CrossFit After 40

By Dr. Allison Belger

In Competition, Special Populations

January 30, 2010

PDF Article

Dr. Allison Belger turns 40 and finds that masters events provide a new outlet for her competitive spirit.

Throughout the past year leading up to my 40th birthday, I had been reflecting on many things, as one often does in the face of such a milestone. Beyond the typical musings, I had thought a lot about my life as an aging athlete and how I would continue to challenge myself physically given the constraints of my responsibilities and the realities of my aging body.

It had been a while since my days of competing to win. While winning is nice, for most of us the prospect of being No. 1 in any athletic endeavor ends with the acceptance of a college diploma. But CrossFit changes everything. It taps into those parts of our psyches that house competitive instincts and fuel our physical pursuits. It calls upon dormant hormones and startles to awareness the athlete in all of us. With each WOD, we are forced to decide how hard we will push, how fast we will go, how much we will lift, how well we will move.

Perhaps this is why CrossFit also makes us competitive, regardless of our age. After all, competition simply entails trying to do something well—better than the last time or better than someone else. Why would that drive, that emotional involvement, dissipate with age? I’d argue that it doesn’t.



26 Comments on “CrossFit After 40”


Grace Patenaude wrote …

Wow! What an inspiring journal! I'm turning 44 in April and I'm hanging out within a few seconds or minutes with the young ones (women's rx) because of my consistency with CrossFit for over two years now. Managing and running an affiliate box along with my responsibilities as a wife and mother of a teenager is possible because of CrossFit (the whole aspect: exercise, rest and nutrition) and our CrossFit community. I new I found the fountain of youth and it's good to know that many others have as well.

Thank you CrossFit!


wrote …

Great article and a kick in the seat of the pants! Thanks


wrote …

Great article. Just what I needed to read.

Did my first Fran as Rx'd at the ripe old age of 44-going-on-45 only a week ago. Got a 5:15 which nearly killed me but I took several breaks so I know a sub-5 minute Fran is in my future.



wrote …

Good article. Kudos on Deidra's 16 pull-ups.


wrote …

great article. another reminder that Crossfit is for everyone.


wrote …

As a 5 week newcomer to Crossfit and as someone who is approaching their 55th birthday, I am so inspired!!! Thanks for a great article! Squat, squat, squat....


wrote …

Amazing article Allison! Even though I was there with you at the Masters event it was fun read what was going on in that head of yours! Great job there and thanks for being a wonderful inspiration!!


wrote …

Thank you! Since I turned 40 ( a couple of years ago) I have taken up running, downhill skiing and crossfit. Having never done these activities before I'm always looking for a way to compete, to push myself harder, to actually see what this body can do. You hit the nail on the head with your article. Can't wait to get to the gym!


Frank DiMeo wrote …

Great article!
I'm a 59 year-old CFer & love it!


wrote …

I have to say at 40 I do not think of myself in anyway shape or form as an aging athlete. My father is 65 and can kick my butt any day running, biking, ect. There is plenty of evidence that aging is in the mind (well especially the 40 year old mind) Think about it we "get older" on the outside because it is constantly exposed to all the elements but internally we really can be equally fit (cardio-vascularly atleast) up into the 70's. So let me say this if you 40 and under the perspective your getting old I think your looking for excuses. I say that with love in my heart don't sell yourself short there is plenty of 20 year old butt to be kicked folks. Hope that reads with the positive intention it was written. :-)


wrote …


Loved it - Masters Athletes Rule!

CF has given me the basic training and coaching tips to start my o-lifting career all over again. Its hard to ignore all the accumulated sports injuries but there's no reason to stop competing when you truly enjoy it.

I'll compete in the Masters Nationals in weightlifting and the Masters Worlds in highland games this year at 50 years of age.

Good luck in your training,



wrote …

Thanks for a great article! As someone who's just turned 40 and only discovered CrossFit recently, this is really inspirational stuff.

