Athlete Profile – The Wodfather
Back Squat – 150kg Deadlift – 180kg Bench Press – 140kg Clean – 90kg OHS – 80kg
Fran – 7.45 Grace – 5.50 Cindy – 17rds Angie – 23.00
This post is an insight into one of our members who has been with us right from the start, and one who shows that age is no barrier when it comes to CrossFit. For a number of reasons, people feel unsure or nervous about taking up CrossFit; and sometimes age is one of them. The Wodfather is (excuse the pun) proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks.
The ‘Wodfather’ if you’re wandering, is the aptly named title given to the 57N Grandad, Des Irvine Snr. I believe the title was conjured up by the wit of his son Des Jnr; but since its first utterance has firmly stood the test of time. He is not the oldest at the box, but is the oldest present male at 52 years. Hailing from a background in the British Army, retiring as Sergeant Major, we wanted to ask Des about his experience so far and how CrossFit contrasts with his past fitness regimes:
“I’ve always had fitness in my life from a young age. I began doing bodybuilding in my early teens which was my first introduction to the gym which I enjoyed very much. I did this for a couple of years and got some very good results. My next introduction to fitness was a bit more extreme – I joined the Army! They introduced me to all sorts – from running to tabbing (walking long distances with packs), speed marching and circuit training; all of which I loved believe it or not. My fitness levels, as you can imagine, were very good. I did 23 years in the Army, doing one form of fitness or another. As well as the troop physical training, I did extra-curricular stuff in my own time. I did a combination of bodybuilding and powerlifting. All in all, I had a sound baseline of strength and conditioning.
I left the Army and joined what we call civi-street. This was a big shock to the system and a major change in my life; but one constant which remained was my fitness sessions. Whether it be in the gym, going for a run or off on a hill walk – it kept me sane.
I kept doing this for the next ten years during which I took a year off doing any physical training. This was to help look after my little sister who had terminal cancer, so fitness was not on the top of my list during this period as you can imagine. I put on a lot of weight; a sad time, but it past.
I now needed to get back training, but I seemed to have lost all enthusiasm. It all felt a chore and the same old stuff. I needed something to firstly get me back on the road to fitness and lose a lot of weight which I had gained, so I did this thing called P90X which I had seen on TV; a three month course which you can do in your house. So I did it and it worked; I got back into fitness and lost the weight, but there was something still missing.
Going to the gym was out. I didn’t want to go back to the same old routine. I was looking for something new, something to reignite my passion and make me want to go and do it. This is when my son showed me a video on YouTube called ‘What is CrossFit?’. BANG! I was hooked. I wanted to know more. Then he told me there was a box just opened in the Carsegate – CrossFit 57 North. I said lets go and have a look. Next thing I am doing the taster, doing the fundamentals and then, before you know it, I have signed up. I had found it. This was the spark that ignited my passion for fitness again.
So why CrossFit? It was new and exciting. It introduced me to new fitness disciplines such as Olympic lifting and gymnastics; it was also similar to some aspects of military circuit training. Its coach led and you have a program which is set for you, and there is nothing you can’t do regardless of age or fitness levels as the coach will scale the exercise to suit your capabilities, and there is this sense of camaraderie amongst all members.
So I have been doing CrossFit for just short of two years. It has been great and I have achieved quite a lot. I have taken part in two competitions – the Dominance Series which was a UK wide team league; and also the main CrossFit Open qualifiers as an individual master. This was an excellent experience to test yourself and your skills and to find out how you are doing against the rest.
So how am I doing? Let’s try a little comparison from my powerlift pb’s from days gone and my pb’s now:
a). Bench Press: Past: 155kg for 1 – CrossFit: 140kg for 1
b). Back Squat: Past: 180kg for 1 – CrossFit: 150kg for 1
c). Deadlift: Past: 220kg for 1 – CrossFit: 180kg for 1
d). Push-press: Past: 110kg for 1 – CrossFit: 95kg for 1
Looking at these you may think that doing CrossFit my lifts are way down which they are but you need to take into consideration, I was twenty years younger doing power lifting as the main weight training and a bit heavier.
So what’s new? Well I am starting to learn new lifts in the form of Olympic lifting; such as the overhead squat, something I could not even do with a dowel at the start. Now I can do 80kg for 2. Getting the technique weighed off for the snatch lift was again something I couldn’t contemplate when it was first introduced to me, but I’m slowly getting there. On the gymnastic side I will always remember when I got my first muscle up; again just unbelievable what you can achieve. I am now also now doing CrossFit benchmark workouts and finding new pb’s. Doing these all, are unique. They are designed to test your fitness and determination; that’s one of the CrossFit qualities.
