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Is CrossFit Dangerous

By admin | In Psychology | on November 23, 2010

Brian demonstrates superb limbo form

In a word, maybe.  Many of you have heard this from friends when you tell them about CrossFit. Some will talk about articles they’ve read about rhabdo and other such injuries. The truth is that CrossFit’s methodology is incredibly effective in achieving GPP when executed correctly. But, in all athletic activities where the challenge is intense physically and mentally, there is an element of danger.

CrossFit WODs are often referred to as intense. CrossFit defines intensity as going as fast and hard as you physically AND mentally can.  Although for some, describing Fran as intense may be a ridiculous understatement, but the definition still applies.

There are innumerable factors that factor into a WOD such as:

  • the athlete’s current and past fitness level, tenacity, and ego
  • the trainers’ experience, knowledge, and ego
  • the athlete’s sleep, diet, and recovery
  • the wod’s movements, loading, reps, and intensity
  • the previous day’s wod’s movements, loading, etc
  • the environment’s temperature, humidity, and altitude

Most of the serious injuries that have come out of CrossFit occur with athletes who have an incredible tolerance for pain and have pushed the mental envelope to its limits in the past. Their bodies are in decent shape, but their minds remember how to push as if they are the finely tuned athletes they were a few years back. The mind, then is both a beautiful and dangerous thing. It’s then the coach’s job to scale back this athlete’s reps, weights, and sets until his body catches up with his mind.

Other times injuries occur from weaknesses and inflexibilities that have accumulated over the years that prevent us from performing the functional movements our bodies were meant to. Here, it’s up to the coach to identify the mobility issues, scale back (or sub) necessary movements until the athlete is capable of performing these lifts safely.

I’ve also seen people suffer through a WOD and look like roadkill afterwards (ok, MORE like roadkill than usual) only to tell me they slept two hours or haven’t eaten all day. Here, it’s the athlete’s job to keep the coach informed about their condition. There is merit to training for the unknown and the unknowable, but there is also stupidity in trying to throw heavy weight around when you are not physically OR mentally capable of it. So, embrace the suck but do so intelligently. There is a time and a place for bootcamp style training, but not while snatching your bodyweight.

Hopefully this helps you when your friends try to quote numerous articles about the dangers of CrossFit. Long story short (too late), CrossFit is only dangerous if the coach or athlete acts irresponsibly or without regard for the athlete’s long term health and wellness. We as CrossFitters poke fun at ‘globo gyms’ but our culture has sprouted a new breed of “CrossFit globos” where shredded hands are a badge of honor, where Rx’d is a religion, and where form and safety are traded for seconds shaved off their girl WODs.

It is an athlete’s responsibility to find a coach (in CrossFit or any sport) who knows the importance of scaling, recognizes athletes’ limitations and strengths (especially if those strengths become limitations), cares about the athletes’ longevity beyond the immediate future, and maintains an open line of communication with their athletes. Trying to wrench your body through movements or under loads that you’re not prepared for is dangerous and so is a coach that permits and/or encourages it.


WOD 11.23.10

Power Snatch 3×3

AMRAP 9
3 Power Snatch
5 OHS
7 Burpees

compare to 01.20.10 and 05.04.10

9 Comments to "Is CrossFit Dangerous"

  • Anna says:

    November 23, 2010 at 7:19 AM -

    And you said you didn’t have a post last night! This is a great one Ruth… one of the biggest reason Intrepid stands above!

    1. Marcus says:

      November 23, 2010 at 8:59 AM -

      Surprisingly, I actually agree with Anna. Great post, Ruth!

  • melissa says:

    November 23, 2010 at 7:26 AM -

    burpees again?! uh, i didn’t sleep last night and i’m not planning on eating today… 😉

    1. ruth says:

      November 23, 2010 at 7:33 AM -

      I have to thank Muscles for this post idea! And by no means was this a tooting-our-own-horn-post! This was more of a mission-statement-post. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes and hopefully have learned from them (and will keep learning).

      @Melissa, I’ll find you an ‘appropriate’ sub for burpees! 😉

  • Pooja says:

    November 23, 2010 at 8:54 AM -

    great post today ruth! you couldn’t have put it any better. there are SO many days where i’ll just completely suck at a WOD and bitch about it… but only because i had a burger for lunch, didnt stretch properly before hand, and had a hand full of cheez-its immediately prior to a wod!! haha. thanks for making sure we’re accountable for our own performance and safety!

  • melissa says:

    November 23, 2010 at 9:26 AM -

    ruth, if by “appropriate” you mean “worse,” then i slept like a baby and am eating paleo all day. better? :)

  • Nick says:

    November 23, 2010 at 11:42 AM -

    Amen. Post should be called: “Shut up about Rx already.”

    I strongly believe (and I a mean STRONGLY) CrossFit gyms have more than turned into “globo gyms.” How many times have you heard people say this: “My workout today is so tough, you have no idea. 400 burpees and 300 pullups for time. I’m gonna die. Seriously, my gym is so tough.”

    Duh. It’s CrossFit. It’s exercise. It’s hard (not to mention your trainer is probably an idiot). I think the mentality of CrossFitters is slowly turning into a “I can bench press more than you” mindset. Don’t get me wrong, competition is great and a fundamental aspect of CrossFit. But the competition is between INDIVIDUALS and their level of mental and physical aptitude. CrossFit is not about comparing gyms, it’s about creating an environment that is encouraging, inspiring, and welcoming. CrossFitters need to stop comparing gyms, stop telling me how hard workouts are, and start embracing the main goal of working out (no matter what training regiment is): growth. The winners of the games are winners because they understand how to grow and the effort involved in it. Look at our own trainers. How often do you hear Sean or Ruth bragging about their Grace time? Not once. Yet they compete in events all the time and bring in amazing times and weights. They grow and they understand the importance of teaching that behavior to us.

    Intrepid is above all gyms in this respect. Growth, inspiration, and encouragement. Keep up the great work trainers, you are a step (or rather a 36″ box jump) above the rest.

    Sorry about that rant, just had to get it out there ;).

  • Xuan says:

    November 23, 2010 at 4:06 PM -

    Amen Nick. Well said.

  • becky says:

    November 23, 2010 at 5:21 PM -

    awe, nick. that was nice.
    great post ruth!!!

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