Getting Better Slower: Why I’m Okay With It
Recently the blog of Beyond the Whiteboard ran an article called “How Does Age Affect Improvement in CrossFit?” Their website is focused on that sport, but the data they crunch is cool for anybody interested in health and fitness.
Even if you aren’t a geek about CrossFit. or analytics. or healthcare. So… even if you aren’t me.
(Disclosure: I don’t use BtW; I use MyWOD, RunKeeper and MyFitnessPal. Also, I believe wearables are progressing so fast that services like these are in doubt. All that said, I have a serious geek crush on BtW data. Data analysis: hate doing, love reading.)
Anyway, I’m nearly 37 (and unusual in not hiding my age. I’m hideously self-conscious about everything else – but totally fine with my age). That puts me on the older side of CrossFit. So while I’m not “Masters” yet (40+) I do pay attention to articles aimed at older participants.
The main finding was “a strong correlation between an athlete’s age and how long it took them to improve.” They pointed out that it took the average 45-year-old nearly two months longer than the average 25-year-old to improve an equal amount.
What was more important to me, though, was that, in most cases, there was a sizeable difference between how fast the 25-35 group improved versus the 35-45 group – but not nearly as much difference between the 35-45 and 45-55 groups.
So I can expect to improve at a rate more like that of a 45-55-year-old than a 25-35-year-old.
Data nerd sidebar: I wonder if the findings would hold true with equally sized cohorts – BtW has a lot fewer older people and I don’t know if that skews things. Also, I didn’t see gender breakouts, and the vast majority of their users are male, so I wonder about that.
They also have some great breakdowns on the effects of working out more often. They emphasize nutrition, recovery and sleep, but I don’t think they crunch numbers on it, unfortunately.
I see why, if you’re touchy about your age, this article might bother you.
But it actually did the exact opposite for me. For me, it’s validating and vindicating. I’m doing the right things: working out, hard and carefully, as much as I can fit in, and working to prioritize and improve my sleep and rest (physical and mental both, hello meditation) and nutrition (ugh protein never enough protein).
If I’m getting better slowly, it turns out that it isn’t because I’m a screw-up or a failure. I’m not doing it wrong. It’s just how it is.