Return of the Six Dollar Man

We can’t rebuild him. We don’t have the technology. Or the need, frankly. We can’t make him better than he was because despite it being 2015, cybernetics is still a largely underdeveloped field of science. And let’s be honest, look at the state of him. Anyone fancy a pint?



Before you put your fist through the screen out of sheer frustration at the fact this blog has essentially become an account of injuries, WAIT. Take a breath. Because I’m going to look to try and take a look at this from a different perspective than usual. (Admittedly, my usual perspective is essentially one of foul language and idiocy, but just ignore that for now.)

So, WHAT’S THE BLOODY PROBLEM THIS TIME THEN EH? Well, I like to keep things fresh. It’s boring getting the same injury over and over again so I thought I’d experiment with a new one. With that in mind, I am pleased to report that this week’s moans and groans are brought to you by my left arm. Of all things. I’ve never experienced an arm injury before. It’s not very pleasant.

About two weeks ago, I started to notice a bit of stiffness on the inside of my left elbow, right in the spot where you can feel the tendons running down your arm. But it was no worse than stiffness, and it wasn’t preventing me from actually working out. So I carried on, and things stayed more or less at the same kind of level for a while. Four or five days ago, the stiffness had turned into intermittent pain that not just limited to that part of my arm. I was now feeling it in my shoulder and right down to my hand. But still I wouldn’t have described it as being agonising. Annoying more than anything.

Then Kronos arrived to administer a bloody good arse kicking. It’s a delightful little workout if you’ve never had the pleasure. It starts with 100 push ups and gradually gets worse from there. It was a bad sign right from the off – I was struggling a bit with the pain in my left arm and although I managed to do all 100, I was definitely having to favour my right. (So I can do one-handed push ups now, right? HAHA DON’T BE BLOODY RIDICULOUS.)

Anyway, I knocked a couple of minutes off the PB, but as the day wore on I began to suspect that I’d have been better off resting. But, you know… No excuses and all that interminable bullshit.

I didn’t get a lot of sleep that night, as my now largely useless limb felt like it did after a dead arm contest in school. (A dead arm contest basically consists of you and your friends hitting each other in the arm as hard as possible until your opponents give up. I did not do very well at school.) Every time I moved I got a real sharp stabbing pain that seemed to travel right up and down from my shoulder to my hand. Even moving my fingers was uncomfortable.

Bloody, bloody, bloody.

My next workout was (and still is) Helios. No push ups in there, but Coach being the absolute bastard it is, there are 50 to do once I’ve finished. I know that if I wanted to, I could grind it out. But I had a chat with my wife about it this morning (she’s also doing Freeletics) and she told me I should definitely rest it for a few days. So that’s what I’ve decided to do – it’s annoying but there we are.

Having used the internet to pointlessly (and probably incorrectly) self diagnose, it looks like I could have something called Golfer’s Elbow. It is common among people that take part in grip-intensive sports such as climbing and (it would seem reasonable to assume) golf. So it does seem little strange to me given that the only aspect of Freeletics that requires a strong grip is pull-ups, and I don’t do that many of them. But this might not be the problem at all. I’m as reluctant as ever to go to visit the doctor, but will if the pain persists for more than a few days as I suspect/hope that a course of anti-inflammatories might help.

So there we are. But it raises a larger question, one that’s been buzzing around my head for a while now. Since I started Freeletics I have had, to various different degrees, problems with my shoulders, chest, hips, legs and now arms. (Well, arm.) And no, I’m not including the time I fell of the pull-up bar, since that happened on the account of my being a moron.

Freeletics is hard. I’m 40. Now, I’m not saying that 40 is old. I guess it probably seems old when you’re 20. But by the time you’ve hit 40, your perception has changed an awful lot in order to allow you to continue to ignore the irrefutable fact of your own mortality. It is by this method that I can look at somebody like Sylvester Stallone and think, “well he’s 68. 68! And he looks great. A bit weird, but great.”. Ergo, 68 is not ‘old’.

