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Aging, Performance and Health by Lon Kilgore - CrossFit Journal

In Coaching, Special Populations

October 29, 2015

PDF Article

While physical capacity inevitably declines as athletes age, fitness has dramatic effects on health and quality of life.

“How much should I be lifting?”

It’s probable every coach or trainer has been asked this question, and the query is usually qualified with variables including age, body weight and so on.

We as trainees, and humans in general, really like to compare what we can do with what other people can do, so we create standards for many common exercises. A standard is what we can realistically expect of someone with specific characteristics—sex, age, training experience—in a particular exercise. Sadly, few authoritative sources exist, and we can only strive to provide a relatively close approximation to help the trainee evaluate his or her performance and set goals.

When asked to provide performance standards, coaches must rely on a very limited data set in the literature, their own experience in training, observations of the people they train and pseudo-mathematical estimation. In many instances there is no referential data for an exercise in the literature, so that leaves only experience, observation and estimation.

The largest set of paying customers in the fitness industry is made up of people over 30, and this group is most often interested in how their newfound fitness levels stack up with people their own age. We see this in the 2015 industry report “The Wellness Deficit: Millennials and Health in America,” in which almost two-thirds of the surveyed population said it is important to track and monitor their fitness progress. CrossFit, of course, is driven by data, and few trainees ignore whiteboards and logbooks.

So what can we expect for ourselves and our clients in terms of performance as we age?

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5 Comments on “Aging, Performance and Health”


Hilmar Dijkstra wrote …

As an older (59 1/2) athlete and Crossfit level 1 trainer this article helped me to end a daily discussion which I had with myself. Thank you for that.

It even turned my perspective around. I am not questioning anymore why I can not snatch as much as the other guys but now I am questioning why they can not snatch 40% more than I! They need to train more.

It is true that you can abate the loss, but it takes so time. Relatively more time than for younger people. So it is not only the loss of performance we older athletes have to beat but we need relatively more time to achieve the (personal) maximum performance. That is my personal experience.

I hope that the author can make an article about that aspect of training. How does age influence the ability to make progress. Is it also a 40% slower?

This article together with that of Joey Powell "Training Silvers" are very welcome in the world of Crossfit, which is more or less dominated by incredebly performing Elite Athletes.


wrote …

How do these numbers pertain to scaling weight? Or is that even a valid question? As a 63 YO female who has been involved with crossfire for 3 years, I have a hard time trying to determine an appropriate weight. Basically, because of my competitive nature, I have been bouncing from one injury the next. I have to admit that I cannot compete with the younger folks but want to stay healthy. The clock is ticking... Great article!


replied to comment from Hilmar Dijkstra

I was very happy to come across this article. I started to run at age 58, then I had interest in Triathlon so learned to swim. Never was an athlete until I stated to run and found I was pretty quick for my age. I only state this for little background.

Over the last 13 years I came to believe that for most people the decline in ability as they age can be associated with the natural aging process and lack of exercise. Almost like a self fulfilling prophesy. "I am too old to do that or this" so they don't which leads to a more rapid decline.

At the end of 2014 I discovered Crossfit due to my son opening his own box. After a couple of workouts I was hooked and subsequently joined a local box near my home.

I did this due to my own intuition that told me if keep doing Crossfit I can do it for a very long time. May need more scaling etc but I see no reason to ever stop. The benefit of course is to maintain my quality of life. Sailing, swimming, running, biking etc. and almost any other physical activity I choose. I also believe that physical activity also contributes to keeping our mental capacity fairly intact. I also work full and have a staff of 16, half of them being young engineers. I promote exercise as being extremely important to keep older folks healthy at every opportunity that I get. Just this afternoon a 53 year old told me that what I was doing was extremely dangerous to my health at my age (71)I would wreck my joints very quickly and do damage to my muscles.
I am trying to figure out how I and others can influence the general population such that over time we can have an impact that increases the number of people willing to give it a try.

Great article thank you.


I have had also a period of "bouncing" from one injurie to another. But that is no CrossFit and it is not the meaning of CrossFit. "Ahead of efficacy is safety" as Coach Greg Glasmann said.

Yout trainer must scale the workout in such a way, that the goal of the WOD is preserved and that all athletes train together with the same effort.
I highly recommend the article of Jeremy Gordon "Scaling Crossfit Workouts". This article makes it clear that you need scaling to get the longterm goal to perform workouts "as prescribed".So, the short term competition with all those injuries will never lead you to progress and will never help you to stay healthy.


I share your puzzle. Whenever I tell people (of my age) about CrossFit and the effect of staying healthy and fit, it seems sometimes that people are getting afraid. So, I changed my story a bit, made it more smooth, but still no or very little result.

Maybe older people need more than just doing a WOD?

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