The CrossFit Open and Tactical Strength Challenge are both worldwide competitions coming up soon. You might be reluctant to sign up for either of these events, but two inspirational older athletes shared with me why they chose to take the challenge.
They provided a number of reasons why everyone should take part, no matter your age or experience.
I spoke with Lynn Schulman (left) and Bill Shipp (right) about their experiences competing as older athletes.
The CrossFit Open is an annual worldwide event that consists of five workouts over the course of five weeks. The events are not announced until the Thursday of each week and a score must be submitted by Monday. The athlete has to be prepared for any new challenge that might arise.
“Both of these events are relatively inexpensive (around $25.00) and you don’t have to be a member of a facility to participate. Even if you train in a garage gym, get out and experience a competition.”
The Tactical Strength Challenge occurs in the spring and fall of each year. The exercises are the same at each event and the athlete can compare scores from one competition to the next. It consists of the following three events that challenge the athlete across multiple domains:
- Strict Pull Ups or Flexed Arm Hang – Absolute upper body strength
- Deadlift – Absolute lower body strength
- Snatch Test – As many reps as possible of kettlebell snatches. A test of work capacity.
Lynn Schulman: CrossFit Open (’14, ’15), Age 64
Lynn was urged to do the CrossFit Open by her coaches at her CrossFit in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She wasn’t exactly sure what she was signing up for, but she is always up for a new challenge. That said, when the time came for the workouts, she referred to herself as “scared out of my mind.”
Since no one knows the exercises involved in each week’s workout, Lynn often found herself having to quickly learn a new skill. One of her proudest accomplishments was that she had never before done a double under, but after an intensive session with her coaches, she was able to perform nineteen of them in the actual event. As she said, “It motivates you to do things you never thought you could do.”
Asked what advice she would give to someone thinking about signing up for the Open, she said:
I would tell them you are not be going to be on ESPN. You are among friends. It is a comfortable environment, but it takes you out of your comfort zone. Just have fun with it. A competition motivates you even more. I never saw myself as an athlete, but now I see myself differently.
Lynn’s last sentence struck me. I had the opportunity to see her participate in some of the events. She was an inspiration to all around her and not because of her age. She had a patience that comes with being a good athlete. She did not show frustration with the movements. Rather, she seemed to take each failure and use it as a learning experience.
Her approach reminded me of the early years of Tiger Woods. There was a certain calmness that existed even when he was not doing well. Lynn displayed that calmness in learning and achieving in last year’s Open.
“One of her proudest accomplishments was that she had never before done a double under, but after an intensive session with her coaches, she was able to perform nineteen of them in the actual event.”
Here is her last bit of advice for those thinking about doing it: “Everybody should do it. No matter what your age. It will only make you better.”
Bill Shipp: Tactical Strength Challenge (’14, ’15), Age 67
Bill Shipp had not worked out with weights until the age of 65. Last year, he pulled deadlifts of 300lb (April 2014 Tactical Strength Challenge) and then 315lb (Fall 2014 Tactical Strength Challenge). He also performed ten pull ups and 87 (then 88) snatches in five minutes. Those are some pretty impressive feats of strength for someone who recently starting weightlifting.
Bill had a background in the ranching industry, which helped his progression. However, as with Lynn, he sought out the challenges that made him successful. He began working out with Jason Marshall at Lone Star Kettlebell about a year and a half ago, after being prompted by his son.
Here is how Bill described entering his first Tactical Strength Challenge:
I hadn’t thought about doing it. I thought I hadn’t been doing stuff long enough. I watched people doing it, I thought that there was no way I could do it. With so much encouragement, from my son and coaches, I just had to give it a go.
The message of “just going for it” came throughout my conversation with Bill. With every step of his training, he seems to have a “just get after it” mindset. When he first started, he couldn’t even do a single pull up. He did ten at both last April’s and October’s competitions. This year he is aiming for more.
His training process is set up in a systematic fashion so he can always maximize recovery. As he puts it, “Train, not drain. I don’t want to be carried across the finish line. I want to be able to walk.”
“‘Train, not drain. I don’t want to be carried across the finish line. I want to be able to walk.'”
Bill indicated that his overall goal is much bigger than any competition, though. He wants to “stay fit and strong” as he gets older. “This is a machine that is ready to go. Maximize what you got and move forward with it.” Those are some powerful words.
In speaking with both Lynn and Bill, I found some commonalities in their approach to challenges that would be helpful for people of any age or ability:
- Put yourself into challenging situations and you might surprise yourself.
- Health is a lifelong goal. If you haven’t started toward that goal, you can start at any age.
- Don’t give up. Be persistent with new movements. Learning challenging movements brings about the greatest rewards.
- Find a good group of coaches and fellow athletes who motivate you toward your goals and challenge you along the way.
Both of these events are relatively inexpensive (around $25.00) and you don’t have to be a member of a facility to participate. Even if you train in a garage gym, get out and experience a competition.
For those of you who still don’t feel ready for the challenge, I urge you to seek out a facility and just go watch the next Tactical Strength Challenge or CrossFit Open. Maybe it will inspire you to participate next time.
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