On August 27 of last year, I wrote a satirical blog called “Top 12 Reasons Why This 47-year-old HATES Crossfit.” It wasn’t any big statement, but just an attempt to crack up my wife, which is the goal of the majority of my writing. As I’ve done over the past 18 months or so, I posted the blog to this site and the A Write Smart Facebook page. It received good response from my friends and family and was shared a little. A blog page called PaleoParents.com picked it up as well, and that generated some extra interest, around 600 page views on August 30, which was awesome. It was fun and I quickly forgot about it and moved on with life.
Two weekends ago, while I was out coaching my son’s kindergarten basketball team, emails regarding that blog began popping up on my iPhone. By the time we got back to the house that afternoon, I’d received probably 10 emails.
Something was going on.
I hadn’t even logged into my blog site in a couple of weeks, so I checked it out as soon as we walked into the house. There had been a couple of hundred page views. Someone, I surmised, had found the blog and posted on a Crossfit site. By the end of the day, 345 people had read the blog. I went to bed happy and with the assumption that the newfound interest was over.
Boy, was I wrong.
Over the past two weeks, that crazy thing has been viewed an incomprehensible 155,000 times plus change, and the count rises every hour. In a single day, it was read almost 50,000 times. More than 200 people have taken the time to write comments on the page, and the blog has been shared tens of thousands of times through every major social media channel across the globe, including in countries I’ve never heard of.
It seems that I had quite accidentally thumped the reflexive knee of a usually less-vocal segment of the Crossfit demographic — the 40-Plus Somethings. Although the blog has received plenty of positive response from the younger crowd, the majority of the comments have been from athletes in my age group and above. For the past two weeks, the comment section of that blog has become a community gathering spot for older Crossfitters who feel free to express the good, bad, and ugly of their CF experiences while overwhelmingly proclaiming their love of the sport.
“At 69, I’m thrilled that what I can do bears a slight resemblance to what others are doing – I’ve only got six months under my belt, so it will get better.” ~ Judy
“I just wanted to say ‘Thank you’ to you, Mark, and the other 40-and-over men and women who didn’t give up on fitness! I’ll be 50 in June, and I hope to be in the best shape of my life!” ~ Whitney
“This was sent to me by my daughter – a Crossfit younger aficionado – who has talked me into Crossfit. At 64, I should know better. The only thing I feel you may have left out in this blog is how inflexible & sloppy we “oldsters” look when trying to do a Turkish Getup or the 5th Burpee – and I thought pull ups were difficult. Thanks for writing what I have been feeling. I also watch a lot of video trying to learn all these movements trying to become a “Supple Leopard.” ~ Tom
And this response to Tom’s comment:
“Keep at it and you will become a ‘supple leopard’… and stronger and have fun, and all that Mark says as well. I started at 58, and here I am still CFing at 63 and loving it. Never ever dreamed that as a 63-year-old woman, I could possibly be doing these things and enjoying it so much.” ~Helen
This is just a tiny sampling of the comments, and they’ve had me thinking about the phenomenon of aging and how it relates to Crossfit.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never really felt like a “grown up.” The world still looks the same through my 47-year-old eyes as it did 25 years ago, when I was fresh out of college. I’ve retained many of the same aspirations, I’m still moved by the same music, and I’m still turned on by good-looking women (especially the one who was crazy enough to say “I do” 16 years ago). I still feel unsure of myself much of the time, I often find myself lost during discussions about the stock market and politics, and I still hide my face in a pillow when ET turns blue and almost dies.
I’m still in my 20s, right? And then, I look in the mirror and realize that the guy I feel like isn’t that bald-headed guy staring back at me.
The term “mid-life crisis” used to be somewhat of a punch line to me, but now, I totally get it. There’s just not a lot of joy in the transition between a young person and a not-so-young person. When we hit our 40s, we start losing our moms and dads, we see friends’ seemingly tight marriages end in divorce, and popular culture leaves us in the dust. The physical blemishes we always though were weird on our parents are starting to appear on us. While it’s true that this is often the decade when we hit our career strides, it’s also a time when we feel we’ve passed the tipping point of life’s best days and it’s a downward spiral from here.
To put it bluntly, aging sucks.
And that, I think, is where Crossfit comes in. This seemingly straightforward activity — just a trendy, flavor-of-the-month exercise program, mind you — appears to contain fountain of youth-type properties that I suspect were never dreamt of by Greg Glassman, Crossfit’s founder. Many of those who commented on my blog identified themselves as 40- 50- and 60-year-olds who had never been athletic before. (For me, high school basketball 30 years earlier was probably the last time I had run and jumped for any extended period of time prior to three years ago.) With aging often comes a resignation that intense physical activity is a thing of the past or is reserved for those lucky few who have somehow avoided back pain or weight problems or joint issues or some other type of challenge. After passing their 40s, many Americans just, well … give up.
So is it only by participating in Crossfit that us Mid-Lifers can be snapped out of our doldrums? Of course not. There are probably lots of activities and pursuits that will suffice in that respect. But there are very few that contain the odd grocery list of ingredients — variety, intensity, and community, to name a few — that combined, create such devotion and affection in so many people.
But that’s the stuff you expect me to say. Here’s what I really think:
Crossfit allows us old farts to feel bad-ass.
I’m not really joking, here. First of all, we get to lift weights, and not by pulling down on the handle of some gleaming universal machine in an apartment complex fitness center or yanking a rubber band attached to a doorknob at the physical therapy office. No, we get to throw around big, mean, industrial, unyielding, free weights, and even drop them on the floor with an awesome crash when we feel like it. And that’s not all. We get to chalk up, rip our hands, run around a busy parking lot in front of all kinds of startled people, fling ourselves down to a dirty black mat and back up again, lash ourselves with a whistling metal speed rope, bloody our shins against a 30-inch-tall box, high-five each other, fist-bump each other, give each other total shit, run outside and visit Pukey, run in the bathroom and pee during double-unders, call out scores, blurt out obscenities, and collapse in a sweaty, writhing heap at the end of it all.
And that’s all before breakfast.
These are things one would naturally associate with youth, yet here us oldsters are right in the middle of it. I’ll let the Crossfit brochures cover the parts about all the benefits, functional movements, blah blah blah. That stuff is great too, but it’s not why us parents and grandparents keep showing up day after day.
It’s because we’ve been reminded how to be young again.
Now, despite the bombastic comments I made in my last blog, “Top 9 Reasons Why I Should be the ‘Face of Crossfit’ Instead of Rich Froning,” I don’t expect to be competing in the Games
anytime soon ever, nor even becoming all that good, or even “not shitty” at Crossfit, and that’s OK. Just this morning at my box, a 44-year-old friend of mine and I were bemoaning the difficulties of learning proper snatch form with our decidedly limited flexibility. Brian smiled and said, “Crossfit isn’t really something I do; it’s something I try.”
That, I believe, is where the real value is — in the trying. I’ll close with Carmine’s comment…
“I am turning 66 next week and into year seven at Crossfit. I don’t keep up with everyone, but I’ve still never left a WOD and said I wished I didn’t go to class that day. I figure if can do a third of what the twenty-year-olds are doing, then I am thrilled.”
P.S. Hey, fellow Crossfitters: If you enjoyed this story, consider subscribing to my blog (above right). I’ve got a lot more Crossfit-related blogs on the sidelines, doing Sampson stretches, hip circles, and those God-forsaken Inchworms. They’re about warm and ready to go.