 6. I intended to go 7 and 5 but put the bar down early. It happens.

I was pleased during the 12 burpees in that when I began the burpees I had the mindset of “I don’t want to pick up the bar again. Just pace these until the clock runs out and be good with four rounds.” Then I scolded myself. Afterall, that is not the mindset of a competitor. I was then able to pick up the pace, complete the 4th round, plus 5 additional thruster. Not a brilliant score, but a small mental victory.

Life is all about trade offs, right? It was definitely one of those days in the gym.

“On the Minute x 9 (3 Rounds)
Hang Squat Clean + Squat Clean + Split Jerk
Minute 1 – 75%
Minute 2 – 80%
Minute 3 – 85%”

Before the workout, I based my percentages on my 1RM clean and jerk of 190#. That meant prescribed weight should have been roughly: 145, 155 and 165.

I started warming up and it became apparent very quickly that those weights and consistent proper form were totally incompatible. I could have moved the bar at those weights, but things would have been VERY ugly.

I pulled back to 115, 125 and 135. Even at those weights I found myself gasping and or groaning my way through the cleans.

Still managed to grind it all out though.

“Front Squat
6 Sets of 2:
Sets 1 + 2 – 80%
Sets 3 + 4 – 85%
Sets 5 + 6 – 90%”

Based on assumed 1RM of 200# prescribed weights here were: 160, 170, 180. As awkward and clunky as the clean and jerks felt, the front squats felt pretty silky. Really felt like I was moving well here. All reps were controlled, to depth and smooth coming out of the hole. Very satisfied with this portion of the workout and kind of curious to test a 1RM.

5 Rounds:
21 Air Squats
15 Pushups
12 Alternating Dumbbell Snatches (50/35)

12 Min Cap

Performed this METCON Rx and completed in 11:03. Pretty satisfied with that. Mostly, I’m glad I was able to pick and maintain a steady pace that allowed me to stay in near constant motion.

All air squats were done unbroken.

Doug offered great insight at the front of the METCON pointing out that the push ups would be where most athletes burned out. So slow down, split them up and don’t cook your arms in the first two rounds trying to go unbroken. This was very good advice. I did four rounds of 8 reps, sit back in saddle pose and shook the arms out exactly 8 times, then 7 reps. The final round was 8 reps, saddle, 4 shakes, 4 reps, saddle, 4 shakes, 3 reps. I can accept that.

Dumbbell snatches were very deliberate and unbroken. Dumbbell snatches tend to make me nervous. So often I see others rushing through them and as a result nursing sore backs later. When dealing with this movement, I subscribe to the Crossfit platitude of ‘slow is steady. Steady is smooth. Smooth is fast.’

I say deliberate because every time I set the dumbbell on the floor, I allowed myself to stand to near full height again, then squat down to grasp the dumbbell with the alternate hand. I concede that this 3/4 extension added a fair bit of extra motion to each rep. However, it ensured proper hip and back position when starting the next rep and afforded me just a quick window each rep to regulate my breathing. This allowed me to stay in constant motion and ensure proper position/form which ultimately is safer.

So I’m comfortable with it. Like I said at the outset. Some times you have to give a little to take. I’m good with the trade offs today.

Need to stay attentive to detail and adhere to the schedule. That’s been a bit tricky this week.

Wednesday, 11/1

This is my rehab, skill, mobility day.

I worked as prescribed on shoulder. That all went fine.

Worked a bit on pistols and that felt like a train wreck. Only did 2 sets of 3 reps each leg to a 17″ box. Legs just felt creaky. I think I short changed my warm up for my legs and paid for it here. Lesson learned.

I had been mulling over joining the main room METCON which consisted of partner 50-40-30-20-10 calorie row. So one person rows 50 cal, the other rows 50 cal, then 40 each and so on. There were an odd number of people in the 7:15 class and only one male signed up. So when Doug asked me if I was willing to join, I told him, ” I was just about to ask, if I may.” So it worked out great. I enjoyed this tremendously. Partnered with my buddy Shannon. That fella can row some calories. We worked well together and completed the row in 14:41.

Normal routine is to do ROMWOD on Wednesday night for mobility. Things were a bit hectic around the house (parenting, general adulting…and maybe a touch of laziness) this evening and when I finally had the time to do it, I bailed on it. I regret that choice. I intend to make it up tonight.

Thursday, 11/2

Strict Press – Establish 1RM
Worked up to a 1RM of 155 today. Missed presses at 165 and 160. I’m pretty good with this. Always a bit of a bummer to go back into old logs and find that I’ve actually maxed out higher in years past. But the past is behind me. Just need to try and press forward. (no pun intended).

Push Press – Establish 1RM

Hit 185 successfully today. That was a good clean lift. Successfully took 202# from my shoulders and locked it out overhead. Coach Tori says I rebent my knees though. So no rep. I joked with Tori that it was a ‘crossfit’ rep, since I got the lock out. But she’s absolutely correct. If I rebent my knees, then I need to not let standards slide and it’s a no rep. So 185# for today. That being said, it felt good to put 200 plus pounds overhead. Also stings a bit to see that in 2015 I have 225# recorded for this lift. I don’t know. It is what it is, I guess.

Trying to stay focused on the present, not dwell on the past. Also trying not to make any excuses or rationalize things.

I wasn’t upset or disappointed with either of those lifts at the time. Sure, I gave the bar a friendly mock-frustrated raspberry after missing the 165 strict press lift. And I ‘stomped around and shook my fists’ a bit after missing a second attempt at the 202, but anyone who saw me would see that I was smiling the whole time and my ‘frustration’ was an clearly an act. In the moment, I was really rather pleased with the day. My disappointment set in when I went back into old logs to write this post and saw those old PR’s from two years back. Meh. Let it go. #AlwaysForward.

I’ve got 73 days now until the War of the WODs. While I may not have set any new PR’s today. I’m pretty damn close to the top of my game as measured against old PR’s/1RM’s. My body feels good. It’s not beat up or punished or injured. Things are good. Stay focused. Do the work and remember each day: one pound, one step, one rep.