By Jeff Geyer
Before I joined CrossFit I was an ever-less frequent canal jogger in Phoenix, Arizona. In high school and early college I wrestled (112 pound weight class) and dabbled in football and other sports and—how shall I say it—mind altering substances but I left that lifestyle behind me in 1988.
Just before my son, Harrison, was born I was 222 lbs, asthmatic, lethargic, and getting worse physically and realized that I needed do something about my situation. I read about a couch-to-5k-jogging-program and wondered if I could manage such a challenge. There is some nugget of determination in me that compels me to take on challenges that I don’t think I can achieve.
So I got into running and I even had a blog for a while that I called RunningthroughPhoenix. I joined a number of running groups and made new friends. I loved it and still do, though I run solo now. Over the past nine years I have participated in about ten half-marathons and one full marathon in 2012. I even had an LA Fitness membership—one that I seldom used—but my overall fitness regime was sporadic and occupied different phases of my life.
Ultimately, I found myself getting lazy about running, gaining the weight back again and the old lethargy started to return. I became curious about CrossFit when a friend of mine, Phil, joined a box but when he talked about the trials and tribulations of the program, I thought that it might not be a good thing for me. But then, as my 50th birthday approached, I decided to try it for the summer and see how things progressed.
My friend, Phil, recommended Octane CrossFit which was close to my home and my work place so I emailed one of the co-owners, Regan, and after some back and forth messaging I scheduled my first on-ramp session at the end of May 2016.
This was just after that gym had completed the notorious Murph workout which is usually done on Labor Day of each year. I missed Murph in 2016 and probably would have never have stayed with CrossFit if I were Murph’d on my 3rd day in the program. I recently finished my first year of CrossFit and did the Murph in May of 2017 and my time was 52:24 which I’m pretty happy with.
Sometimes when I think about my commitment to CrossFit there is a part of me that whispers, “you are too out of shape, too old, don’t have enough time, it’s too expensive, etc., to be involved in this shit. Stay on the couch and I promise you we will do something about all of this very soon. Something tremendous! Look! We can buy that ab-cruncher machine, or that Tug Toner.”
I realized that if I listened to that voice I risked becoming a diabetic and I’d be sleeping like crap again in no time. As I wrote above, there is another stronger part of me that says, get in there, take your shirt off, and lift that shit!
Performance-wise, I’m one of the bottom quartile athletes at Octane CrossFit but I refuse to let that deter me. Any person who shows up and participates in the WOD (me included) is first-string varsity. I like to think, “just because I can’t do that, doesn’t mean I can’t do this.” If I compare myself to others, I will be disappointed and feel that I don’t belong and will get a bucket of nothing in return. If I listen to the other stronger voice then I will get what I need for today.
Based on what I read online, and sometimes in print—there may or may not be a couple of back issues of Cosmopolitan in the house—guys my age should be doing nothing or alternatively we should be doing everything—twice, three times and once backwards according to Cosmopolitan. My response is that of Vygotsky: there is a zone of development between what we can accomplish without any help and what we can accomplish by being totally controlled. That zone of ‘productive discomfort’ is where we should strive to live.
Alone, I will choose the couch or possibly some neighborhood jogging or maybe taking on a coach or trainer who is too lenient which could result in me losing interest. Taking on a controlling coach might result in me being pushed too far into injury or just being miserable in the environment.
Age and fitness levels should not be the factors for choosing a program like Crossfit. The coaches, fellow athletes, and overall environment are the most important factors to being successful in Crossfit. I need to stay in that zone of productive discomfort, a zone that I cannot or will not enter and stay in on my own.
The moves and elements can be scaled. Our experienced and trained coaches show us modified moves that will protect us from injury, warm-ups and stretches that will increase our mobility, and progressive moves that we can use as benchmarks to get us closer to completing the actual prescribed element. There are some moves that may be out of reach for me, possibly for a long time, but the scaled options work my body, keep me safe and elevate my fitness.
Since joining CrossFit I have lost about 12 pounds (would like to lose about ten more), I eat better, I have more energy, and my body is in the best shape it’s been in since high school. At 51, I can lift significantly more weight than I used to lift at LA Fitness when I was in my 30’s. I recently went on a 6 mile hike up and back down a mountain in Prescott and I didn’t even think twice about the physical strain. I just hiked, enjoyed the views, and was not a bit sore the next day. I have made good friends that I share amazing experiences with at Octane CrossFit such as during the 2017 CrossFit Opens.
My kids and I wrestle all the time, and we frequently play ‘throw me up on the bed/couch’, and I don’t need an appointment at Emergency Chiropractic afterwards. I have almost 20 personal record improvements since January of this year which is significant for any athlete. As for libido—well, that’s shall we say another conversation (waiting for Michele Promaulayko to call).
To others my age I say this: Get outside and be active with your kids. Put Cosmopolitan down and create your own Cosmo (not that you weirdo!). Eat a salad without dressing(bad ass!!), drink more water, and get into a chat about macros. Get up early and go outside. We are close to retirement from our work life and we not only want fitness for those years, we want fitness for now.
Want a wake up call? Run in a friendly neighborhood 5k. Do it again in a year and compare–you should not be getting worse. Look in your hamper. Does it contain only work clothes? There should be sweaty gym clothes hanging around drying on the sides of the hamper and athletic shoes taking a beating. You should know who the other athletes are in your circles and seek each other out to discuss grip strength and liquid chalk. Your search engines should reveal Thorisdoter and Fraser Youtube videos (and baby goats playing, I mean come on, who can resist!) and your Amazon shopping cart should have branched chain amino acid drink mixes. Jump the eff up right now and do something.
Boomer 100 Contributor: Jeff Geyer
Jeff Geyer is 51 and grew up in Virginia but moved to Phoenix, Arizona, in 1991. He managed a Toys R Us for seven years before deciding to become a teacher. Eventually he became a Principal and has been at a K-8 school in East Phoenix for ten years. Along the way he married Maria and they have two children: Harrison, 9 and Amelia, 5. We also have a chocolate Labrador retriever named Norman who occasionally comes to Octane CrossFit to whine and moan when Jeff is too exhausted to do it himself.
Photos: Jeff Geyer and Peter Delannoy