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Is CrossFit Safe?

Why I Think CrossFit Is Way Safer Than Any Other Group Fitness Classes

Before I went to my first CrossFit session in 2014, someone said to me, "Well, be careful, because it's only a matter of time before you get injured." Not that I asked for their opinion anyway, but I took it with a grain of salt. You've probably heard your fair share of people claim that CrossFit produces a lot of injuries, but there aren't many reliable statistics out there yet in order to come to a definitive conclusion.

Not only have I never been injured doing CrossFit or seen any of my friends or acquaintances get hurt there, but I have been injured a couple times before at a gym or fitness studio. I once hurt my lower back in a fast-paced, trendy studio class because we were being told to do some pretty complicated movements, with hardly any instruction on how to do them. The worst injury I experienced, though, was a sprained ankle in a group fitness class that had me in bed for three days straight. I was furious — and in a lot of pain.

It happened in a circuit class at my gym where each station was set up with platform steps, and we were instructed to do different movements that involved jumping, fast movement with your feet, and running. The instructor told us briefly how to do the movements, but simply let us work out on our own from there. The room felt like complete chaos, which is not unlike a lot of group fitness classes I've been to in my time, come to think of it. People were running from one station to the next, recklessly trying to complete the movements as fast as they possibly could.

There was a sense of competition in the room, which I usually thrive off of, but it didn't feel like the friendly kind. One guy shouldered me out of his way so he could get to a station first, and another girl refused to share one of the platform steps with me. More importantly, the class was so fast-paced and the instructor was shouting so many different things that I lost concentration for a split second. Someone raced past me, elbowing my side, and I lost my balance. I fell off a three-step platform and twisted my ankle pretty badly. I left the class early, infuriated, and I wasn't able to work out for two weeks. Even after I got some movement back in my body, I had to be extremely tender with my ankle, and I couldn't run on it for an entire month.

On the other hand, I did CrossFit religiously (six times a week) for a year and a half, and I never experienced anything close to this. In fact, quite the opposite was true. Each CrossFit session I went to was methodically planned out, meticulously instructed, and consistently positive. The owners of my CrossFit box were sticklers when it came to form, and they wouldn't even allow me to attempt many Olympic lifts until I mastered the form while using a wooden stick in place of a barbell. Sure, there are some difficult explosive movements in CrossFit, but if you go to the right CrossFit gym, you'll be under close supervision by experts who have your safety in mind, so you won't be doing anything your body isn't ready for.

When I think back to my group fitness injuries, here are the common denominators: the instructor doesn't give comprehensive instructions, everything is too fast-paced, and many people are performing the movements the wrong way during the entirety of the class. I never saw any of those three things happen in all my time doing CrossFit.

Granted, not every CrossFit box is created equal. There are certainly some gyms out there that are run by folks who aren't as cautious and caring with their clients, but I've trained at quite a few boxes in my time, and the vast majority of them were safe places to work out. Although I don't do CrossFit anymore, I still encourage people to give it a try, especially considering how many of them now require you to do a fundamentals course before you can train in the normal sessions.

This isn't to say that you should walk into CrossFit thinking you'll never get injured. I just think you run a higher risk of getting hurt in the popular group fitness classes where not enough instruction is given. If you have any preexisting conditions or injuries, definitely speak to the instructor (and maybe even your doctor) before getting started at CrossFit or any other gym. This will ensure you have the safest, most effective experience while working out.

Image Source: Getty / David Kotinsky
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