CrossFit: one of the new “fads” of fitness. The fast-paced/high intensity nature appeals to hundreds of thousands of people around the globe, encouraging a community of exercise enthusiasts to adopt this new fitness regimen.
CrossFit“boxes” (or gyms) can be found in nearly every major city, on most military posts and in several rural areas throughout the United States and the rest of the word. As CrossFit games grow in popularity, the community has gone global. Walk into a "box" and you’ll find a wide range of people, fitness levels and goals.
Anyone can do CrossFit. But can they do it safely? Despite its popularity and continued growth, CrossFit continues to be vastly misunderstood and controversial in the medical community. Despite the fact that most clinicians will see several CrossFitters throughout their careers, most know very little about what exactly this exercise regimen entails. Often times, it gets labeled as “unsafe” or “dangerous” when it fact it can be very beneficial in improving overall functional strength.
Have you ever experienced knee pain? If so, have you ever had a physician or physical therapist tell you not to squat anymore? We squat to sit down, to get in the car, to pick things up, etc. so why shouldn’t we train for those activities? Strength training is a great way to prevent age-related weakness, decreased mobility, decreased function and loss of independence.
The great thing about CrossFit is that it not only gives you all the benefits of global strengthening, but it also includes cardiovascular exercises. That’s one of the great things about CrossFit. It’s always a different work out, so your body does not get acclimated to the activity and subsequently continues to make gains. However, it is still important to remember that CrossFit(like any other type of exercise) involves risks.
Keys to reducing risk of CrossFit injury include:
- A well-educated and knowledgeable trainer. Your trainer should be at least a Level 1 CrossFit certified instructor - if you are unsure about this, you can search CrossFit affiliates here. They should be knowledgeable about Olympic lifting technique and able to scale or modify exercises for each client’s ability.
- Up-to-date equipment.
- Knowing your own limitations. This is likely the most important factor of all. For instance, if you have been a distance runner all your life, than do not try to do a 300-pound dead lift on your first day. Conversely, if you’ve been a weight lifter all your life than don’t try to run the 800 m as fast as you can on the first day. Again, this is where a good trainer is so vital. Make sure you tell them your exercise history, your goals and your weaknesses.
- Finally, if you don’t feel comfortable with a certain exercise or movement, spend some extra time with your trainer going over form and have a partner spot you when trying a heavier weight for the first time. The extra time will be well worth it in the long run.
If you’re looking for a fun and fast paced way to stay in shape than CrossFit may be a great option for you. Just remember that each form of exercise is not without risk, CrossFit included.