Masters of the Universe - part 1

I have been wanting to write a post about ‘Masters' training since returning from the Raising the Bar competition in Cardiff earlier this year. Time is always short, but am pleased that now there is light at the end of the tunnel, and I can get back to writing more regularly. 

Firstly let me start with a brief overview of what we mean when we refer to 'Masters'. Master is a term used to categorise, how shall I put this … those athletes that are advancing in years and enjoining their second flourish of youth. In CrossFit terms, in the UK, we are talking over 40s, in the sport of Olympic Weightlifting, those over 35, in other sports you may be referred to as a Veteran, and so on and so forth.

Personally I favour the term ‘Masters’ over the others.  So, what does this term mean in everyday life? The answer is very little. We are at the top of our game, kings of our castles, enjoying the finer things life has to offer, however in terms of fitness and sporting pursuits this honoured title indicates something has changed. Whether that be we find we aren't moving quite as quickly as we once did, or it takes a little bit longer to get into our groove or just our reasons for training have changed. Often this can be a source of demotivation, irritation, concern, stress … or even panic. Well, it need not be, it just means we have to realign our expectations and our focus slightly. 

In this post, Masters of the Universe, I would like to give you my take on what it means to train as a Master at HG3. 

I am going to open this with a simple question. Why on earth do we train?

From the people that I speak with, the reasons we do this type of training are as broad as they are varied, from being part in a great community, to learning new skills; but the one that is amplified as we get older is we do it so that we don’t suck at life. It allows us to enjoy everything we do outside of the gym a little bit more, all the fun stuff, our such as playing with our kids or grand kids or pursuing hobbies, sailing, walking or even cycling from Leeds to Spain (if you are that way inclined)…but most importantly to enjoy it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are competitive masters athletes, but lets make no bones about it, the majority of us aren’t them. Our reasons, our motivations are different. Remember you are not Bill Robbs - Don't think you are. This will only cause you pain and a feeling of inadequacy.

So, now we have established why we train, we need to examine how we should train; to look at some of the common mistakes we make and think about how we can change our focus to get the most out of training. This is what I put under the general heading of training smart. For me that means how can I train effectively (those that know me, you will know my beliefs on efficient vs effective training - if not, maybe, we will visit in a future blog post) to deliver the results I want without spending my whole life in the gym or feeling broken every time I train. I have listed a few thoughts below, these are by no means exhaustive, just more of my big hitters….

Train regularly but with ample time to recover. A good mix is a Monday, Wednesday and Friday with maybe a weekend session every now and again.  This pattern gives a good balance between work and recovery. It is the recovery part of our training where the gains are made.  While we are talking about recovery we should probably all pay closer attention to our nutrition, making sure we are eating well. Without good food in, our performance and recovery is going to be out of the window.

Rx for Masters.

On some workouts you will see there are Masters’ recommended weights programmed. The reason for this is that I design the workouts with a specific response in mind. If the weight is too much, it becomes more of a slog and you are not getting the speed and power stimulus I am looking for. It doesn’t mean you are working any less hard, it means that you are able to go at the appropriate intensity to get the desired response.  

As we start to get a little older we all feel a little tighter, a little stiffer, and in general need a bit longer to get going. Along with a sufficient warm up we also need to make sure we spend ample time on our flexibility. I would argue that although mobilisation work is important at any age, it becomes more so as we travel through our Master journey. As a general rule of thumb we should spend twice as long on flexibility as as we do on training. There is little point doing overhead work unless you can get the bar overhead without compromising form or being in pain. Similarly you need to be able to maintain good range of motion at speed in order to drop into the receiving position of the clean or snatch. These points aren't exclusive to Masters, however they do become more of a focus for us. Working on flexibility will also lessen the chances of injuries, and reduce those aches and niggles. 

Listen to your body 

This next point follows on nicely from mobility. Listen to what your body is telling you.  If you are in pain, real pain, not just the 2nd rounds of Cindy pain, then stop. If your body is not recovering and is tired then rest it; if you don’t you will get injured - I don’t want that and you definitely don't want that. You are not indestructible and the push on through mentality that may have worked in our formative years with not work so well for us now.

Listen to your coach

If you are not going to listen to your own body, listen to your coach. They are there to help you exercise safely and point you in the right direction. Please be guided by them - this is what they do.

Keep your eyes on your own work
So here’s the game changer. The day that you let go and stop comparing your scores with the younger guys and girl’s in the box and concentrate on getting the work done, and just enjoying it for what it is, is the day that everything will get easier. Well, when I say easier, not necessarily the workouts, but the whole beating yourself up about numbers will. 

My last passing shot on this, as I go and rub some horse liniment on my aching joints, - lighten up, train hard ….and as Baz Lurmann says … stretch & be kind to your knees !