While taking in a majority of the events during the 2016 CrossFit Games, I became particularly intrigued with the athletes competing in both the Men’s and Women’s Master divisions. In order to qualify for a Masters division, or just simply be considered a Masters athlete, you must be 40+ years of age. After getting a chance to analyze these athletes and compare their skill sets to one another, I came to realize the difficulty it would take to get to that level being 40+, 50+, or even 60+ years old. So I did a little research on what a Masters athlete endures during training, whether preparing for competition or doing it for their own well-being.
The Masters Athlete pictured above is PRx's own Lori A.!
So what are some of the factors that a Masters athlete has to contend with that someone younger may not experience?
- Extended warm-up and cool down
- With myself, being a fitness junky in my mid-20s, I can walk into the gym, perform a 2-3 minute warm-up, and hop up to the bar ready to roll. (I imagine this won't be the case the older I get). This creeps up on many athletes as they start to feel the effects of not warming up properly in their younger years. According to what I've read, athletes 40+ years should warm up for 15-20 minutes just to get the body ready to endure their workout. Mobility also becomes a key factor to optimal performance as you age, which is where proper modification of workouts comes into play. Recovery time also needs to be extended the older you get because protein cannot be synthesized as efficiently as the body ages. This makes is harder to train vigorously day after day. Putting all of this together, a Master athlete’s warm up and cool down may take longer than the workout itself!
2. Proper programming
- As with every athlete, proper programming needs to be nailed down by their respective coaches in order to prevent injury and keep them coming back to the gym. If you can train like Rich Froning or other top fitness athletes, more power to you, but for many athletes 40+ years of age, programming is going to differ greatly. This is where getting to know your coach and sitting down to consult with them on a proper training regimen is very important.
- Change in body composition
- We all also experience hormonal changes with age. Men see a decrease in testosterone produced by the body, leading to weight gain and muscle loss, and women see an increase in estrogen which also leads to the same factors. This is where it is important to focus more on strength rather than conditioning, which has a great effect on reversing these hormonal changes. For example, a focus on strength may be the difference between doing strict pull-ups instead of kipping pull-ups. Again, proper coaching and technique can have a major effect on both the physical and mental health of the athlete!
- Outside influences
- No matter who you are, there are always going to be mitigating factors (you know, LIFE) that makes it hard to get to the gym and stick with your regimen. For the older athlete, it seems even more challenging. A lot of times they have to deal with people who just don't understand. They hear they're too old to do this or that, or that they're going to get hurt, and then get an earful of what they SHOULD be doing. These self-proclaimed experts are those that you should run, not walk away from. If you are doing something you love, and find a community of support that helps guide you every step of the way, keep that and cherish it to the fullest. Too many athletes are being pushed away by outside influences that aren’t enduring their daily grind.
SO TO ALL OF YOU MASTER ATHLETES OUT THERE, WE COMMEND YOU!!!
With all the above factors that you may deal with on a daily basis just to live a healthier lifestyle, it takes a lot of willpower and determination to keep on developing as an athlete. So keep pushing forward and know that there are people out there cheering you on!