"Age is whatever you think it is. You are as old as you think you are." - Ali


Train Hard!


wrote …

Great article! I am 42 and have beenCrossFitting for abouut two years. and I have seen a marked reduction in my "old-guy-itis." What appeals to me about CF is the sense that we are constantly redefining what people are capable of or can expect when we get older. I am always amazed at the twenty-somethings who breathe fire, but I am equally amazed at the 40, 50 , 60 even 7o year old athletes who won't accept getting weaker as they age. Coach's addition of the third dimension of work capacity over time really got me fired up! Here's to many more years of kicking butt!


Matt Muller


wrote …

As someone in their early 40s, I certainly echo many of the comments above. But it must be said the article title is a bit of tease - why? Quite simply, the newly introduced "masters" category age cut off for the CrossFit games is 50! Now, thanks to CrossFit, and despite now being able to row 1k under 3.20 and deadlift double my bodyweight, I am under no illusions of ever remotely matching the likes of Jeff Tincher, the awesome and inspiring athlete that he is, let alone all the other elite 40-and-over athletes out there. But its worth noting, for reasons known largely to CF HQ staff alone, 40 is considered too young to be "masters" at the Games. That is somewhat of a downer for those of us in our 40s, as indeed, a great many of us love the competitive angle to CrossFit, as much as the life-enhancing fitness benefits. Many of us, as I do, already compete in the masters category in Track & Field, Swimming and many other sports.

This raises the not entirely hypothetical question of whether its in the realm of probable outcomes to expect anyone over 40 to win the open-age category of the Games. I seem to recal Josh Everett commenting some time after the 2009 Games that he thought all future Games open category mens champions would be in their 20s, the base reason being that younger competitors have an age based inate capacity to recover faster - a seriously important competitive advantage given the frequency, intensity and power output required over the two days. That may be an as yet unanswered question in the science of biology and human peformance, but it seems like a pretty reasonable hypothesis to test from one of the very few guys on the planet to have competed in first three Games!

But this is not to whine as there's no apparent reason for anyone in their 40s, or any other age for that matter, to not practice CrossFit with diligence and verve, and reap all the attendant benefits. But it will require the patience of a saint and several more years before I and many like me can seriously consider "going for it" at the impending sectionals in hopes of qualifying for the over 50 "masters" category! Who was it that said "all good things comes to those that wait"?


Dane Thomas wrote …

With access to better training and nutrition I'm having no problem lifting just as much (in some cases more) at age 45 than I ever have, but I'm inclined to agree with Josh on the recovery bit. I know my body better than ever and have learned more about when certain kinds of barriers can and should be pushed and when it is likely to be counterproductive.

When it comes to competing I think that there should be a cut for the masters at age 45. Of course, I'd like to see that raised this August to 46... ;-)


wrote …

I recently turned 40. My deployed research team-mate and fellow Crossfitter, aka "Studette", arranged a great birthday dinner (with some long distance help from my wife...). We Crossfit with a bunch of great, but a bit younger, fighter pilots here in Iraq. The birthday card that all of our Crossfit buds had load of inspiring comments on how impressed and motivated they have been by my performance throughout our deployment and that it has driven them to perform better themselves. Many were surprised by the fact that I was turning 40...."Dude, you're 40? That is a testament to healthy living." That card was one of my most cherished birthday presents this year.

The downside to working out with fighter pilots...there just a bit more than a sense of competitiveness. One day I ran a half-marathon with just mainsite Rx'd running and decided to do Cindy at our normal WOD time. What was going to be an easy recovery 10-15 round Cindy turned into missing a PR by 11 squats (23 rds)! The upside is that we have made awesome gains.


wrote …

Nice article and congratulations on your success.

