The Truth About CrossFit And Baby Boomers

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From the editor, Peter Delannoy: The Truth About CrossFit and Baby Boomers:

The goal of Boomer 100 is to inspire baby boomers to become more active, seek adventure, travel, and to try things that they have never done before. One of the key, underlying factors in living a long healthy life is a concern for fitness.

As I have said in my previous posts, a fitness program should get results in weight, heart rate, blood pressure, etc. In my own journey to find a fitness program that maximizes this objective I found CrossFit.

When investigating CrossFit on the internet one finds a plethora of blogs and web sites that describe this type of program in both negative and positive ways. In particular, I have been struck by the number of posts that decry CrossFit as a “cult” and some that discourage baby boomers from even trying the program.

What sets Boomer 100 apart from other baby boomer blogs is that I have committed to publishing only what I know from first-hand experience and do not publish information cheery picked from other blogs with no direct knowledge of the subject. What I know is that I have gotten excellent results from CrossFit: my weight is down, heart rate is down, and my blood pressure is also lower than it was one year ago.

In this profile we hear directly from Regan Doele, a CrossFit box owner and head coach of the facility where I train.

The Truth About CrossFit and Baby Boomers: An interview with Regan Doele, Owner of Octane CrossFit:

Delannoy: Can you tell the followers of Boomer 100 a little about yourself?

Doele: I grew up in a small town in Michigan with athletic parents who were positive roll models in my life.  My parents were avid triathletes and would often include me in their exercise routines.  Basketball, track, and football were my sports during my younger years and I continued to practice them until the end of high school.

I attended college at Ferris State University where I earned an associates degree in Nuclear Medicine.  My first job out of college took me to Chicago, Illinois, where I worked at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

After indulging in too many deep dish pizza’s I determined that I needed to follow in my parents foot steps and I began to run marathons and participate in triathlons.  I continued competing within this particular community for 5 years until I moved to Boulder, Colorado.

In Boulder I was introduced to CrossFit and I eventually competed in numerous local events.  I also met people within the CrossFit community that I will be friends with for the rest of my life.

Currently, I live in Phoenix, Arizona, with my beautiful wife Shannon and my amazing son Harrison. Recently I opened Octane CrossFit.

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Regan, his son Harrison, his wife, Shannon

Delannoy: What experience actually got you interested in trying CrossFit?

Doele: That happened in Chicago. I had decided to go back to school part time to pursue my Bachelor degree in Nuclear Medicine.  In one of my mathematics classes I sat next to a woman who came to class with her hands torn to shreds.  When I asked her about her hands she simply replied, “CrossFit.”  Her workout of the day (WOD) was 100 pull-ups for time.  I said, “Damn, I don’t even know if I can do 1 pull-up let alone 100.” I also thought that if my hands were that damaged I would have given up.  She was bad ass!

Shortly thereafter I relocated to Boulder for a new job and someone there asked me if I was alright….because I was really thin.  I’m about 5’11” and when I arrived in Boulder I weighed about 155 pounds.  I must have looked sickly because I was so thin. I need to say that I was running, swimming, and biking and thought I was pretty fit.  Nevertheless, I kept thinking about the woman with torn up hands and 100 pull-ups for time and sought out a CrossFit gym and once I got started I never looked back.

Delannoy: What prompted you to start Octane CrossFit?

Doele: This is a funny question!  I remember talking with the owner of the first box that I belonged to and I swore to never own a gym!  Now look at me, I own a box in Phoenix.

Why????

Well, the main reason was to promote healthier lifestyles and to increase the longevity and overall well being of my clients.  In my Nuclear Medicine career the majority of patients that came to the hospital setting were there because they had neglected their health for extensive periods of time.

I was involved with PET/CT procedures which are designed to detect and aid in the treatment of various forms of cancer.  I realized that what I was doing with these procedures had no impact on changing the way an individual lived their life.

I wanted to do something more rewarding.  Promoting fitness and healthy habits was exactly what I wanted to do.  I wanted to feel like I changed lives and provided people with a sense of community.

Delannoy: Many skeptics and competitors (other fitness professionals) say that CrossFit is not a good way to go in terms of fitness. Some even say that the elements have no real purpose or benefit other than to “make you tired.” How do you respond to this criticism?

Doele: I would respond by telling them the 10 physical domains crucial to good fitness.

  • CARDIOVASCULAR and RESPIRATORY ENDURANCE
  • STAMINA
  • STRENGTH
  • FLEXIBILITY
  • POWER
  • SPEED
  • COORDINATION
  • AGILITY
  • BALANCE
  • ACCURACY

Then I would have to ask how any one, or all of these 10 domains would NOT serve any purpose or benefit to someone of any age or athletic background?

Delannoy: Some even say that baby boomers should not do CrossFit. If you were were sitting face-to-face with one of these critics how would you respond to him when it was your turn to talk?

Doele: Again, I would refer to the 10 foundations of CrossFit.

As we age it is significantly important that we maintain these foundations of fitness to be able to live life with continued vigor.  Coming from the medical field I saw health care professionals stressing the importance of cardiovascular health.  Heart health is important, but so is being able to get up and down stairs, step up on to a curb, pick ourselves up from falling down, or walking quickly to get across a street.

Simply walking on a treadmill, riding a bike, or swimming doesn’t provide you with the functional movements that you are challenged with in daily occurrences.  CrossFit provides you with General Physical Preparedness. In my opinion, there is no other program providing the same type of overall fitness to its participants.

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Doele cranking air squats while wearing a 20 pound vest

Delannoy: Many baby boomers have started to join CrossFit. How do you see our needs relative to the other users of the box who tend to be significantly younger?

Doele: I believe that the need to scale appropriately for function vs. sport is huge in CrossFit.

For example:  Does a baby boomer need to perform a hand stand push-up?  Maybe they will one day find themselves in a situation that results in them being inverted and they will have to press out of that position, but do they need to train for that? No. Modifying movements for functionality is imperative.

In this particular example I would substitute a shoulder press or push press to deliver the effective stimulus for the individual. All of our scaling options for any movement help improve the 10 domains that we train in and will improve the quality of life for a baby boomer.

Whether you are young or old you should constantly challenge yourself and be willing to to train outside your comfort zone.  And this is what CrossFit does!

Some younger athletes have a desire to compete so the program will be less modified for them based on their specific goals.

Delannoy: Older clients require more rest and have mobility restrictions compared to younger clients. What are your recommendations as far as pacing in any given week of CrossFit?

Doele: I believe there is no true recommendation. Every individual is different.

Young or old, it is impossible to push yourself with 100% effort in every workout. Athletes need to respect their bodies and know them well enough to be able to listen to what their bodies are telling them.

In my opinion it is important to keep moving. Whether that’s mobility days or days where you train hard…. movement prevents soreness. Soreness is different than pain.

Pain indicates an injury and soreness indicates that you worked hard and are a little uncomfortable from it. Soreness is good, an injury is not.  With that being said, the amount of training days per week is related to soreness and the tolerance an individual has to being uncomfortable. Training sessions will vary based on the level of soreness.

It’s important to do something every day.
Delannoy: What are your long term goals as a coach and a CrossFit gym owner?
Doele: To continue to grow a strong community of healthy individuals and improve the surrounding community of the gym.  Give back to the local school districts to help families who are less fortunate than many of us.
Delannoy: Do you have any parting words of wisdom for Boomer 100 and its followers?
Doele: I love the quote from the movie, Shawshank Redemption, “Get busy living or get busy dying.”

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