Older, Faster, Stronger.

Can the Elite of Crossfit Age with Grace?

Fitness, as defined by Greg Glassman and the larger Crossfit community is “increased work capacity across broad time, modal, and age domains”. How much work can you do and for how long. As Crossfit continues to grow, with the games creating new stars, Crossfit kids engaging new generations of athletes, and gyms across the country hoping to foster sustainable communities of crossfitters for years to come its worth thinking about the long term effects of Crossfit.

For 99% of us doing crossfit, the intense workout and workloads will be nothing but beneficial. Can the same be said of Crossfit’s elite athletes? Rich Froning has been absolutely dominate for the last four years, his endless workouts and remarkable discipline helping him maintain his seat at the top. But Froning, 26, is still young, at the prime of his athletic ability. Will he still be “the fittest man on earth” at 36? 56? 76? Crossfit’s definition of true fitness clearly shows that to be fit not only demands momentary athletic success but also a sustained ability to be the best for years to come. If Crossfit is to prove it’s thesis as a program which offers the potential for not just fitness now but fitness forever.

While we won’t know for a number of years whether or not the grueling regimens Crossfit’s top athletes put themselves through will have an adverse effect later in life, we can look how some others sports athletes have aged to perhaps give us a crystal ball into Crossfit’s future.

Perhaps the most iconic figure in aging fitness is the late Jack LaLanne. LaLanne’s famous for feats of strength; long into his senior years proves that fitness is not just for the young. An early proponent of both diet and exercise, LaLanne, while not a Crossfitter per se, certainly advocated an ethos we can all relate too. Bodyweight workouts, pushing yourself to muscle exhaustion, and the movement of odd objects over unreasonable distances were the hallmarks of his fitness regimes. LaLanne worked out daily into his 90’s for nearly two hours a day. He famously said that, “I can’t die…It would look bad”.

While perhaps lacking the iconic physique of Jack LaLanne, professional golfer Gary Player has been committed to weight training for his entire career. Player began lifting weights at the beginning of his career and has not stopped since. He reported in a Wall Street Journal article from 2011 that the night before his first U.S. Open victory that he squatted 325 pounds. As he’s aged Player, now 77, has kept up a strict regimen of exercise and diet. This last year, he was featured in ESPN Magazine’s “Body Issue” where he “bared” all proving the success of his weightlifting program. While golf is not a traditional sport for weights training, Player’s longevity at the top of the ranks on the PGA has shown the advantages it can prove not only short term but in the long term as well.

4.36 is a fast 40 yard dash time. Dee Milliner, the 22 year old 27th overall pick at last year’s NFL draft ran a 4.37. 51 year old Herschel Walker ran a 4.36 last year. By all accounts Walker is a genetic freak; Heisman trophy, multiple pro-bowls in the NFL, clearly an explosive athlete. But while many pro running backs leave the league to quickly gain weight in front of a camera, Walker became a fitness machine. He began participating in professional Mixed Martial Arts and winning… at 44. Now, at 51 he has become a major advocate of SEAL Grinder PT workouts involving elements of Crossfit. Walker today, looks and IS in better shape than 99% of people half his age. While he may not admit it, to an outside observer, Herschel Walker’s dedication to his own fitness regimes has helped him not only maintain but increase his health.

It is going to be interesting if Rich Froning, or Dan Baily, or Annie Thorisdottir will be elite Crossfitters at age 50 and beyond. While the three athletes above are just a small sampling, the importance of high intensity training not only while young, but also throughout life seems clear. Fitness is not a snapshot; it’s a movie. To be truly fit we cannot only focus on being the best athlete for the now, but instead be the best we can be now with a focus on maintaining a high level of performance into the future.

Workout of the Day
10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 for time of:
Chest to Bar Pull-ups
Box Jumps (30/24)

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