When she turned 35, Cori DiDonato began noticing she needed more recovery between workouts.
And when she turned 40-years-old, DiDonato realized there were fewer resources available to Masters athletes, who, according to Robert Lotzko of CrossFit Virtuosity “need love too, man.”
In 2007 she opened a strength and conditioning gym in Boston, Massachusetts, then Affiliated as Avalon CrossFit in January 2009. In 2013, Avalon CrossFit began offering programming specifically for Masters athletes.
Instead of offering a separate class for Masters, she decided to scale a WOD for the Masters athletes, so they can maintain the same class schedule or attend classes with athletes of various ages and genders. “The whole fun of CrossFit is being able to do it with a community. We don’t have classes for just women, in most gyms. We don’t have a class for just men, in most gyms. We’re able to combine it because we have gender-appropriate workouts. That’s exactly what happens when you program a Masters level track,” explained DiDonato.
At CrossFit Virtuosity, the Masters athletes do have a separate class. Lotzko, who Coaches the Masters class, explained he wants the athletes to focus on three things: getting on and off the floor, lifting something heavy and carrying something heavy.
In addition to WODs, he programs a warm-up specific to Masters athletes that focuses on ankles, hips and thoracic mobility. “I feel like if you even take one of those things out of the equation for the older population, that can be really bad for them and they can’t live unassisted,” said Lotzko. “We do the same warm-up everyday, every time we meet. And now over time, I see how much stronger and faster they are just in the warm up and mobility piece that we do … There’s no way I’m going to take an older population and do the hopper method of CrossFit, because these women that I have in my class really have no prior athletic background.”
While how they handle Masters classes differ, Lotzko and DiDonato both agree there aren’t enough classes or programs offered to Masters athletes. And both agree it’s due to a lack of Coaching education.
DiDonato has recognized many younger Affiliates opening Boxes who haven’t experienced the full life cycle of a CrossFit athlete. “The majority of the Affiliates that I do see opening up, they’re younger and they’re really excited about it. They’ve probably been doing competitions themselves. They’re really good athletes. They haven’t been through the whole life cycle of an athlete yet and things haven’t changed for them, personally. So they don’t necessarily see it as a market they need to serve yet,” she said.
And while she recognizes all Boxes need to serve an older demographic, DiDonato stated that it’s important Affiliate owners recognize the needs of CrossFitters in the 40 to 60 age range.
When she is programming, DiDonato said it can be as simple as taking the movement standards from the Masters division in the Open or the Games. For Lotzko, his favorite part of the Games is watching the Masters.
To program for his Masters class, Lotzko received education about human anatomy from Keith Whittenstein, the former CrossFit Virtuosity head Coach, and from the American Council of Exercise.
“Sometimes people can’t drop into a general population class, especially an older population that might not have an athletic background. And even if they do have an athletic background, they still need to be taken back a little bit to build up prerequisites for the movement patterns that they need to develop,” said Lotzko. “As you get older, things change in your body. You’re testosterone decreases, you’re a little bit stiffer, a lot of different stuff that an older population needs than somebody that’s even in their 40s.”