But whichever way you look at it, 40 is 40. You are past your prime. Your body has already started to respond to things differently. It’s harder to shift fat. Your bones become less dense. And if you’re like me, you become a grotesque physical parody of the man you once were (NO I AM NOT CRYING).

So is Freeletics really good for us older farts, or are we at risk of doing more harm than good? The Freeletics FAQ is both disconcertingly vague and annoyingly inflexible when it comes to the subject of age. It says: “We are convinced that having only one program strengthens the community and leads to success for everyone. We don’t want to put physically inactive and older people into a corner by giving them workouts, which will neither give them an effective progress nor are interesting for other athletes. If you want to become an athlete, you have to train like one. Simple as that.”

I’ve read that a dozen times and I’m still not sure what the underlying message is meant to be. Plus, what IS older? I would imagine that I’m older than the vast majority of people that do Freeletics. But surely the degree by which I’m older makes a difference? Or does everyone just go into the ‘older’ bracket once they hit an arbitrary age?

Also, I don’t actually want to ‘become an athlete’. I want to be fitter and stronger and that’s about all I want. (Actually I would also like a new power drill, but this is not the time to discuss it.)

I think this merits some wider research and hopefully some answers. At the very least I would like to get some opinion on effectiveness of high intensity training in ‘older’ people. So my plan (that I just came up with about three minutes ago whilst eating a biscuit) is to try and get some opinion on this from people qualified to talk about the effects of training, both positive and negative. I’ve no idea who I’m going to ask, or if I will be successful in getting anyone to speak to me about it, but I’m going to give it a go.


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  • Joseph


    I started reading your blog a week or two ago. I’ve been doing freeletics for 4 weeks. I have no advice to offer, so feel free to stop reading now. However, (if you’re still reading) I’ll mention that there are others like myself who are also straddling 40, attempting to fight father time, doing freeletics and being informed/amused by your posts. It just occurred to me after reading this that I never even bothered to see if this program was developed by legitimate, qualified personal trainers or a bunch of enthusiastic 20-somethings from Munich. Either way, it’s unlikely they had us “old” guys in mind. Nevertheless, it seems a hell of a lot better than doing mostly nothing, which is what I was doing before. To be honest, I did do some running + moderate weightlifting and hurt my back doing that. I’m sure it was from poor form, but part of the freeletics appeal was trying to reduce my opportunity for injury. I see from your post that there’s no magic immunity pill. Shit! Oh well.

    Anyhow, hang in there. It’s (probably) worth it to heal and continue. Plus, I don’t want you to switch topics. So, I’ll keep reading to see what you find out. #clapclap #noexcuses #justkidding


    • Shaun

      Hi Joseph, thanks for reading.

      It’s an interesting point – it didn’t occur to me that I should consider whether Freeletics was a sensible thing to do until I started knackering myself in various ways. I’m not going to give it up, but I have a strong feeling that I should give my body some time to work out the various little niggles I’ve been struggling with.

      Thanks again. Please jam your hashtags right up your arse.

      • Joseph

        >> Please jam your hashtags right up your arse.

        Ha! Sure thing. They will be comfortable there since it’s where they came from.

  • Shaun

    Hi Totinasi, thanks for reading.

    On the Freeletics website, it tells you something like ‘if your mind tells you to quit, ignore it. But if your body tells you to quit, listen’. Yes, well… The problem with that is how can you be absolutely sure? So if (like me) you get a small pain but are unwilling to ‘give up’, you finish the workout, maybe get a PB but end up in a worse state than when you started.

    The other thing is the whole issue of doing workouts against the clock. Is that DEFINITELY the best thing to do? In running, if you want to burn fat then the trick is not to run too fast. But this is HIT, and I appreciate that it works in a different way and aims towards a very different goal.

    I don’t want to come off like I’m being negative about Freeletics all the time. I’ve had real benefit from it, I’m glad I started. I’m just interested to know if the best thing for me.

