Making Friends with Reality
CrossFit is amazing; it does incredible things for the body and the mind. An appropriate amount of stress and intensity leads to mental toughness and a body that is more resilient, fit and stronger. CrossFit also has a bad rap for being a sport that leads to injury. We have all heard it, “I don’t want to try CrossFit because I don’t want to get hurt”. As much as it pains me to say, there is some truth to this argument. CrossFit is a sport of progression; learn to lift, try to lift more, faster. Learn kipping pull-ups so you can do more, faster. CF athletes tend to be driven, results oriented, and slightly obsessive. There is pressure, whether external or internal, to go heavier, move faster, and to progress to the next level. This drive helps make CrossFit the successful beast that it is, but that same drive can lead to injury.
Let’s face it, what is good for our bodies is not always sexy. In our gym, we regularly perform a series of shoulder exercises that are excellent for injury prevention. They are extremely effective and are challenging to get through. What’s the problem? We use 2.5 – 5 pounds, sometimes even 1 pound. Not sexy; no one is posting videos of themselves doing these on Instagram. Glute bridges, back extensions, weighted planks, barbell rows, walking around with a sandbag, none of these exercises are glamorous. As a result, most CrossFit gyms don’t program them; even if they did, many CrossFitters would give them a hard pass.
Why should we care? You should care because most CrossFitters do not earn their positions. We jump to movements and weights very prematurely, without doing any of the basic foundational work. An Olympic weightlifter integrates back strengthening exercises into their training three times a week, most CrossFitters do none. To move heavy weights correctly and effectively, lifters need an incredibly strong posterior chain, without this, injury is waiting to happen. Gymnasts work on strict strength and flexibility for years before they attempt the more complex movements. CrossFitters brag about getting kipping pull-ups or handstand pushups before they can do a single strict one. It is possible to do CrossFit and stay safe. This means listening to your coaches, especially when they want to scale you, it means not shrugging off accessory work, and putting just as much effort into side work as you do the workout of the day. Your coaches care about you, but you need to care about you too.
Let’s not be neglectful of our bodies for the sake of our ego. Let’s do the grunt work. Let’s prioritize excellent movement patterns over numbers. Let’s fix imbalances. Let’s get to a place in our training where we feel good and can respond to stress in a positive way. Let’s get comfortable with the idea that these movements take time and it is okay if we are moving a little slower than our peers. Let’s work smarter, not harder. Protect your body, it is capable of incredible things, especially if it is nurtured and given time to adapt.