CrossFit is gaining more popularity than ever — it's a serious challenge. Both men and women are noticing how they can progress quickly — even when they're starting from square one with no experience. However, there's no denying that the calisthenics and weightlifting can cause injury if you're not maintaining proper form or if you're not strong enough to take on a specific move or exercise.
We asked Adam Discepolo, DPT at Professional Physical Therapy, how we can continue to do CrossFit — safely, and injury-free. These tips actually go well beyond CrossFit and can be applied to so many types of fitness.
Choose the Right Location
Which box is right for you? While Discepolo told us that there are likely tons of convenient locations near you, opting for the most experienced instructor is important. "With the complexity of the exercises, it is important to have someone show you the correct techniques and how to modify them based on [your] needs or physical ability," he said. When instructors have more expertise and education, "the program design and teaching of exercises are more appropriate."
How does one evaluate whether the gym is right for their needs? Discepolo said, "I would recommend observing a class to see how the instructors teach and interact with the members." Shop around if you need to!
Know Your Limits
Listen to your body and know your limitations. Take it easy on the AMRAPs! "With the high volume of repetitions involved in most CrossFit workouts, it's important to listen to your body and be able to differentiate between soreness and pain," said Discepolo.
"You should never have pain from a lift, but a burning or soreness is an appropriate feeling." Still feeling sore, achy, or possibly like you got hit by a truck? No matter what your workout, take an extra rest day. "Lifting while still sore from a previous workout could result in breakdown of form, and this is when injuries tend to occur."
Focus on Flexibility
This doesn't just mean touching your toes! Discepolo emphasized the importance of working on your mobility and flexibility, "especially if you are a first-timer." In his words, "Coming in off the street and starting to perform these Olympic-style lifts can be extremely challenging, especially if your body doesn't have the mobility or flexibility for it." It can also lead to injury — he told us that it will cause "increased compression across joint surfaces."
Your best bet? Warm up. Always. This will "increase blood flow, internal body temperature, and mobility to muscles and tissue, as well as spend time increasing your flexibility to allow you to go through the full range of motion of these exercises, as they were intended." Sounds good to us.
Take Rest Days
"As CrossFit's popularity has increased, it has been viewed more as a sport, especially for those at advanced levels," said Discepolo. "However, just like any sport, there should be off time." He's totally right — every type of fitness needs rest, especially a challenging one like CrossFit. "Every major professional sport has an off season, and if you are a serious CrossFit competitor, so should you."
"This allows muscles, ligaments, and joints to recover from the constant pounding they take during these high-intensity programs. If the pros take time off to recover, so should you!" His rule of thumb: for every three months of consistent, intense exercise like CrossFit (five to six days a week), you should consider taking one week off to recover.