Is CrossFit dangerous?
I've gotten this question a lot. And like many questions where people are looking for a “yes" or “no" answer- the annoying answer to this is: it depends. In this post, I'll share my first CrossFit and some reasons why people have concerns about participating.
My First Time: Grassroots in Berkeley, CA
Every Saturday, Grassroots holds a Community Workout of the Day (WOD), aka, a free workout open to everybody! Actually, many advanced lifters also came through to get their heart rates up. The workout was a high-intensity partner routine- that you could make as challenging as you needed to by increasing the weights or increasing your pace.
I was excited even though I knew coming in that we weren't going to be doing power lifts. It made sense that a class open to everyone would keep it simple and time-efficient. But I was still got a bit nervous when I saw "90 burpees" on the board.
When I found out we were going to partner up and get timed, the friendly competition got me excited again.
After a thorough and coordination-testing warm-up (it doesn’t take much but a ladder and simple footwork to test my coordination), we were filled in on the WOD. It included*:
- Wall Balls
- Sit Ups
- Box Jumps
*Apologies for not remembering the exact numbers and not taking a photo of the workout.
Brandon was my partner. We had worked out together before, and both wanted to have the best time out of the group. We had a rough strategy in terms of splitting up the wall balls into sets of 15, and pushed each other to move quickly to the next exercises. We ended up finishing first. Well, technically 2nd behind a man who didn’t have a partner.
We definitely broke a great sweat (per the photo) and felt energized after. If you feel like your level of fitness is intermediate-advanced, you could probably do the workout at least twice! If you really give your all and challenge yourself with the weights and pace, then one time through is definitely sufficient. The coaches walked around as we worked to check on our form and make sure we were not cutting corners in order to get more speed. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend to others!
Why some people think CrossFit is Dangerous:
CrossFit wouldn't have become a national phenomenon if it was all bad. There's over 7,000 CrossFit-affiliated boxes in the US, and tens of thousands of athletes that kip and clean on a regular basis. So what leads some to warn about potential injuries as a result of cross fit participation?
1. Poor Technique
This could be because of the coach, or because of the participants. The issues are magnified when a lack of proper technique is combined with inappropriately fast progression. This is why many facilities start their participants out using broomsticks, or don’t even focus on lifts for beginners- because in most cases, you need to have the fundamentals of the exercises down before adding load.
One of my clients explained that when she got injured after doing CrossFit, the coaches did start her off with a broomstick, but kept telling her to toss on more load even though she had just gotten the broomstick down. This quick load progression combined with the often fast pace and explosive nature of exercises/workouts- are an injury time bomb.
I had one client who was super ambitious. He was doing CrossFit at Iron Tribe, and then asked me to provide him with high intensity personal training sessions in addition. I asked him to do split days- separating our sessions from the cross fit by at least 24 hours.
He didn’t listen to my advice, and he got injured. This wasn't necessarily Iron Tribe’s fault or my fault. As his trainer, I advised him of the risks of overtraining, and Iron Tribe should have done similarly. In the same way that fitness professionals should be Participants, themselves also have the responsibility to listen to their bodies and heed the advice of fitness professionals, the professionals also need to provide the advice.
After Grassroots, I’d say I had a great, although still limited, experience with CrossFit. If you try it out, enjoy the fun, community feel- but continue to be careful and listen to your bodies!