Category Archives: Baby Boomer fitness

Another plug for the benefits of Crossfit, or whatever happened to osteopenia?

This post is long overdue. I have been so wrapped up in rehabilitating my shoulder that I haven’t shared my most recent, fabulous news.

I had a Dexa scan on December 3rd. My Crossfit gym holds an annual ‘Get Fit” challenge, and getting a baseline involved measuring fat mass via Dexa Scan. On that day I found out some very interesting information.

But first, a little history. You see, I grew up in the 70’s when margarine and diet soda were the health foods of the decade. And due to my never-ending fear of getting fat, instead of drinking beer while in college, I drank Tab soda. Tons of it. I stopped drinking soda when I discovered I was pregnant with my first child at the age of 26, so it was a bit of a surprise when I had a bone density scan done at the age of 37 and found out I had Osteopenia.I was flabbergasted and petrified! The fact that I was at risk for developing Osteoporosis was so scary.

I wanted to fix myself. I started running. I became a vegetarian. I wanted those numbers to improve. Enter another bone scan at age 49.

No change.

I wasn’t worse, but I hadn’t gotten better. The scan still showed Osteopenia.

I started taking Vitamin D, but not consistently. My doctors told me that osteopenia wasn’t reversible; at best it just wouldn’t get worse. Because of that advice, I eventually embraced a state of denial and forgot all about being diagnosed with Osteopenia. 50 happened. I went through menopause, moved out to California, and switched from a vegetarian diet to learning about and adhering to a Paleo template. I stopped running and cycling as often and added Crossfit to my life.

My coaches believe in lifting heavy stuff, so that’s what I do. Enter the December, 2013 Dexa Scan.

No more Osteopenia. The doctor was wrong.

A T-score on a Dexa Scan compares the subject to 30 year old adult females.  A Normal T score is 1.0 or higher. Osteopenia is defined as a T-score between -1.0 and -2.5

MY T score is now 1.9.  Not only did I reverse this condition, I vastly improved it. (my Z score was 2.7 in case anyone is interested..)

Most surprising was that I have been post menopausal for 3 years, and yet even without estrogen to enhance calcium absorption, the disease had reversed.

I was so enthralled that my healthy lifestyle of high saturated fat from grass fed sources, organic vegetables and fruits, no grains or legumes, and popcorn once in a while (thats my weakness…so boring!) combined with lifting heavy shit had made my health so much better. I was so excited that I didn’t even care that my Visceral Adipose Tissue ( a strong predictor for Diabetes and heart disease) was only 0.04. My body fat fell into the chart under ‘athletic.’

And I am healthy. Super-freakin’-healthy. I had better get to work on my retirement plan, because according to my numbers, unless I get hit by a bus, I’m not dying any time soon.

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Crossfit with a torn Hip Labrum

It has finally happened… my hip gave out.

A car accident 37 years ago changed my life and left me with a fractured hip. The ortho doc that treated me in 1976 told me that ‘IT’ would happen when I was 40. He said that my hip would probably break due to avascular necrosis, and that I should never play tennis.

I followed his directions; did not play tennis, did not develop avascular necrosis, and my hip never did break.

But….a few days ago, as I was pivoting to change direction during a running interval, I felt a red hot searing pain shoot through my right hip. The pain was enormous, and I knew immediately that I was in trouble. The pain was relentless regardless if I was moving or resting. So to rule out a stress fracture, I had an X-ray to be sure the hip was not broken. The pain was familiar, I’d been here before with my other hip.

My labrum is torn.

The pain continued to be immeasurable the first few days after it happened. I got little relief from taking Ibuprofen or Tylenol twice a day just so I could show up at work and not shriek every time I stepped on my right leg. NSAIDS, Tylenol…not really working…

First thought; gotta reach out to Dr. Phillippon, the wonderful surgeon who fixed my left hip. Second and “almost” immediate thought… How would I maintain the level of fitness I have worked so hard to achieve? What am I gonna do at Crossfit??

I spent the next days searching for blogs with advice and suggestions about how to answer those questions. I already knew that I wouldn’t be able to run. I also knew that hip flexion and external rotation combined was a lethally painful, unstable move that was accompanied by a noticeable ‘clunk.’ My search came up empty; just more questions from other labrum tear sufferers that hadn’t had surgical repair yet. So… I decided I’ll blog about my own experiences until I get this fixed.

The first thing that happens with any joint derangement is resulting weakness of the surrounding joint musculature. That meant that I had to actively contract my glute muscles (read: butt) in order to step on my leg. I noticed when I did that, my pain seemed to diminish.

My thought process then; fire my glutes when I work out and see what happens.

This morning I decided to do Eva, a Crossfit benchmark WOD, in my garage.

Equipment available: spin bike, 16 kg kettlebell, and a TRX.

