What does a CrossFitter have in common with a little old lady? Everything!

At Intown PT, we treat a fair number of athletes of all ages and abilities from recreational soccer IMG_8844players, golfers to college track stars to tennis pros to NFL hopefuls to summer softball leaguers. But also ultimate frisbee champions, RKC kettlebell instructors, NPGL athletes, hoopers, cheerleaders, olympic lifters, boot campers and, of course, CrossFitters.

I enjoy treating a wide variety of ages, body parts and activity levels. But some of my favorite folks to work with are CrossFitters … and little old ladies (and gentlemen, too), who have more in common than you might think.

For those of you living under a rock, CrossFit is a high-intensity workout program that puts functional movements, gymnastics and Olympic lifting into infinite combinations. The brand is in equal parts popular and controversial – a quick Google of CrossFit yields scores of pages and articles alternately bashing it for being a Dangerous Cult and gushing about how CrossFit Changed My Life.

(In the interest of full disclosure, CrossFit, or more specifically CrossFit East Decatur Changed My Life, but that’s a post for another day. Professionally, though, I’ve seen enough crappy coaching at other boxes that I understand the Dangerous Cult detractors.)

I don’t particularly see a difference in frequency and seriousness of injury with CrossFit as with other sports and workouts. What I do see is a different attitude and different behaviors – the very same attitude I see every day in my geriatric clients.

They have realistic, specific goals

Ruth, a 74 year old patient with a complicated medical and surgical history came to see me after a shoulder replacement. “I want to be able to cook for myself without so much pain.” Doable! Specific! Similarly, my CrossFitters tend to come with the same thing. They have plateaued on a lift or a gymnastics move. “I want to be able to do 10 pushups” or “I want to increase my three-rep max back squat by 10 pounds.”

They do their homework

I don’t tend to give reams of home exercises to clients, but even so, it’s often hard for busy folks to adhere to their self-care programs. My older patients, especially those who are retired, tend to treat their home programs like jobs. They create charts, do extra reps, and hold me accountable when an exercise is too easy or too hard or just not right. Similarly, my CrossFit athletes recognize the importance of adherence to their self-care program, even when it involves taking a break from CrossFit. They are vigilant in monitoring their own program and progress. Recovery and long-term success trump excuses.

They recognize that a little pain is part of life

“Where did people get the idea that it’s their God-given right not to hurt?” – CG, 82

CrossFitters know discomfort – it’s part of the workout! Soreness, occasional twinges and aches are a part of an active life, and they get it. But they also are in touch with their bodies in a way that allows them to recognize “normal” pain versus “danger” pain. Similarly, most older people have some pain with daily life, have accepted it and moved on with their lives. CG, quoted above, is an ornery, stubborn, generous, funny woman with rheumatoid arthritis said it best when she said, “I got my ‘normal me pain,’ and this shoulder pain ain’t that!”

They take responsibility for their recovery

Most of them are looking for guidance and help, not a magic pill or quick fix. CrossFitters and little old ladies hold me accountable and expect results, which keeps me on my toes and keeps my job fun.

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