The Masters Athlete

An intro to fitness and aging.
By Jamie Toland, CF-L1,

“I ain’t as good as I once was. I got a few years on me now. But there was a time, back in my prime, when I could really lay it down.” — Toby Keith

It happens to the best of us. One of the first times I remember my age affecting me physically was about 10 years ago when I was an assistant soccer coach. I had been training with my team and our goalie needed a break. Just into my 30s, I hadn’t considered what diving repeatedly to stop shots was going to do to my aging body. It had never bothered me in my 20s, so there was no reason to be cautious.

The next day, my back, arms, legs and neck were killing me. I learned that I didn’t bounce back the way I used to when I first started coaching.

Once we leave high school sports and physical education classes, most of us will see a marked decline in physical fitness. Into our 20s, partying and eating more, combined with less-structured exercise programs will leave most former athletes with two choices: Find a way to motivate yourself to stay in shape, or put on weight and often develop health issues.

I lifted weights with some of my friends and played a whole array of intramural sports in college before graduating and beginning to train for triathlons. Triathlons gave me an outlet and something to work toward, but I was training mostly on my own and really had to force myself to do the work needed to compete each year.

By my early 30s, the triathlon training had taken a toll on me physically and mentally. I had noticed that my strength training was dull and that most of the time it consisted of reading about workouts in fitness magazines and trying them out on my own while using the pictures and graphics as coaches.

Needless to say, it left me out of shape, unmotivated and plagued with nagging injuries.

In 2010, I discovered CrossFit. I went into my first introductory workout with back and shoulder issues, so I was leery of doing the high-intensity workouts. From day one, there was nothing easy about CrossFit. Even though I was nearing middle age (depending on your definition), I loved the way my coach broke down the movement and taught me by having me learn lifts using a PVC pipe instead of making me hoist up a 45-pound barbell and going at it. If you have been an athlete for most of your life and have done your fair share of lifting and training, you need to be able to go into CrossFit with an open mind. You have to come to terms with the fact that you are going to start from scratch.

Being older doesn’t make you less of an athlete. Hopefully, as a Masters athlete, your experience will lend itself to making better choices in and out of the gym. It may not ultimately be the fountain of youth, but if done correctly, the balance of eating right and training can have a major impact on the lives of thousands of people, 40 and older, all over the world. This could lead to a reduction in long-term illnesses and needs for prolonged medical treatments.

In the coming months, I’m going to explore issues and topics related to Masters athletes. Everything from diet and training to talking with Masters CrossFitters around the world to see what trials and tribulations have helped shaped their training and competing.

No matter the age, it certainly is not too late to start taking care of your body. The older I get the more I am realizing that long-term fitness is something that needs to be made a priority no matter when we begin our journey.

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