This is the RX WOD:                                                     This is MY EVA:

“Eva”                                                                              “Eva”

5 Rounds For Time                                                       5 Rounds For Time

800m Run                                                                     3:30 Bike                                        30KB Swings, 32/24kg                                                  30 KB Swings, 16 kg                                                              30 Pull-ups                                                                   30 Ring Rows

3:30 is about what a 2K takes me to complete on the bike. I kept my pace constant. Paying attention to my stroke, since I wasn’t clipped in to the pedals, was very important. I was careful not to pull up and engage my hip flexors, but rather use the balls of my feet to push back and get those glutes (hip extensors) firing.

While I did the kettle bell swings, I planted my feet and gripped the floor with my toes, activating external rotation of my hips that really felt good while I did the swings.

I have a shoulder injury from a road bike accident 3 years ago and can’t do pull-ups. (More on that on a later blog). I also have no pull-up bar available..so I modified by doing ring rows with my TRX to work my lats and core, which of course helps stabilize my hips…

I completed the WOD in 35:54, sweaty, tired, happy, almost pain-free and somewhat able to walk….(until I sat for 30 minutes, and the pain came back).

At least my questions have been answered. Modifying Crossfit WODS will prepare me for the labrum repair. Prehab is almost as important as the post surgical rehab.

I’m off to work on modifying some other benchmark Crossfit WODS; stay tuned!

Why Crossfit Is Good For You (and for me, a Baby Boomer)

While reading Michael Boyle’s blog on Strengthcoach.com, regarding why Crossfit may not be good for you, I considered the pros and cons of his argument.

http://strengthcoachblog.com/2012/11/12/why-crossfit-may-not-be-good-for-you/

  1. Crossfit gyms are cheap and easy to open, with only a weekend certification and a few thousand dollars worth of equipment.
  • This point is true. I believe that the onus is on the participant to do their research when choosing a Crossfit box. The same would hold true when choosing a personal trainer or a strength coach, who also may be certified in a weekend by various organizations.

2. Is planned randomization a valid concept?

  • Crossfit uses 3 different standards or models for evaluating and guiding it’s definition of fitness.
    • The first is based on 10 general physical skills.
    • The second standard is based on the performance of athletic tasks.
    • The third is based on the energy systems that drive all human action.

    http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/CFJ_Trial_04_2012.pdf

Crossfit isn’t claiming to make you a world class 800m runner or the best MMA fighter with its programming. What is does claim is that improvements in endurance, stamina, strength, and flexibility occur by training. Fitness is about performing well at every and all tasks imaginable, in infinitely varying combinations. I haven’t yet found a definition linked with Crossfit that uses the term planned randomization. What I have found is Crossfit’s programming to achieve goals of highest fitness utilizes constantly varied, high intensity functional movement. I agree with Mr. Boyle that specific progression should be followed to prevent injury. At the Crossfit boxes that I have visited and am a member of, progression with proper form using education, scalability, modification, and mobility while performing weightlifting and gymnastic movements, keeps injuries at bay while enhacing the skill performance of the sport.

3. Is training to failure safe?

  • I believe there is a conflict of definintion with this question. In strength and conditioning/body building, training to failure is performed with the goal of stimulating hypertrophy. Michael Boyle’s definition of failure during Crossfit sessions is described as technical failure; when the athlete can no longer do the exercise with proper techique. In my experience with Crossfit, while I have seen some athletes push themselves to technical failure, we are coached to choose a weight for each workout that is scaled to provide us with appropriate form while allowing the building of power, which is accomplished with work over time. We are corrected during our ‘WOD’s’ with regards to enhancing performance and reducing injury risk.

4. Should adults be Olympic lifters? I don’t think that Olympic lifts are for adults.

  • I completely disagree with this statement. As a Physical Therapist treating our geriatric population, I have observed the loss of a person’s ability to perform functional mobility activities thereby losing strength and leading to complete dependence on others. Olympic lifts strengthen our core by utilizing whole body conditioning to resist gravity and keep us competitive in the game of life.
  • Olympic lifts have a functional analog to movements we must perform on a daily basis. Concerning getting up and down from a chair, or on and off of a toilet, for example, one must be able to perform a squat. I have ‘cleaned’ 40 pound bags of dogfood or mulch from low shelves and in and out of my car. Picking an object up off the floor, or transferring a patient from their bed or wheelchair uses the same form factor as when one performs a deadlift. (I will also add that at the age of 52, I can still transfer my patients, and because of the functional strength through proper performance that I have attained while training and conditioning at Crossfit Moxie, neither my patients nor I risk injury.

Those are my thoughts in rebuttal to the article by Michael Boyle titled “Why Crossfit May Not Be Good for You.” I am interested to hear others’ thoughts, pro and con, regarding this issue. Please post!