The Masters Competition – The Real Future of CrossFit

The Masters Competition – The Real Future of CrossFit
Gabe Garcia


“Age group athletes are the future of CrossFit. They are the young athletes that will soon dominate our sport and the old people that every single one of us will one day turn into”

-Annie Sakamoto


As a majority of the competitive CrossFit community scrambles to try to make sense of all of the changes that have been announced, Masters athletes are wondering, “what about us?” Change is never easy for creatures of habit, and we know CrossFitters are no exception. With a rapid rise in fitness level over the last few years, Masters and Teen athletes have loudly stated their case to receive just as much attention as the Individual Games athletes. Luckily for the age group divisions, it doesn’t seem that they are included in the incredible makeover our sport is experiencing. I am here to argue that the Masters and Teens competition will continue to be part of high level competition because it is more valuable to CrossFit than a golden statue of Mat Fraser body-slamming Rich Froning. 


So what makes the Masters so valuable?


Evidence-based fitness

At its core, CrossFit was developed as an exercise methodology intended to shift the sickness/fitness/wellness continuum in a positive direction, and stave off the nursing home by remaining physically functional into life’s golden years. Masters athletes provide a large sample of essential empirical data in this giant epidemiological study, and CrossFit relies heavily on longitudinal data from as many participants as possible. It is also likely that gathering this data was the fundamental reason for the creation of The Open.

With the rapid development of the sport, we are seeing athletes of all ages push the limits of human potential, and I would argue that the “Sport of Fitness” serves solely to prove the efficacy of CrossFit as a methodology. Without a sound test of fitness that allows you to measure the end ranges of your participants, the validity of your data is nullified. The beauty of our sport is that we can continuously test a multitude of controlled variables (load, time domain, movements) with constants (age, gender, etc.) to measure efficacy across all levels of the continuum.


The Rise of the Masters Athletes

Masters’ divisions are heading into their 10th anniversary. In a few short years our season has transformed from a 2-stage, 6-test competition including 10 unique movements into a 3-stage, 19-test competition including 34 unique movements. All of this has been driven by the incredible progress of the general population of Masters athletes. Let me tell you, we are only scratching the surface.

The results of the max lift tested this year at the CrossFit Games were mind-blowing. I watched a 40+ year-old woman put 265 pounds over her head during the 1RM jerk. In comparison, that would have tied for 6th place with Jason Khalipa and is 20 pounds heavier than Rich Froning was able to jerk during the 2010 Men’s Individual 1RM Shoulder to Overhead event. On the men’s side, 340 pounds was 13th place in the 35-39-year-old division (1st place was 400 pounds). That easily would have won the 2010 Men’s Event. The overall level of fitness has risen remarkably as well.  After The Open, 10 Male athletes and 39 female athletes from the master’s divisions qualified for regionals.


The Perfect Competition

As I plan the year of programming for our Misfit Masters, I often reflect on my experience watching The CrossFit Games in the Age Group Pavilion and can’t help but think that this is the way Glassman dreamed it. The programming is extremely well designed. It is challenging enough to test the highest level of athlete, yet simple enough that it allows athletes to display their capacity. Nothing is off limits-there are high skill movements and heavy weights. There are no tricks, no gimmicks, no whacky events designed specifically for spectators – it is a pure test of fitness. It is a genuine celebration of fitness by athletes who are experiencing a rebirth as though they have sipped from the fountain of youth. It is moms and dads who are superheroes to their children. Warriors that have battled cancer and eating disorders.


3 Ways to Stay Valuable

Finally, we come to the point of this long rambling argument. What do Masters Athletes need to do to stay relevant and maintain their value? With the right approach, we can protect our competition and prevent major unwanted changes. As individuals, you must tailor your approach to keep up with the evolution of the competition.

  1. Continue to PARTICIPATE and bring everything you have. As long as the numbers of participants continue to grow and the level of fitness continues to rise, CrossFit cannot afford to do anything to jeopardize their sample data.
  2. Embrace the Lifestyle! Remember, it is not just about pretending you are young and trying to keep up with the 20 somethings in the gym. It is about living your most efficient life. Eat well, to perform. Train smart, and prioritize recovery.
  3. Set your Goals. Set some small goals and a few larger ones. Spend the entire year developing. Leave no stone unturned. Inch toward being the best you that you can every day and then reap the benefits.

You can be sure all of these thoughts are being directly considered when planning the training program for the 2019 season. We intend to give all of our Misfit Masters the best opportunity to be competitive at whatever level they desire. As you contemplate why you put so much effort into this on a daily basis, remember how valuable YOU are to our future.