So you’ve heard about CrossFit. You’ve seen awesome, sexy photos of women working out with six packs and about one percent of body fat. Strong is the new sexy. YOU GET IT. You are curious and tempted to give it a go, but hesitant because you read an article recently that was titled in bold: “CROSSFIT WILL INJURE YOU.” This article may be a little blown out of proportion, but not completely fictional either. As a former collegiate rower and a certified CrossFit coach, I have seen all kinds of athletes injure themselves, myself included, and it is almost always for the same reason.
Lack of patience and lack of mobility work. Always.
As someone who lives with a “bad” shoulder and “tweaked” hip, I cannot stress enough how important it is to be patient. If you are going to give CrossFit a whirl (it is a fantastic way to get in shape, meet amazing people and build a strong community), please keep just these three things in mind!
3 CrossFit Tips to Stay Injury-Free
1. Do not kip until you can do a strict pull-up. I learned this the hard way. When you are watching all of these magnificent athletes run around like magical unicorns, you want to look just as cool. Pulling out your little resistance band during a workout can just seem downright awkward — even more so when the band springs back and hits you in the face.
If you haven’t tried the sport yet, you might not understand what this means. A kipping pull-up is a gymnastic movement where you use the momentum of your body to swing yourself high enough to get your chin over a pull-up bar. A strict pull-up is when you pull yourself up to the bar from a dead-hang position and only use your upper-body strength to get there. (Michelle from My Journey RX has written a great article addressing the strict vs. kipping pull-up debate if you want to learn more.)
The issue of kipping before you can do a strict pull-up isn’t that kipping will always lead to injury. Poor form, lack of mobility and fatigue will increase the probability of a shoulder injury. Gaining the strength before you try kipping will save you the chance of getting put on the bench for the rest of the season.
2. Do not go up in weight until you have perfected your form. Patience young grasshopper, your time will come. Sometimes athletes can get lost in the race to RX (perform the weight “prescribed” for that workout) that they don’t want to be seen scaling down. Leave your ego at the door because it is only going to cause trouble! If you haven’t perfected your form and you’re going up in weights, you can do some serious damage. When you feel confident in a lift and know all of the progressions with ease, go ahead and pick it up a notch. Just remember that no one is judging you if it takes you five weeks to add 5 pounds to your bar. It might even take you a year! That is okay. Adding extra weight when you haven’t gotten the basics down can lead to poor form and unnecessary strain on your muscles and joints. Be your own advocate and make the right decisions for you.
3. Take your mobility very, very seriously. If you didn’t listen to anything else I said, I forgive you. But your body will not forgive you if you do not listen to this last number. A good CrossFit gym will have separate mobility classes or a long warm-up before each session. Especially if you’re an older athlete, come in early and take as long as you need to warm up your joints. Imagine that you have a really rusted sliding gate to your back patio. You aren’t going to grab a jar of crunchy peanut butter from your fridge and throw it on and hope that it slides magically. You’re going to go to the hardware store and pick up some Fluid Film because that is what the gate needs. Your joints are the same in that they need the proper lube to avoid friction that can cause severe wear and tear. Even if you’re not going to a CrossFit class and you’re going to a normal gym, do your mobility work. A great resource I personally use is the website Mobility Wod. Resistance bands are a life saver and will keep you strong and mobile for many years to come. You can get these gems for as cheap as eight bucks, so go grab one!
Just remember that we have nothing without our health. Having the patience to work on your mobility will keep you fit and moving way into your 80s! Now that you have these three things in mind — go kill it!
Fab tips, Estelle! Are you a CrossFitter? Ever had to learn any of these the hard way? —Jenn