Yes you read the title correctly, CrossFit is very dangerous and people need to take care. The amount of injuries I have seen and read about in CrossFit over the last 5 years is almost as many as I saw in my rugby career, almost!
So what’s going go on here. CrossFit gyms generally provide a unique environment for performance and in turn competition, un prepared people are entering into competition when they are as suggested un prepared. Secondly a lot of CrossFit programming calls for repeated movements often with ludicrous loads. Two elements of CrossFit in gymnastics and weightlifting have in the nicest possible way been awesomely bastardised by CrossFit. Ask a gymnast to do 100 kipping pull ups, then 100 KB swings and so on for a workout and they will look at you like you are high. At the same time ask a weightlifting to snatch a bar for reps and they freak out. I remember when CrossFit was kicking off in the early 2000’s a friend of mine came to me and said he wanted to “do one of these benchmark workouts” that involved a barbell. He proceeded to to Isabel which is 30 snatch for time @ 60kg. I do not think he has done another Crossfit workout since.
The bottom line is that out bodies are getting banged up, spines crashed, joints stressed, tendons strained and of course the old trademark shin scrapped on a box.
So how do we fix it and continue to enjoy this cool concept with fun people in a great environment that when done correctly gets people in awesome shape and just loving life? Because honestly when done correctly it is probably the most genius form of working out that we will see in our time on earth.
Well here are 5 sure ways to stay safe
- Find a good gym: Of course I could write a whole other article on how to find the right gym. However there are a few quick check points. Firstly does the gym have an intro program? If yes does it have zones, or levels of progression that clients pass through when they become better? If yes what does their daily workout look like? Is it just reps after reps day after day after day after day? If yes, get out as this is a program that will kill you. You need a program that has at worse a 40/60 split on strength and conditioning, you need a program that periodises its medicine, if the gyms program just looks like reps on reps then you are in the wrong place.
- Listen to the coaches: Come on do you go to a doctor and write your own script? Then stop thinking you know it all in the gym. I am sure you have read a load of literature on physical fitness but at the end of the day you are paying the coach so listen to them. The coaches are there for your safety and enjoyment so if they say slow down it’s not because they don’t like you or don’t want you to get better, there will be a reason. I have seen so many people get hurt simply because they have not listened to what they are being taught.
- It’s you against you: The guy or girl that is finishing the workout 10 minutes ahead of you or out lifting you by 100lbs probably has totally different goals to you and may have been doing CrossFit their whole life, so stop comparing yourself to them and pushing to “beat” them in workouts if you have only just turned up. Competition is healthy but pick your battles properly or you may just push a little bit too hard and be sidelined.
- Listen to your body: The one phrase I use a lot when we are doing strength work is “If it feels good then add weight” I don’t believe in strict percentage strength work, there are just too many variables with the mass population. At the same time if things do not feel good then of course common sense prevails and there is no need to add weight. Just because the board says 5 sets of 2 reps at 90%, you do not have to do that, the board has no knowledge about the flu you are just getting over or how your body reacted to yesterdays workout. Listen to your body, if it feels good, push, not so good then pull back. The number of people I have heard tell me they knew they were going to get hurt is just ridiculous.
- Recover well: I get it that you want to push yourselves, I want you to push too and to get better all the time. But we see you for an hour in the gym. What are you doing outside of this to recover well. Many people want to workout 5 days a week on the bounce. To do so your food and hydration has to be in check as does your sleep. I mean come on would you set off on a long drive with a nearly empty petrol tank and expect to make it? Well recovery is the same, recovery well, eat and sleep well and you will be sweet, fail to do so and you are increasing your chance of injury massively.
CrossFit has changed the lives of so many people, there are now over 10,000 CrossFit gyms in the world. It is a great way of life but please be careful.
By Marcus Smith, InnerFight Founder