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There are a lot of different ways to implement an effective masters program within an affiliate environment. Just like the affiliate model itself, there is no right or wrong way, and we encourage variety and autonomy. Some affiliates treat masters the same as any other member. For example, at CrossFit Brisbane in Australia, masters athletes train in the general group classes, and the only time they are differentiated is during the Open competition each year when the age categorization makes it obvious. Other affiliates have special classes and programming exclusive to masters. An example of this is the Silvers program at CrossFit Innervate in Singapore. What is important is that the model implemented matches the needs of both the affiliate and the members.


The simplest implementation is integrating the masters athlete into the normal group environment. This requires the gym to have an inclusive culture and the trainers to be skilled and effective at making ad-hoc scaling decisions. Most of the needs of a masters athlete can be accommodated through day-to-day scaling. Integrating into normal classes is probably the most practical approach for a gym with a small number of older athletes. The downside of this approach is that it can be demotivating and make older athletes feel like they are an imposition. If this were there case, it would be evidenced by lower retention rates for masters athletes than for younger athletes.


The most effective implementation from the client’s perspective is likely one that caters for the specific needs of masters by adjusting the class structure and programming to suit. This could be through special classes on the timetable, special coaching or opportunities for masters to train together. The more the program and environment are modified to cater to specific needs, the more likely the affiliate is to grow a thriving masters contingent. To some extent, it is a case of “if you build it they will come.” Of course, you have to want them to come in the first place. Programming, class structure, environment and social dynamic may all need to be adjusted to build an environment that successfully supports the masters athlete.


General Class Considerations


There are some general considerations when training masters in a group or class environment:


  • Older athletes take longer to warm up and will often require more time to be allocated to body preparation and mobility prior to class. They may also need more gradual and lengthy warm-ups before the workout starts. It takes longer to get to starting weights, and the warm-up sets will need to be more incremental and in smaller steps.


  • Allocating more practice time for learning and revising skills is important. This can be achieved through a greater number of repetitions and more frequent programming of complex skills in warm-ups.


  • The trainer should allow for hearing and eyesight decline. Don’t make assumptions that your instructions are being heard or seen. It is common for masters athletes to have difficulty reading a whiteboard from a distance. Low-light and high-noise environments are particularly challenging with declines in hearing and eyesight.


  • For some late masters, the sound of dropping barbells can cause ear drum pain and softer matting may be required.


  • Consideration should be given to lowering music volume and using age-relevant content.


  • It is not uncommon for late masters to forget the names of exercises and need to be reminded frequently. Workout instructions may need to be more comprehensive.



Be Guided by the Archetypes at Your Gym


Over time the trainer will encounter each of the archetypes in their gym. A key concept is that as a coaching tool, the Masters Quadrant provides a way to adapt to different athletes and different stages for the same athlete over time. However, it is also likely that each gym will have a particular bias toward a certain archetype. Some gyms may tend toward a lot of wellness-focused late masters, whereas others might be very good with performance-focused early masters. A lot of this is a reflection of the culture and demographics at the gym. Use the archetype bias to guide the decisions you make regarding how to implement a masters program. Match the culture of your gym and the bias of your programming to the archetypes in your gym and you will have a recipe for ongoing success with masters athletes.


Athletes with performance goals are probably the only archetypes that need to be accommodated at the programming and/or class level. It is difficult to write programming that caters for the needs of both the performance and wellness athlete without compromising the needs of both groups (this is the case for younger athletes as well). If you have a lot of masters athletes who are competitors, consider offering a separate program (i.e., separate the performance and wellness groups) with specific programming and classes. Serious competition training should be considered as a specialization within CrossFit. The other variables (age, health and fitness) can be readily accommodated on an individual level within the normal class structure and programming through scaling and substitution strategies.


Reference – CrossFit Masters Training Guide