One thing I’ve come across while being exposed to Crossfit is the hot-button topic of the overall safety of the sport. Criticisms and concerns I’ve read and heard about the sport revolve around things like the high-intensity exertion during the workouts, the inclusion of technical olympic weightlifting and gymnastics movements, and the amount of overhead exercises. Justified or not, these criticisms may be of concern to someone considering giving Crossfit a try, and I’d like to share my thoughts given my brief foray into the sport. Again, I give my opinion based on admittedly being a relative novice to the sport but also as a chiropractor having dealt with numerous sport-related injuries.
The question “Is Crossfit Safe?” popped up in my mind as well when I first started. Maybe it was when I first walked into the gym which had a bit of a warehouse-like feel with pullup bars, kettle bells, barbells, and medicine balls and was admittedly a little daunting at first. After going through the initial personal training program though, I think that the question of safety with the sport has less to do with what movements and exercises are performed, and more about how.
Remember how I said I was terrible at pull-ups and squats? Well, as my trainer Deanna Whiteley at Crossfit Zone quickly discovered, weakness in certain muscle groups were only part of the reason for not being able to get my butt down on a squat and get my chin over a pull-up bar multiple time. A bigger reason was actually the inflexibility of my shoulders and hips. Because of long-standing neglect and microtrauma to these joints I learned that I couldn’t even physically DO these movements with proper form. Was I embarrassed? A little. Was my conscientious trainer going to make me do as many squats as I could with heavy weight or as many unassisted pull-ups as possible? Not a chance- she’s too safety-conscious and too concerned about my well-being for that. Attempting to do so would have meant trying to do the movement with unsafe form, which would mean compensating in awkward ways, which would mean potentially injuring myself. Instead, during our training sessions we did ‘scaled-down’ versions of squats and pull-ups and worked hard on the flexibility of my hips and shoulders so that I would eventually have the physical capacity to use proper form. I’ve also been taught that when I feel my form degrading during an exercise that I should stop and rest until my energy is such that I can continue with proper form.
Surely, jumping straight into the sport without proper guidance or a proper training program could be a recipe for disaster- even for someone like myself who was reasonably fit to begin with. I’d want some instruction if I were going to take up sky-diving or water polo too, because Crossfit is really more of a sport than a typical fitness class. This leads into my next topic of who crossfit is appropriate for- which I’ll talk about next week.