Parents and CrossFit

The Workout Situation with Parents

I opened Verdant CrossFit in 2014. Before that I competed every weekend from 7th grade through all four years of college. In that time, I can’t remember a single time that my parents went to the gym, lifted weights, or “worked out”. That being said, my father will tell you he walks five to seven miles a day and my mother does yoga once or twice every few weeks. Both my parents are over 60 and haven’t had any major skeletal issues up to this point.

What Prompted Me to Have My Parents Start Lifting

We had a family wedding in Helena, MT and one of the first things we did was go for a small hike with roughly thirty people from the wedding. My dad made it to the top but my mother probably only made it halfway up the mountain. When I got down from the top we found her looking out at the Montana view, we started walking and I realized that she was struggling to get down the mountain. When I grabbed her arm to help I realized how small she was and how little muscle mass there was to her frame. When we got back down the mountain I told them they needed to buy some gym equipment, and I wrote them up exactly what they needed. I went to visit them over the Christmas break and Emily and I gave them routines to work on so that they could get moving and lifting as soon as possible. It turned out that my dad couldn’t get his left arm over his head without major elbow contortions and even then the arm wasn’t straight. We found out that he couldn’t do really simple thoracic exercises. My mom had virtually perfect body positioning in the squat and deadlift but had no capacity for lifting anything but very small weights. She also struggled to get her arms over her head without arching her back displacing her ribs forward.

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The First Time in Class

A few months later, they came to visit in early 2019 and they took class every day for a full week. They had literally never taken a CrossFit class before. My mom was definitely much less enthused than my dad was, but she took a class every day like a trooper. We have a master’s class at 7:15am on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday that my father took. On Tuesday and Thursday he took our regular 8:15am class. My mother took our CrossFit Lite class at 8:15am everyday except for Thursday when she took the stretching class. My father is a more social person so he chatted with the other athletes in class and asked questions about movements that he was unsure about. My mother kept her intensity VERY low. She would slowly pedal the bike and moved through all her exercises with a lot of careful body positioning but no intensity. One quick note, the majority our masters class is one of the most dedicated and fit classes that we have. They all ran the Robie Creek race this year and they are probably in the 99.9th percentile of fitness for their age.

At the end of the week it became clear that my father wanted to find a master’s class in a local CrossFit in Boston and that my mother probably did not share that desire. The issue is that I don’t live with my parents and I can’t make them do anything. I know my mother would prefer to finish hikes and be able to lift grandkids etc. in a few years, but she truly doesn’t want to go to a gym. So the next step is creating some level of accountability for a parent. It turns out that calling and harassing doesn’t work, so I’m going to try and get her to post her workouts to Instagram or the like to keep her accountable.

Easy Exercises to Help Your Parents Who Don’t Workout

The big question is whether they can twist their trunk without pain, extend their arms over their head without compromising their backs, and sit down to a bench and stand back up without assistance. No equipment is necessary for any of these activities. In my opinion, getting up off the ground is a really important part of a person’s life and if that isn’t possible it’s probably a good indicator that something needs to change.

  1. Standing tall raise both hands over the head. Try to put the biceps at the level of the ear without raising ribs.
  2. Standing with the back 4” from a wall, twist the trunk and try to reach the elbow to the wall.
  3. Sit down to a chair or couch without falling into the chair and then stand up without pressing off anything at all.


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