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Respecting Our Elders

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” has been a popular and misguided saying for years. The Masters division athletes have been shattering this way of thinking for a long time. This year, the Games is taking it to a new level: the Masters Qualifiers.


I didn’t know what to expect when this set of four events was to be announced and posted last Thursday. More of the Open–style workouts? Hints of a Regional flare? Amped-up–style Games events, which had been watered down so these “old folks” could keep up? The answer, like anything we’d seen in the Open this year was to expect the unexpected and the unexpected was what we got.

Heaviest clean possible. Muscle-ups. Double-unders. Handstand push-ups. Heavy squat snatches.

As Bill Murray, through his character Carl Spackler, stated in the movie Caddyshack, “I guess the kidding around is pretty much over.”

These workouts stand alone as a challenging set. Any one of these would be a challenge to any Open competitor and, honestly, for athletes like myself I wouldn’t even be able to do all of them as prescribed. But then I started to think about something else; some of these people are more than 60 years old.

Since I started at a more advanced age (35) four years ago, I’ve known that the reality of me competing for the top spots at local events and Open workouts is not very realistic. For starters, I’m not naturally strong or fast, and I had to learn every single movement from the ground up because I had no experience with skill based weight lifting before I started.

I don’t know the story of every Masters athlete, but I’m sure their reasons for competing are as vast as their life stories. Because I’m now officially a Masters athlete as of the 2015 Open classifications, I did one of the workouts to see what it would be like. If you didn’t respect this distinguished and impressive group before, try these four events and see how your scores stack up against men and women who could be 20 or more years your senior.

I tackled the 100s workout, which was a very simple straightforward event: 100 pull-ups, 100 wall balls. We’ve all done Karen – 150 wall balls for time (And my advice is, if you haven’t, don’t. I hate it). As I grinded this one out in my typical manner of breaking up the reps and sets I couldn’t help but wonder, “How is someone as old as 65, getting through this?” The reality is they aren’t necessarily because the weights and reps are scaled for some of the athletes of a more advanced age.

But the point is that CrossFit is redefining our look at what it means to grow old. At 50 or 60 years of age I would have assumed I’d be looking at RV’s or finding out about how we can use our retirement funds to start traveling the world. While both those things might still be a part of my future, I have to believe that a part of my life could still revolve around training and competing. This group of Masters trailblazers is clearing a path for generations to come. Who’s to say, “You can’t compete, you’re too old?” As these great and inspirational athletes are showing us, part of your future retirement plans might just include a yearly trip west…to StubHub Center (formerly the Home Depot Center).

Do you know a Masters Grinder from your box who inspires you to get the most out of your training? Let me know about them at

Stay on the Grind.

Jamie Toland (JTol)
Twitter @JTolgrinder