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“With Great Power Comes great responsibility”
CrossFit as both a sport and a fitness modality possesses within itself the ability to dramatically change us physically, emotionally, and mentally. It can sculpt our bodies, mold our confidence, and emotionally connect us to people we otherwise would never have known. The positives of crossfit are numerous and profound, and hopefully you have personally experienced this as well. On the other side of the coin, CrossFit is certainly not without it’s risks, and recently the media has tried to display CrossFit in a way that would make the average person fear stepping in a CrossFit gym. What we would like to discuss is what these risks are, why we do things the way we do, and what you can do as an individual to maximize your benefit and minimize your risk.
CrossFit is an intense physical activity, intense at relative levels, but intense none the less. With any intense physical exercise or sport there is always a risk of injury, heck forget exercise even in life! (we’ve heard more stories of injuries doing yard and house work then we’ve had at the gym!) The simple fact is the human body is not indestructible (though we are striving to get as close as possible!) and we need to take measures to be as safe as possible, especially if CrossFit is your “fitness” modality, and not a competitive sport for you.
Having said that lets reinforce the greatest mechanism you have to prevent injury…. CONSISTENTLY AND PERMANENTLY DEDICATING YOURSELF TO THE TECHNICALLY PERFECT EXECUTION OF ALL MOVEMENTS. I think we should make everyone solemnly swear on a bible to do so. If we asked you as an individual how to correctly perform a certain movement (once past the introductory stage of your CrossFit life) I’m sure many of you could easily describe the important points, yet its revoltingly common for the most seasoned of us to continually exhibit the same movement faults even when you are well aware the correct technique points. Why does this happen? The first and most obvious is fatigue, movement quality suffers under fatigue, but thats why we need to be so diligent at all times in only allowing ourselves to practice perfect movements, so that when fatigued our body reverts back to the only movement pattern it knows, the correct one. The more you “respect” a movement the easier it is to keep it solid when you’re looking at the tail end of a brutal met-con. We squat, hinge, and do some kind of pushup nearly everyday for this reason. If you have a technical flaw in this base movement how can you expect to successfully graduate and add load to it? The best thing you can do to help this is keep track of the coaching cues you are given in your TRAINING LOG so as to not make the same mistakes repeatedly. You will continue hear us hammer this point home, and we sincerely hope you will respect even the simplest of movements in order to keep yourself healthy in the long run.
Another huge factor in your health and safety is avoiding movements for which your body is simply not ready. We strive to provide as many substitute movements as possible in place of the higher risk/higher skill exercises (namely overhead movements), but often times its easy to get caught up in the group mentality and ignore what may be best for you. Even if a movement isn’t acutely painful, if you have a restriction that is keeping you from performing it correctly, it is just a matter of time before a slight “twinge” pops up and becomes a larger injury or issue. We understand that sometimes the more basic movements are not as exciting, but our goal is to keep you healthy and get you fit first and foremost, and often times this requires regression of exercises. Just because an exercise is regressed for you, does not mean it is any less beneficial, in fact quite the opposite. Be selfish sometimes, and know that what is best for so, may be a modified movement, and that is absolutely fine.
While the work you do in the gym is a huge determinant of your progress, what you do outside the gym is equally important. What we are referring to here is mainly self restorative care. If you have movement restrictions are you taking daily steps to improve them? Or are you simply hoping they’ll vanish on their own? Say for example you have poor hip mobility in a squat, you should be taking 5 minutes (minimum!) everyday to sit at rock bottom of a squat breaking down the restrictions keeping you from a smooth and fluid squat. The reason this is so important is because every time you perform a sub-par movement you are breeding imbalance and faulty motor patterns….These will both inevitably come back to similar issues we described above, you are only as solid as the base of your pyramid. Fitness built on a foundation of dog-doo and dandelions will only take you so far.
Unlike strength which can improve by training it 2-3x a week, movement quality is something you must always be working and conscious of. If you spend 10 minutes opening up your shoulders at the gym, then 10 hours sitting in a garbage posture, do you think that change will really stick? If you really want to advance to the higher skill movements attacking these movement limitations 2-3x a day is absolutely necessary. If that isn’t something you think you can manage, just know that you are probably going to be better off with the modified options, which is also fine!
In summary, CrossFit like all other worthwhile endeavors is not without it risks; however by taking the proper steps of: being aggressively dedicated to the repetition of perfect technique, scaling and opting for substitutions even when it may not be the most glamorous, and taking your movement quality mindset with you everywhere you go and working on postural/mobility drills outside of class time, you will be able to mitigate these risks and enjoy all the positive power the CrossFit world has to offer. Your coaches are here to help you in your fitness journey and keep you safe, but it is up to you to listen to your body and know when to take the path that best suits your needs!