Pat Sherwood on Training 60-Plus Athletes

60-plus athletes
Pat Sherwood presents to the Derelict Doctor’s Club in March 2019.

During the CrossFit MDL1 in March, Pat Sherwood talked about training 60-year-olds and up to the Derelict Doctor’s Club.

He has been experimenting with this subgroup for a while now in his own garage gym, and he said it’s been incredibly eye opening. Their reasons for wanting to workout are very different from those CrossFit athletes in their 20s, 30s and 40s, some of which include: “I want to be able to dress myself, go to the bathroom, walk around the grocery store, get up off the ground, improve balance, prevent falling” and more.

Sherwood said it takes a whole lot of courage for a 75-year-old to take the leap and give the training a try. However, them taking the leap can lengthen their ability to do functional movements longer. As a trainer, that means knowing how to train them correctly.

From the months spent coaching this population, Sherwood gave several tips and things he’s learned in the process:

  • Just learning the movements is its own level of intensity with this population.
  • Do not shortchange mechanics, consistency or intensity explanations.
  • It’s going to take as long as it takes.
  • You can’t under do it. They should leave saying, “I feel great. You really could have given me more yesterday.”
  • Be ready to throw the lesson out the window.
  • Your focus and attention are necessary at all times. Turn away for a second and something could go wrong.
  • Use time priority workouts as they are more scaleable.
  • Variance is a little less important as it takes them so long to develop mechanics.
  • Focus on the squat, deadlift, pull-up (ring rows and bent over rows), burpees, and conditioning on a rower/bike/walk.

Beyond movement, one of the biggest challenges he’s found with this population is nutrition. They’ve been ingrained in their habits for decades, so it’s typically a challenge to overcome them. Sherwood suggested picking the No. 1 culprit in their nutrition and working to change that first. “Wait and see how long it takes for them to see the world didn’t end, then go for No. 2,” he explained. “It’s an exhausting game that’s not always successful and half the time met with resistance.”

He also mentioned if you can get one person to listen to you and they change, oftentimes that will motivate others to change as well.

Ultimately, Sherwood has said working with this population versus the sub three-minute Fran group has been much more rewarding. It’s just going to take time, commitment and focus. “It’s going to be an uphill battle,” said Sherwood. 

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