How to make progress in CrossFit when you’re over 30

Meyken Houppermans, PhD. CrossFit Level 3 Trainer.
Founder and Head Coach
You are in your 30's or 40's. You go to the gym, you feel fit. Until youngsters join your workouts. They set PR's every week, and get stronger and fitter by the day. F*ck, what just happened? How to make progress in CrossFit when you’re over 30?

Train harder?

You might think you need to train harder. You’re in your thirties, you’re not old! You should be able to keep up with those yoiungster, right? You think you’re doing something wrong and you need to switch training programs, starting yesterday!

And there you go: Your mindset just went from being a positive and helpful for your training journey, to a negative and demolishing factor to your training, your results and the fun you had at the gym.  

Now what? First of all, you need to realize: It’s not you, yet it is totally you!

It’s not you, yet it is totally you…

As we age, performance declines as a natural process of ageing. This decline is the steepest between the age of 30 and 40.

The decline in performance is the biggest in powerlifting  and weightlifting, followed by endurance (Kilmore, 2015) Sad, but true. The good thing is, the smallest decline is in power speed- movements such as high box jumps, as well as in light power- movements such as slam balls and kettlebell swings.

So, it’s not you… yet it is totally you! Because how you respond to the inevitable changes in your life, is up to you. You have three choices:

 1.  Fight against it

The first choice is to fight against it: You’re gonna ignore your age, you’re only thirty something, this is ridiculous, you’re far from old or in need to change something. Well, a bold and above all stupid and ignorant choice: Yu’re on your way to injuries, more frustration and in the end, you’ll end  up worse than ever. (CrossFit and injuries, the red flags)

2.  Give up

The second choice is to give up: This is useless. Why even go to the gym, when you can’t crush your old PR’s no more? When you feel like an old fart around all those big and lean youngsters? Forget it, it’s over, bye bye gym life. Once again a very stupid choice: Hitting the gym frequently and regularly contributes greatly to the quality of life. Itdelays the ageing  process and keeps you fitter n life, physically as  well as mentally. (Can you start CrossFit at an older age?)

3.  Be smart. Step over your ego, reframe goals and PR’s

The third choice is to train smarter, not harder. You probably need a longer warmup. You probably need to work on your mobility a bit more. You definately need to downsize the volume of your training. (High intensity training requires high intensity maintainance)

Furthermore, you need to step over your ego and reframe your goals and  PR’s. That means modifying and scaling your workouts, according to what your body is telling you on a daily basis. So invest 5 minutes every morning to  assess yourself (Judge by feel or pee).

For example: Did you wake up with a sore lower back? (Lower back pain). Then do split squats instead of heavy back squats. Do you have stiff shoulders? Then maybe ring pullups feels better than bar pullups. Adjust exercises and maybe even workout routines. Find out what works for you on a daily basis.

Reframe your goals and PR’s

You can be nostalgic about your former PR’s, maybe even cry a little bit about it. Stop living in the past, stop comparing yourself to others. (One size does not fit all)

You’re in new place in life, and that means new goals and reframing the concept of “PR’s”. Youre concept of a PR was probably defined in terms of your 1 RM. Now it’s time to redefine it, maybe in terms of 3, 5 or 10 RM, or maybe in terms of skills you learned, or techniques you improved.


Our advice: Find your most efficient training

The most effective training is the one that recruits the most muscle fiber. That does not necesarrily equals the one with the heaviest weight. The two concepts of 1) time under tension, and 2) proper technique as being the one and only way to results, might get the creative site of your brain working: Think of other ways to fire up those muscle fibers. Experiment with it. High intensity and great power output can be achieved in so many different ways. And with this creative brain and some  experimenting in the gym, the shift back to your positive and contributing mindset will follow automatically! 

Create your own health!©