The CrossFit craze doesn’t seem like it’s going to die down anytime soon. In fact, according to a recent Fitbie article, this year’s CrossFit Games sold out within days of tickets going on sale. In 2011, spectators didn’t even fill up half of the 12,000-seat venue. So why has the strength and conditioning program—which mixes sprinting, jumping rope, and other forms of high-intensity cardio with functional exercises performed with all sorts of equipment, including barbells, dumbbells, pull-up bars, kettlebells, medicine balls, and more—earned so many devout followers? According to CrossFit Games athlete Cheryl Brost, a 41-year-old mother of two, it’s because it works. And not just for the uber athlete, but for people of all shapes, sizes, ages, and fitness levels. “I’ve seen kids as young as 3 in the gym, all the way to people in their 80s going through the workouts,” says Brost, who placed 15th world-wide in this year's games. “The way they’ve set CrossFit up in terms of functional movement, really anyone can do it.” Another bonus: The workouts of the day (referred to as WODs) are usually no more than 20 minutes, making them a great time-saver. Still too intimidated? Read on for Brost’s 8 top reasons boomers should give CrossFit a try.
“A lot of people get intimidated because they think CrossFit is going to be so difficult that they won’t be able to do it. But that’s the extreme,” says Brost. “All of the CrossFit gyms I’ve been to are very welcoming, very nonjudgmental, and very accepting. They want you to just come as you are. I hear a lot of women say, ‘Oh, I have to get in shape first. I can’t just walk into the gym looking this way or that way,’ and that’s the furthest thing from the truth. Come as you are, and let the method of CrossFit do its wonders on you.”
As we age, we naturally lose muscle mass, which causes our metabolism to slow, which means you could start building a spare tire by the time you reach your 30s. “When you do weight-bearing exercises, you start revving up your metabolism—and it keeps burning for many hours after your workout,” says Brost. “Also, the more muscle you gain, the more calories you’ll burn throughout the day, even when you’re not active. I joined CrossFit almost three years ago, and, as of this morning, I’ve lost 12 pounds. I’ve also really toned my body.”
“Women have a misconception that they will bulk up doing this much strength training, but it really isn’t the case unless they’re working for that type of look,” says Brost. “Keep in mind, one pound of fat takes up so much more space than one pound of muscle. There’s quite a volume difference. So even though muscle weighs more, what do you want all over your body? Something that’s bulky, like body fat, or something that’s lean, like muscle?”
“Unless you have a background in Olympic lifting or power lifting, you can, and need, to start easy,” says Brost. For learning barbell lifts, most CrossFit gyms have PVC pipe or even a broomstick you can use until you get comfortable with the form. Then, you can gradually work up to a level of weight that you’re comfortable with, whether that’s a 15-pound trainer bar or even just light dumbbells.”
“I think that the social aspect of CrossFit is really fantastic, especially for women. This is the closest I’ve felt to individuals that I’ve worked out with since I was on a high school or college team,” says Brost. “When you sweat together, go through a tough workout together … it just does something to bond the group. CrossFit has a unique community spirit that’s second to none. It’s a good place to make friends.”
“CrossFit teaches you about good nutrition, too, so you’re able to take those new skills back to your family,” says Brost, noting that she now makes healthier meals and snacks for kids. “Kids really learn by example, and they’ll follow your lead.”
“As we age, it becomes really important to use all of our joints regularly, and CrossFit is a great way to do it,” says Brost. “Joints were meant to open and close, and without regular movement they get stiff and achy. At that point, you become trapped in a vicious cycle: The less you move, the worse you get. And the worse you get, the less you want to move.”
“The functional movements used in CrossFit training really make you stronger for life,” says Brost. “That’s what we strive for each and every day in CrossFit.” Which means you’ll be less likely to throw your back out when you reach down to pick up the laundry basket or hoist that suitcase into the overhead compartment on your next flight.
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