Over the past 6 months, I have been reading articles that bash the sport of crossfit and make excuses for why it is not safe or good to do. In actuality, crossfit is one of the best forms of exercise for the body and if done properly can prevent injuries from daily life.
A common misconception many people have of the crossfit sport is that it hurts people. This statement could not be further from the truth and would be like saying “sleeping hurts people” or “eating hurts people.” If you sleep on a very soft mattress, on your stomach, or with a non-supportive neck pillow, then yes, sleeping hurts you. If you eat inflammatory foods and gluten-bomb your body for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, then yes, eating hurts you.
The problem is not sleeping or eating; the problem is how we sleep and how we eat.
We live in a society that focuses on effects and never looks at causes. For instance, there is an acid reflux commercial where Larry the Cable Guy is in front of a Colossal Corn Dog stand promoting Prilosec. The problem is not the acid reflux but what Larry is ingesting into his body that is creating the reflux response. We have to change our mentality in this society if we want to be healthy and rank as a healthy country.
As a busy chiropractor in Atlanta, I am adjusting a lot of people every day, so my body is constantly in a bent position and using a lot of force. In 2009 when I was a triathlete, my body weighed 155 pounds and was very scrawny. I opened my practice that same year and fortunately was blessed with a consistent client base from the start, which meant my body was in use throughout the entire day. Therefore, at the end of each day I would go home extremely sore. I quickly realized that my body was not as functionally fit as it needed to be to do my job well on a daily basis. I could run 26 miles, swim long distances, and bike forever, but from a functional standpoint, I was not fit.
In 2010, I did my first crossfit workout and fell in love. Most of the workouts consisted of squatting with no machines to isolate my body, as we were performing predominantly body weight movements. Crossfit is an amazing combination between gymnastics and olympic lifting and when done properly can produce powerful results.
Almost 4 years later, I see more people in my office than I ever have (hence, my body is exerting more energy each day), feel extremely healthy, and am in the best shape of my life. I currently weigh 182 pounds and am made up of mostly muscle mass and plan to keep doing crossfit forever. I have never been hurt from crossfit and have been competing locally for the past 2 years.
Where does the myth stem from?
Crossfit training is very similar to how professional athletes train. If you look at the curriculums for most athletes, they implement a lot of crossfit trainings and are very intense.
What many people do not realize is if you want to train at an elite level, then you also have to take care of your body at an elite level. Over the past 4 years of doing crossfit I have seen people come and go from injuries not because of crossfit exercises but because they do not know how to properly care for their bodies under such extreme athletic conditions.
Some people expect to sit in front of computers for 8-10 hours a day, have no self-care regimen, then go to the gym to work out and not get hurt.
On the contrary, professional athletes have teams of people that care for their bodies before and after their workouts. These athletes also sleep a certain way, eat a certain way, and take care of their bodies a certain way.
The bottom line is that if you want to train at an elite level, then you need to take care of yourself at an elite level. Crossfit does not cause people to be injured but not taking care of oneself and being reckless does.
How to select the right gym?
To start, one argument is that a large part of the issue is the trainer who is coaching the class. Are there great trainers? Yes. Are there bad trainers? Yes. Does having a bad trainer affect the outcome of the class? Yes.
Looking back to when I first started crossfit, there was no introductory class, and we were immediately thrown into a group class. I knew nothing! I did not understand the difference among a jerk, press, squat, or a clean. It took about 6-9 months before I really knew all the different movements.
Today, most gyms have implemented a program to get you started, such as On-Ramp, Elements, or Foundations, which teaches the movements before throwing you to the wolves in a group class.
To me, this type of program is a must for every person who wants to do crossfit successfully. If you are looking for a good gym to join, check each one to make sure it has an introductory program. Commit to this class for a minimum of 4-8 weeks, as understanding the movements and techniques is crucial to avoiding injury.
Not a competition!
A mentor of mine shared the following quote with me when I first opened my practice: “Winners compare themselves to themselves, and losers compare themselves to others.”