I would love HQ to reconsider a 40-50 age group.


wrote …

Nice article.
At age 47 CF has taken me to my best shape ever


wrote …

I turned 40 last November. On my birthday, I ran 40 miles, did 400 pull-ups, 400 push-ups and 400 sit-ups in 12 hours, and I was back Crossfitting two days later. I am a better athlete now then ever. I think a lot of people use their age as an excuse to be lazy. I maybe in the "Master" class now, but I challenge any "kid" to try to keep up with me.


wrote …

Great article Allison. Thanks for the inspiration. I just turned 43 on Saturday and only started Crossfit a year ago. I love it and look for all the inspiration I can get. I have to agree with you about the competitive spirit even over the age of 40. It's still inside of me. Thanks again.


replied to comment from Carl Lieber

To Everyone who posted comments:
Thanks for taking the time to read my article and share your thoughts. I loved writing this and am glad at least some of you found inspiration in it! Sounds like there are lots of us out there getting younger with each workout!
Thanks again,
Allison (signed in under my husband's name I just noticed!)


wrote …

I too will be fourty this year and looking for new ways to challenge myself; I am new to crossfit but have been into bodybuilding and eating clean for years; after four kids and a full time job I maintain my body fat at 15% with significant muscle; I am confused with this site though I thought it would give me actual sample routines can someone help me on how to use it to its best abiltity!! email me at if you can help I am looking to mix it up.


wrote …

Agree on the 40 year old masters division. It is fun to compete at 40 with the younger guys but would really like to throw down in something I could entertain the possibility of winning.


Joseph Doughty, DC wrote …

This article couldn't come at a better time for me. I saw one of those stupid life insurance commercials on TV and the cut off age was 1970. "Shite, I'm next", I thought. WTF

The big 4-O is in less than a year. I will say that after finding Crossfit 3 years ago much of my life has changed. Physical things I never thought I could do in my 20's were accomplished these past 3 years. When starting Crossfit, I never thought I'd break a 300 deadlift. I passed the 400 mark over a year ago and have my eye on 450 before I'm 40. This and I can still hang in sub 20 5k's and a sub 3 minute Fran still serves as a formidable goal on my list too(my Pr is 3:26).

Competition with others is fun, but my strength to keep going comes from the solitary competition with myself. Have you ever had that mental smackdown in the middle of "Murph"? When your body is crying no more, but your mind is struggling to yell "keep going, then it's over sooner". That's the point I strive for on every WOD because there is some strange sense of peace. It is blissful. At least for me. That's what I enjoy the most. Pushing my body past the limit.

I agree with the article, somewhere in the late 20's I think my ego evolved as far as "winning" was concerned. It's like society says put away that competitive spirit, you are getting "older". Competition for guys my age now is how much money they make and how long they can do the same monotonous task (ie. ride a bike). They just don't get it. For me, Crossfits renewal of that competitive spirit has changed me for the better. My mental capacity has improved and my spirit has been reawakened. The 20 something of my past thinks this is silly. But why should I listen to him, he never knew he had a 400+ deadlift in him? Our own self doubts hold us back the most, not our age or abilities.

Here's to more inspiration from the Master's division as I will soon be joining your ranks, kicking and screaming the whole way while giving the middle finger to father time.


wrote …

I just started Crossfit a little over a year ago at age 51, having lived a pretty sedentary life until then. I am amazed at how much better I feel, at the strength I've developed, and at the improvement in the way I look. I will NOT be going back to my old diet or sedentary ways. . . I'm looking forward to several more decades of healthy living. Thank you, Crossfit, for improving my quality of life.


wrote …

I have been Cross Fitting for almost a year now, I am 47 years old almost 48. I have always been athletic, but Cross fit has opened up a new area of personal competitiveness in me.
Recently I have been feeling a little discouraged beacuse I am the oldest member in my gym and a little slower not to mention I seem to get injured more often than others. I have finally come to the conclusion that I do not have to be the fastest any longer I just need to show up and do my best. I am healthy and I love Cross Fitting and I am having a blast. At some point I want to compete in the Masters, I know I could do it there is no age limit. I feel fantastic and will not stop what I am doing. Thank You Cross Fit!!

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