The focus of the ‘fitness’ industry the past couple of years has been on higher intensity, toned models and quick wins. Intensity masked as functionality and ‘sport’ has been packaged and sold as a suitable daily training regimen for the general population. But is it really?

Looking at our population we are working with in CrossFit B3F, the reality is that most of us need to train in the way that best counters the aging process. To identify what that lifestyle and training base may look like, lets first have a closer look at what aging looks like.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE AGE

As we age, we all begin to suffer from what they call the metabolic syndrome, loss of bone density (osteopenia)  and loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia). Our aging bodies suffer from what we term ‘anabolic resistance’ such as decreased nutrient sensing (ability to use and respond to nutrition, especially protein), the degeneration of the neuromuscular system and other potential risk factors such as insulin sensitivity.

Osteopenia comes with a number of side effects that will be detrimental to the body. Namely, the increased risk of injury during slips or falls, furthermore Osteoporosis increases the risks for serious bone fractures. 

Sarcopenia or a decrease in muscle mass, results in a diminished potential in force production, but also affects motor control, and causes frailty.

All combined we have what we could call an undesirable situation which requires an intervention. Sadly enough the pharmaceutical industry plays very well into this growing market and offers (often questionable) supplements for about every aging symptom. But are there other ways to counter the aging process? Below a couple of routes you can apply to counter the aging process.

BASIC LIFSTYLE GUIDELINES.

While most of us know these things, we seldom apply them.

Our hydration, in general, is as such that we put our bodies in a chronically dehydrated state. We just don’t drink enough water and often substitute with sodas, juices, caffeinated drinks etc…

The food we take in is often overly processed and full of refined carbs. We tend to get away from whole foods and resort to packaged ready to eat solutions. Yes, we spend more time in cafeterias and restaurants, eating out rather then preparing our meals in our own kitchens.

We don’t chew our foods enough.  Our lifestyle has become busier and busier and busier. Work demands, social obligations and life in general doesn’t allow us to enjoy our meals like we used to. It often shocks me when I see people in the cafeteria swallowing their lunches without actually chewing their food. What we often forget is that by not chewing our food properly we don’t allow the digestive enzymes of the saliva to mix with our food, which overall results in poor digestion and not absorbing the nutrients of our meals in the body. 

We are eating too much! Compare our society to what it was a couple of decades ago… Back in the time we were consuming 2-3 meals a day … period. Nowadays there is breakfast, a mid-morning snack, lunch, an afternoon snack, dinner and in the evenings we stuff our faces with all kinds of crap ranging from a late evening sandwich, crisps, ice cream etc…. All this makes our insulin levels to be up all the time causing a variety of problems such as insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity. Did you actually know that ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ was invented in the 19th century by Seventh Day Adventists James Caleb Jackson and John Harvey Kellogg to sell their newly invented breakfast cereal !!!

Another big lifestyle factor is the lack of high quality sleep and again, we are the ones to blame for it. We no longer let our bodies wind down to get ready for a good night of sleep. Instead we watch television, work on our tablets or computers till late at night and thereby (hyper) activate our brains, while the blue frequency light generated by screens suppresses the production of melatonin (sleep hormone).

STRENGTH TRAINING AND HOW IT AFFECTS AGING

Strength is an elusive thing to develop. But with the proper training and maintenance in strength development, it doesn’t have to be.

Strength and resistance training will actually give us the greatest dose response to allow us to overcome osteopenic and sarcopenic outcomes. The compression combined with the forces which are experienced under a dumbbell, a kettlebell or a barbell will allow for the greatest disruption to the aging process.

It comes down to Wolff’s law (that is that an organism will adapt to the loads under which it is placed) and ultimately results in increased bone density. Combine that with the forces experienced at muscular end ranges and in movements where gravity is pulling the body downwards (such as the pull up) and you will have a positive response on muscle mass and soft tissue resilience.

Aside from the effects on the bones and soft tissues via strength training, resistance training at 70-90% of your one-rep max as well as sub-maximal efforts to failure has been shown to be effective at the regulation of muscle protein synthesis. And all this, dear B3F athletes goes a long way to reversing muscular atrophy.

CONCLUSION

CrossFit is awesome, but what I sometimes notice is that for some strength speed movements (such as the clean, the clean and jerk, the snatch) people in classes are lacking absolute strength, so when you sign up for classes make sure you are balancing strength development (Functional strength) with your typical CrossFit session (speed strength movements and aerobic development). 

Author: Peter Koopmans