CrossFit, Warrior Dash, P90X, Tough Mudder, Insanity? Flipping tractor tires, scrambling through mud pits, helping teammates climb over obstacles in the woods, or taking on your first triathlon at age 50? You’ve probably heard quite a bit about these “extreme” types of workouts lately, and I’m willing to bet that many of you reading this have even tackled them yourselves. But there’s been some bad press about them lately, writing them off as nothing more than folks going through a mid-life crisis, or suggesting that perhaps these aren’t the best activities for those over the age of 40. I say that’s a bunch of hooey.
Sure, these activities are demanding, and they shouldn’t be embarked upon lightly, but they also offer an incredible bang-for-your-buck when you’re a very busy adult with extremely limited time. Is there some risk involved? Sure. But those risks are far less than the 100% chance of preventable death that results from a sedentary lifestyle. We live in an awfully risk-averse society that watches too much TV, eats foods we know will kill us, and spends far too much time indoors. So I say that it’s a good thing to see individuals taking on challenges like this that they didn’t know they were capable of, regardless of what age they are. Frankly, we need more people willing to push their own limits. Even as we age, with all the associated aches and pains, our bodies are capable of far more than we often give ourselves credit for. So, do you want to tackle that obstacle-filled mud run with your co-workers this summer? Good! Do it! Because when you take a little bit of crazy and temper it with a dash of common sense, amazing things can happen. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Use Common Sense: Lord knows I’m a big fan of “going hard” in training, but just because you were a superstar on the field at age 20 doesn’t mean your body can handle that same kind of training routine now if you haven’t worked out in two decades. So if you played high school football and have knee trouble that never went away? Than it’s no one’s fault but yours if you take on that stair-climbing challenge at your gym when you know it might not be the best fit. It’s not to say you can’t eventually get there, just make sure you use some common sense on the journey.
- Don’t Rush It: Again, this is common sense. If you haven’t exercised in years than don’t sign up for CrossFit and go full bore at your first session. By all means, take the plunge and sign up, but know your body, know your fitness level, and ease into it. Any trainer worth his or her salt will work with you and care about you making consistent progress in a way that doesn’t hurt your body. If you’re in doubt than have your doctor give you a once-over before going all out. It’s not that folks shouldn’t be tackling and enjoying these activities, it’s just that you should take your time, stay consistent, and work hard in small increments.
- Quality Over Quantity: Your CrossFit W.O.D. (Workout Of the Day) might call for several hundred repetitions of various exercises, but if you know that’s not a smart thing for you because of your lack of exercise for the last decade? Than only do what you can reasonably handle. And do it correctly. Form is everything. Whether you’re trail running, tossing medicine balls against a wall, or doing handstands, form does matter. A lot. Be a student of form and technique. Not only will you get better faster, but your body (and ego) will thank you in the long run because you won’t be sidelined with preventable injuries.
- Have Fun: A lot of us start working out again because we’re hoping, in some way, to recapture a little bit of our youth. And I really see nothing wrong with that because if you’re working hard at being healthier and having fun doing it than you should be commended! Enjoy it. Have fun. And celebrate your victories! Are you in better shape than you used to be? Good for you!
Ben Murphy, founder of The Father Life, is an Adventure Athlete, Writer, and Wellness Advocate who used to be obese. You can ask him your questions at www.BenMurphyOnline.com. He lives in upstate New York with his wife and three daughters.