Updated: Jun 23, 2019
Chances are you have met someone, or you are a participant in the ever growing activity known as CrossFit. But, if you have not heard of it, let’s talk about what it is before we dive into the controversy that surrounds this great fitness activity. CrossFit defines itself as high intensity, functional fitness, that’s constantly varied. High intensity training has been shown to be very beneficial to health by increasing cardiovascular endurance, burning more fat than long distance running by improving metabolism, increasing bone density and challenging the nervous system. So, with all these health benefits, why is it that so many people avoid this wonderful activity?
The answer to that question seems to be injury. Many people I speak with feel the world of CrossFit, even with all it’s benefits and randomization of exercises, puts people at higher risk of injury. When talking with these individuals, they talk about the dangers of lifting heavy weights, with improper technique at fast paces, especially Olympic weightlifting movements. Quite a few of these people have had the wrong experience with CrossFit. They have either watched the CrossFit Games athletes completing multiple events throwing around very heavy weights, completing endurance and gymnastic activities at speeds that are super human and thought ‘I could never do that’ or ‘how is that safe?’ Others have had friends, or personally gone to a gym to try it out, were pushed too hard, let their ego get in the way and progressed themselves too fast, or were not taught proper technique and became injured. Thus the injury became CrossFit’s fault and the reason to avoid it all together.
The first situation (watching the Games) may frighten someone away from CrossFit due to feeling they could never do these super human tasks. But, comparing CrossFit Games athletes to any of us is like comparing a middle school football player to and NFL player. The amount of time spent training, building strength and proper form is 1000 times that of what most of us will ever do. Most people that go into CrossFit do it for the health and fitness benefits. The training to get these benefits is much different than those that competitive athletes complete. The average CrossFit participant only completes a one hour workout, three or four days a week. This is in comparison to the Games athletes who typically complete multiple workouts, five to six days a week. Completing an hour workout, with proper guidance and programming, three to four days a week should not, and does not, mean a high rate of injury!
The second situation is more common, and one of my reasons for writing this blog. I encourage CrossFit, when you can find the right gym (box). Just like any profession, in CrossFit you can have good and bad professionals. You can have coaches who just show up and watch you do the workouts and maybe encourage you as you go through the motions and give you a good workout. You also have coaches that show up and will watch all the athletes closely, telling people to make modifications because they notice that your form is becoming faulty. These coaches will even make you scale your workout to something that is more suited to your current physical needs. You must find a location with good coaches and a judgement free zone!
I endorse CrossFit because I have seen and experienced the health benefits associated with it. I have seen people with back pain get to a place where they can dead-lift and only have muscle soreness. I have encountered a number of people who have changed their lifestyle because of the community they are surrounded by and it has led to tremendous weight loss and/or positive emotional changes. So, to say that you are at higher risk of injury by starting to participate at a local gym depends on a multitude of variables, which you are now more aware of. But I have done the research for you, and there is plenty of research out there that found cross-fitters to be no more injury prone than any other sporting activity.
Maybe we just hear about their injuries more because they are excited to talk about their sport and are excited to get back to it? What do you think? Maybe it’s time you checked out a local gym. I have recommendations...all you have to do is ask!
Dr. Skyler Harms, PT