Without a doubt, you’ve come to know and love the many benefits of the CrossFit training protocols. Increased strength & stamina, greater balance, improved circulation, and many more terrific results come from training with the intense, focused and occasionally wild lifting system. But injuries can come too. Let’s plan out a safety system that you can employ to help you avoid the pitfalls which lead to injury, recognize any small ailments as they arrive, and above all, “make your own luck” when it comes to being safe with CrossFit training!
First off, you should understand that the most prevalent injury in CrossFit training is… well, it’s an injury you’ve already suffered in the past. Re-aggravation of a previous injury is the top injury faced by athletes training CrossFit. Therefore, before you even enter the #box and attempt your #wod workout of the day, you should have already dealt with any outstanding injury issues, and be cognizant of their signs. Should any inflammation, pain or aggravation act up from a previous injury, you need to be ready to modify, adjust, or halt that training session.
Next, you need to recognize the areas of the body which are most often affected by injuries by those training in the CrossFit style. The knees, shoulders, and particularly lower back are the areas that see the most damage from training. Most of these injuries come from repetition and that momentary carelessness that arrives from losing focus. Therefore when you’re training with any movement that affects these areas of back, shoulders, and knees, you need to pay special attention to the common warning signs, such as pain, pressure and inflammation. You know a ‘tweak’ when you feel it.
As our muscle fibers begin to fail during the course of a set, particularly when we’re using a compound movement which targets multiple muscle groups at once, we may be tempted to modify our lifting form to somehow remove the failing muscle group from the movement, and send that force to another muscle group which hasn’t yet failed. This is a very BAD idea. Swinging the weight on rows once your arms fails will pull that weight to your hips and lumbar region, which can lead to back injury. These exercises have been created, tried, tested and proven over decades to safely build up stamina, size and strength – provided they are done correctly. Abandon form for another repetition or two, and you’re begging for injury!
Use the kettlebell to fill in the gaps. Yes, the kettlebell is very new, but it has been proven to target groups of stabilizer muscle fibers which were previously untouched by standard barbell and dumbbell exercises. Movements such as the clean & jerk and repetition snatches are a whole ‘nother beast when you’re using them with kettlebells. Try any of your common movements with kettlebells, and enjoy the added muscle fiber stimulation. This leads to muscles with greater strength and support, which keeps you out of the injury pile!
Become an athlete
One reason many athletes in CrossFit sustain injuries is that, well, they’re new to being athletes! Think about the bevy of little things that a lifelong athlete picks up along the way. How to eat before and after tough games, ways to ice an injury, warning signs of a weakened muscle area… high school athletes pick these up and build upon them over decades – but the non-athlete may not. As a newbie to CrossFit and possibly athletics altogether, your job is to read, read, read, and pick up everything you can regarding nutrition, training, stretching, injury prevention & recovery. These little things are second nature to lifelong athletes, but might be new to you!
Know the signs
Recognize the signs of both good and bad upcoming workouts. You know if your body is feeling firm and strong, and you also sense when things are a little off-kilter. Many victims of heart attacks often know something isn’t sitting right a day or so beforehand. Some ignore the signs, some tackle them and save their own lives. Injuries are the same way. If tendonitis is setting in, you feel it in the days before a workout, not the moment you touch a barbell. If you have a tiny fracture setting in, you’ll feel that pain in the morning before you head in for the #WOD. If something isn’t right, address it before running headfirst into an intense workout which could make it worse.
Above all, you should employ common sense when it comes to your CrossFit training. You know your body better than anyone. If you aren’t capable of a lift, then don’t do it. You know where that zome of proximidal development stands – that area just above what you can currently handle – and that’s where you should max out on your lifts. If you feel like your balance and control is failing – stop the set and move on to another movements. Never sacrifice your body and risk injury for the ego rush that arrives with reaching a personal best on a lift. Good luck!