In the beginning of crossfit training, most people will see the board that says RX and try to get to that level as fast as possible. They will see girls and guys with shredded bodies and expect the same thing to happen to their bodies overnight. They see the board that shows the top times for hero workouts and heaviest lifts and want their names on there, too.
However, all processes require time, and crossfit is no different. I get that we live a fast-paced nation where people want results yesterday while not having to do the work. The reality, though, is that you cannot expect to train for a marathon and on day one of training run 15 miles. When it comes to crossfit, remind yourself that progress take time. Similar to anything in life, commit to the sport, and results will happen.
As a chiropractor I see this every day! People come to my office with 5, 10, or 20 years of damage to the spine and expect me to fix it overnight. Use this example as a life lesson, and take inventory of your life from all areas: relationships, finances, physical, spiritual, professional. To grow any of them and be truly successful and happy, understand it will take time. Remember that the only things you should use as a comparison are your results from the previous year.
If someone asks me about how to be successful at crossfit, I suggest committing to at least 6-12 months of training.
What self-care should be done?
When it comes to life decisions, many people are reactive and only like to take care of themselves when they are injured or hurt; reactive action is a product of our culture. However, this mindset does not lead to positive results at an elite level.
Over the past few months I have put together a great routine for my body NOT because I am in pain or have problems but because I do not want to develop problems. Once again, the concept can be applied to every area: business, relationships, finances, etc.
The following examples are ways I practice self-care, to give you some suggestions for your own self-care regimen.
Chiropractic: As a chiropractor, I walk my talk and get adjusted once every 10 days. There are numerous reasons I do this, and a big one is making sure my body is in a peak performance state and is functioning at high levels. The brain and spine control every cell, tissue, organ, and organ system, and from the physical activity of work and other stresses, the spine can misalign and put pressure on nerves. Sometimes I feel the misalignments and sometimes I do not, but no matter what, I am going to be proactive to maximize my potential. Also, I would never want to work out or lift weights on a misaligned spine because doing so would create more wear and tear on the joints, as well as pressure on your nerves. Even the best trainers and staff cannot prevent the negative loading on your joints unless your spine is biomechanically in alignment.
Massage: Every 2 weeks I get a massage that focuses on my tight muscles and tender tendons. Common overuse injuries involving tendons and muscles are torn rotator cuffs, Achilles, and pecs. Therefore, my massage therapist performs a deep friction massage by digging her heels into my tender tendons to help prevent tendonitis and torn tendons.
Acupuncture: Once a month I see an acupuncturist to calm down my body and keep my stress levels low. I am not a high-stressed person, but sometimes our Qi can become unbalanced, and my acupuncturist can help keep me balanced. What most people do not realize is that stress happens chemically, physically, and emotionally, and it accumulates. Seeing an acupuncturist monthly balances my body, which inevitably helps to prevent injury. A great way to measure stress levels is with an HRV (heart rate variability) test. It shows the days you should work out and days you should rest based on your stress levels.
Home Care: Beyond the professionals, I utilize many at-home self-care techniques. At least once a week I soak in an epsom salt bath to calm my muscles and help with inflammation. From a nutritional standpoint, I take cod liver oil or tuna oil to also help reduce the inflammation and provide healthy fats and essential vitamins. In line with nutrition, I eat a 90% paleo diet that provides ample fuel for my body and aids in the recovery process. Further, I use Jill’s Therapy Balls from YogaTuneUp.com on a daily basis and work out any tight muscles.
If you do what everyone else does, then you will get what everyone else gets. Living a proactive life is what winners do to stay on top and truly enjoy their lives. By shifting your mindset and stepping out of this allopathic paradigm we witness in everyday society for a bit, you can begin to watch your life unfold before your eyes. This article does not only show you how crossfit does not hurt people and how to care for your body, but also key points to make your life the greatest it can be.
Instead of reading this post and trying to go immediately straight to A to Z, start the process by going from A to B.