    • Joseph

      > ‘if your mind tells you to quit, ignore it. But if your body tells you to quit, listen’

      I think about this sometimes mid-workout, weighing what to do. On the surface, I sort of get it. Yet, the mind is part of the body… so… technically speaking … it’s always my body telling me to quit.

  • Nat

    Hey Shaun, as one of the world’s oldest Freeleticers (49) I definitely got a view on this. Is Freeletics just for the young and lithe? No way, man. They ain’t having all the fun.

    My take is that injuries are part and parcel of sport generally and by extension Freeletics – it’s the quid pro quo for one of the best things in life – physical exercise and blowing out your arse after a good session.

    Sometimes I have pondered whether it is wise to be doing something so intense but in the last 12 months I’ve had two injuries – neither Freeletics related. A twanged groin through tennis and a badly slipped disc pre Freeletics due to piss poor use of a heavy kettle bell.

    Perhaps the hardest thing to do is to really listen to your body and rest/recover when you really need to. It’s a given people get injured (particularly older people who do mad things like Freeletics) but not sure it’s because the Freeletics workouts are too extreme for aging bodies (he says having done Kronos for the first time today lol).

    I definitely feel stronger and fitter as a result of Freeletics but do feel it sometimes. Having said that I do if I play tennis. I had five sets in a match on Sunday, by set five my back was in agony but I love playing and that’s the trade off (and actually on the Monday I had a Freeletics session which really loosened my back .up).

    Not sure i’ve contributed too much to the interesting debate you’ve sparked but that’s my rather simple take on Freeletics – now drop and give me 50 burpees, 100 squats and 2000 straight leg levers you lightweight 🙂


    • Shaun

      I feel a lot stronger as well. People (well, two people) that don’t know I’m doing Freeletics have asked me if I’ve started working out, so I guess the effects are noticeable to others. And no matter how many times I tell myself that it isn’t about that, I must also admit that I’m a vain fucker.

      And you can jam your 2000 straight leg levers up your arse.

      • Joseph

        I guess I’m a vain fucker too because I’d love to have someone, anyone, ask me if I’ve been working out – unless they mean it as a suggestion.

  • TJ

    Just turned 47.You’re a spring chicken in my book, oh the things I did when I was 40….
    I started freeletics only 6 weeks ago. No major injuries (yet, knock wood) but discomforts galore. Last week I started running a fever 1 or 2 hours after finishing each workout. A Dr friend said it was sign of exhaustion/overtraining and I just need to build in longer rest periods. Basically it boils down to “old farts need more time to recuperate”. I try to go hell for leather during workouts but definitely favour form over speed and don’t ignore the pain signals from my body (too much).
    Am enjoying myself immensely though and I’ll keep at it, even though I have the start of hell week on pause for a couple days now. Working up to it.
    Interested to see where this discussion goes. Cheers.

  • TJ

    BTW the RSS feed button on your page doesn’t seem to work (on my tablet at least).

    • Shaun

      Oh GREAT. To be honest I didn’t even check it. Anyone would think I was some sort of fly-by-night blogging dickhead. Thanks for letting me know.

  • Shaun

    Hi Liam, thanks for reading. I’m relatively injury free at present, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before something else cripples me. I’m envious of you getting into this at 29 – I WISH I’d had the foresight/brains to act upon my lack of fitness properly before now. Better late than never though. I hope.

  • Joseph

    Liam, I just saw a comment yesterday that someone did a double workout due to a bug in the app. Sure enough, there’s a note on the freeletics site about it: https://support.freeletics.com/en/double-rounds/. I wonder if something like that might have happened to you. I know I would be ticked off if it happened to me, even if I did complete it feeling good.

  • Joseph

    Liam, Yesterday someone said they did a double workout due to a bug in the app. Sure enough, the freeletics site has a note about it: https://support.freeletics.com/en/double-rounds/ I wonder if something like this happened to you. I know I would be ticked off about it even if I finished the workout feeling good.