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Functional and Fit Over 50

Brittney Saline, freelance writer for the CF Journal interviewed us about our awesome program offering, SilverFit.

Here are a few excerpts straight from the article:

Functional and Fit Over 50

As Kaye Graham celebrated the end of a 30-year career as a professor and embraced the bliss of imminent retirement, she had just one question: How would she get into her car?

She was 64 at the time and had spent her last three working years behind a desk. Now she had trouble easing herself into her low compact car. Once inside, she lacked the strength to hoist herself out.

“Three years being sedentary in an administrative position had reduced my fitness to an all-time low,” she said.

Graham, now 65, is one of about 14 regular attendees of Trebel Wellness Solution's SilverFit program, which is geared for athletes 45 and older and includes members well into their 60s and beyond—a growing demographic at risk for obesity.

“Unfortunately what happens for a lot of people in retirement is they stop moving as much,” said Carol Beliveau, co-owner of Trebel Wellness. “They say, ‘Oh, I'm in my golden years. I'm going to sit on the couch a lot.’”

“We have to bring them back from that sedentary lifestyle and get them moving again,” Beliveau said.

Talk, Evaluate, Plan and Train

At Trebel, it starts with a conversation.

“We’re asking a lot of questions—there’s a lot of detective work,” said Trebel co-owner Jesse Hilmandolar.

Has the client exercised before? Does he or she have any medical conditions or physical limitations that coaches should be aware of?

“We’ll look for what we call ‘pain points,’” Beliveau said.

Next comes a basic physical assessment, which starts with something as simple as observing a new client walk to the cubbies to set down her bag.

“You’re just kind of watching their gait, their balance,” Hilmandolar said.

From there, Hilmandolar or Beliveau will take the athlete through a series of basic mobility tests.

First up: the squat. Can the athlete sit down to a box, and if so, can she do an air squat? If that looks good, the next test might be a wall squat: The athlete stands a foot’s length from the wall and squats as low as possible while keeping the chest up.

Having the athlete hold her hands behind her head is also a good test of range of motion in the front rack, Hilmandolar said.

“We're going to see if they can squat down with balance, with everything tracking properly (and) the midline stable ... and come back up without tipping forward,” he said.

Coaches will also see whether an athlete can hang from a bar and how well he manages monostructural work such as a short walk, run or row.

“And wherever they kind of get stuck, that’s where we're going to work with them,” Hilmandolar said.

At Trebel, every new client begins training with a series of private fundamentals, and Hilmandolar said matriculating into class is more about knowledge than performance. Even if an athlete can’t do an air squat, he’s ready for class if he can demonstrate that he knows the squat and the appropriate modification for his current fitness level.

“We’re teaching a man to fish,” Hilmandolar said.

Though Beliveau and Hilmandolar have their masters athletes drill the positions for the clean and snatch with PVC pipe, athletes train the lifts with dumbbells before progressing to the barbell. Hilmandolar said dumbbells are more suited to athletes with mobility issues in the shoulders or wrists.

“Once they show competency with the dumbbell in all of the positions, then we would progress them to a little bit heavier dumbbell and a little bit more complex movement,” he said. “Then we might load them up with the barbell.”

The trainers don’t look at these modifications as scaled-down versions of standard movements but rather starting points along a path toward increased fitness for older adults.

“When you ask, ‘How do we scale CrossFit for our senior population?’ I'd say that we don't,” Hilmandolar said. “What we do is we have a progression-based system where we start from the bottom and then build up.”

That means trainers do not assume athletes of any age can perform an air squat. Instead, they start squat progressions from a box and athletes earn the right to graduate to a lower box or to a weighted squat.

The principle can be applied even to movements as complex as the muscle-up.

“You could say, ‘OK, it's a pull-up and it's a ring dip,’” Hilmandolar said. “But let's back up a little bit more. Can you hang from the bar? That's even tough for some of our folks.”

Depending on the athlete, Hilmandolar might have a client work on ring rows, a dead hang from the bar, or scapular shrugs from the bar before moving on to full-on pull-ups and dips. It might look like scaling or modifying to some, but Hilmandolar said it’s all about having an attitude of progression rather than thinking you’re simply making movements easier.

“It’s not saying, ‘Hey, there’s this muscle-up thing and you’re never gonna get to it,’ but we say, ‘This is what a muscle-up is. This is where you are now. These are the progressions. You’re in kindergarten; let’s get to first grade and then the second grade.'”

Piecing It all Together

So your masters athletes have some movements in their toolboxes—how do you go about creating a workout that is safe, effective and hits the desired intensity output?

“Intensity is important—especially for our older demographic,” Hilmandolar said. "If a car is coming and you have to cross the street, can you do that in a safe manner and quickly?”

To help his masters athletes achieve intensity during a workout, Hilmandolar applies the progression-based approach to overall workout structure. Take Helen, for example.

“At the very lowest level, we might say you’re going to go 100 meters,” Hilmandolar said. “And we’ll cap it at a two-minute effort. I don’t care if you run it or you walk it. You’re gonna move forward for two minutes.”

The athlete will then do lightweight Russian kettlebell swings and ring rows. The next time the workout comes up, she’ll be ready for a more advanced progression.

“I tailor each person differently at each class,” he said. “As long as they're healthy according to their doctor, then I make it work for them.”

Beliveau takes a similar approach with her athletes.

“They really like to know the functionality of movements,” she said of her masters athletes. “Why a clean? You're going to travel on the airplane. You’ve got your carry-on with you. You are going to have to functionally get that load up over into the overhead bin. It's not just movement for movement's sake, it's movement for functionality.”

Graham’s work in the gym has certainly paid off in terms of functionality. Today, after a year of CrossFit, she has “more energy for everyday activities, whether it is hauling big sacks of dog food to the car or doing gardening activities,” she said. “My balance and overall mobility is vastly better— getting in and out of a small car is no longer a problem.”


You can take a look at the full article here: Read and enjoy!


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