If you take the old and the new into consideration even though it may look like I would be better off just concentrating on one discipline such as powerlifting to get possibly more poundage; you lose more. With CrossFit, your overall fitness is much better and you’re just as strong as you are doing more, so in any case I would say I am certainly doing and feeling better.
It is not only new training techniques you are introduced to. Dietary facts and how you can improve your life with good eating and the important part of recovery and how best to achieve this. I find this very interesting and I do try to eat well, but it does not run my life, that’s the beauty of CrossFit. You can take the level you want but still enjoy your life, as a 50+ guy I don’t feel there is nothing I can’t do. In fact, I am always inspired and encouraged to push on a wee bit more which I really appreciate and relish, as it makes me want more. I work 12 hour shifts now, which is split between day and nights, but I still manage and want to come and workout; even after long days and very little sleep. That’s the effect CrossFit has on me.
Now you may be thinking it can’t all be positive there must be something you don’t like – well honestly, no I love it all, even the things I don’t look forward to doing, such as burpees, box jumps and wall balls; but again CrossFit has the answer for that – Work on them! And guess what? It works! You improve! Now my CV isn’t as good as it used to be, that’s just getting old, but I find that I can still hold my own in most of the workouts, and believe it or not, it’s starting to get better. Yes, I need to wear support on my knees and elbows sometimes these days, but it does not hold me back, it allows me to train as hard.
What does the future in CrossFit have for me and what is my expectation? Well, I will continue on this road listening to the coaches; learning and improving my technical proficiency; achieving more pb’s and possibly getting to a level where I can do well in local and national competitions.
Is CrossFit for everyone? I would say yes. As a 52yr old Grandad, I can say if you’re thinking about it but feel you are a bit old – don’t. Get yourself down to the box, talk to the coaches and the members, take part in a taster and you’ll see you can do it. For me it’s a huge part of my life. It’s not just a fitness session, it is a group of people who enjoy doing fitness and having fun; a social gathering you might say. I believe CrossFit is for everyone – Try it, you may surprise yourself.”
A couple of moments stand out for me personally when reflecting on Des’s CrossFit journey. The first, was when he completed his first muscle-up. The first workout last year of the Dominance series included in it 30 muscle-ups to do as a team. The beauty of this competition was that it brought up exercises which challenged many, and those taking part in teams went out of their way to prepare and brush up on their weaknesses. In a week, under the dry patience and expert tuition of Aurelio Lodetti; Des achieved his goal and got above the rings. What made it better was that he got one during the competition – the only one in the team in fact.
The second moment which stands out, was his hitting of an 80kg Overhead Squat only a few weeks ago. Those who knew Des from the start know he was stiff as an iron rod and overhead mobility seemed like a distant dream. For anybody struggling with similar mobility issues, this man is testament to where perseverance gets you.
The famous quote – “Age is no barrier. It’s a limitation you put on your mind” is very much true. Many of our toughest trials and tribulations can be overcome with a little mental fortitude. Des amassed this resilience prior to CrossFit and it shows through his Sisyphus-like persistence during those most arduous of workouts. Some movements don’t agree with Des. For example running and Burpees are his ultimate pet hate. Welcoming Des into the box when the latter is up on the whiteboard is a pleasure for the coach, and no attempt is made to restrain a cheeky grin when he reads that 7 letter word and that pained expression of severe disapproval is there for all to see. But on a serious note, some movements have been challenging for him; particularly the more dynamic. Speed under the bar on a clean, box jumps, push jerks etc are just some of the movements which provide him with some difficulty. His past training involved strict, raw strength movements, and trying to get into the habit during a workout of using the hip when putting a barbell overhead – just seems alien. He would much rather roar some thunder, grit his teeth and strict press the barbell above his head than use the efficient method. However it is coming. But this habit can be seen in many of our ‘old school’ athletes. Years of pounding the pavement, lifting heavy weights without the knowledge of recovery and maintenance that abounds today, has taken its toll. However what the older generation have in abundance is resilience. On many occasions in our gym the ‘old and bold’ can be seen dominating workouts. They possess a raw strength quality and an engine like that of a Clydesdale which regularly puts some of the youngsters to task. Des only seems to be improving with age as he masters new movements and climbs ever closer to numbers on his lifts from days past. At 52, some feel the need to put their feet up and live the easy life. Des earns this right on a daily basis and his well-known relaxation method, the dram and the Cuban, are a fitting way to close his hard fought week at the box.