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The Fear of CrossFit


“CrossFit is dangerous”, “CrossFit is scary”, “You can get hurt in CrossFit”. These are all phrases I hear consistently.  Quite honestly, there is little in this life that irritates me more.

During a discussion with my mother in law at Christmas, she made the statement that I would get hemorrhoids from lifting weight and that I’m going to get hurt. My response, “Where did you hear that?” Her response, <silence>. Seriously? No need to worry about my butt hole.

Frankly, I’ve done CrossFit for 8 years now and I’ve sustained only 2 injuries. One wasn’t even related to CrossFit, the other was an injury that stemmed from a lack of taking care of my own mobility.

So where do these CrossFit fears come from? Let’s start with defining fear. “Fear is a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.”

“Real or imagined”. Let’s start with “imagined” fear. Imagined fear is something we create in our head. Imagined fear is unfounded fear. It is trumped up in our mind and it has no root. It’s an expectation that something bad is going to happen. From a CrossFit standpoint, I can imagine that the thoughts would go something like this: “CrossFit is so intense and the coaches make you go all out and no one cares about your form. I’m not getting hurt, CrossFit is dangerous.” Now, if you’ve never tried CrossFit, how did you come to that conclusion? Something you saw on the internet? YouTube? Your friend got hurt at CrossFit Somewhere, so you know you’ll get hurt too?

Are there risks associated with exercise? Absolutely. There are risks associated with doing nothing as well,  but let’s not go from one extreme to the next.

I did a little research to find out what the most injury prone exercises and sports are, here are the results via good old trusty Google.

As reported by generationiron.com, the top 5 most dangerous exercises are:
1. Bench Press
2. Leg Extensions
3. Lat Pull Downs
4. Deadlifts
5. Squats

If you’re like me, you read that list and thought, “what the hell are they thinking, I bench and do leg extensions all the time and I’ve never been hurt!”. If you go to their website and read why each movement is “dangerous”, you will quickly learn how preposterous the suggestion is that these movements are dangerous. However, I am sure there have been injuries that have occurred in each of those areas and now they are automatically listed as “most dangerous”.

Another Google search turned up “5 Lifts that are Not Worth the Risk” by mensfitness.com.
1. Upright Rows
2. Snatch
3. Overhead Squat
4. Dumbbell Fly
5. Banded Good Mornings

Men’s Fitness laid out why each of these are dangerous, including the banded good mornings, “because the weight is loaded directly on your spine even a slight breakdown in form can result in serious injury. Spinal injuries are, in some cases, lethal.” Anyone reading this has most likely performed a banded good morning and other than snapping yourself with the band, you’d have to be a big moron to seriously hurt yourself with them!

I had to Google, “Is CrossFit Dangerous” before I got results that even mentioned CF specifically. My search returned topics such as:
1. My Workout From Hell (The Dangers of CrossFit)
2. The Great Injury Debate, Is CrossFit Dangerous?
3. The Controversy Behind CrossFit
4. CrossFit: The Good, Bad & Ugly
5. Is CrossFit Dangerous? The 5 Shocking Truths You Need to Know

These articles are basically accounts of different people’s personal experience with CrossFit workouts. Now, if I were looking to vilify CrossFit, there are certainly enough examples to support my negative assumptions. I don’t have to actually have any experience with CrossFit, as the internet tells me all I need to know about how bad it is and how dangerous it is. All of the YouTube ‘CrossFit Fails’ alone can help you draw a “it’s dangerous” conclusion.

Case Closed. CrossFit is too dangerous for me.

Wait, no it its not.  Know what is dangerous? Bad coaching and people who don’t listen. That’s it. Plain and simple. I will not defend all CrossFit coaches and pretend that all are great. When you have a sport that has grown in such rapid proportion as CrossFit has, you will most definitely have some poor coaching that develops along the way. Quoting from an aforementioned article, “So, on top of having an already overly-strenuous, very high intensity program that sets you up for injury to start with, most people are doing the lifts and other exercises all wrong, and there is no one there to correct them.”  It’s blanket statements like these that give CrossFit the label of ‘dangerous’.  If in fact this is someone’s actual experience, it is unfortunate for him and it is unfortunate to the sport and unfair to those of us who work hard at being great.

I’m not here to argue the numerous negative comments CrossFit gets. What I am here to do is to educate. Therefore, I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention, REAL fears and REAL concerns. Can you get hurt doing CrossFit? Absolutely. There are many exercises that fall under the umbrella of CrossFit. When you have a multitude of exercises to learn, the possibility of injury will increase. The heavier your bar gets when you’re squatting, the higher your probability of injury also. The more you run, the higher your risk of injury. There will always be risks associated with exercise.

While researching for this blog, the majority of the articles I reviewed discussed “intensity” as being the most common cause of injury in a CrossFit workout.  What you need to know is that intensity is actually the very last element added when learning to CrossFit.  It is imperative that one understands that intensity does not come, nor is it expected, until proper mechanics have been developed and movement patterns have become consistent. A good coach will never push you into intensity before you’re ready. In my experience, most CrossFitters push themselves into that intensity on their own. I have stopped many CrossFitters in mid workout when they turned up the heat on themselves and sacrificed form for speed. As important as it is to have a good coach, it is equally as important for one to be coachable.

So if you are afraid of CrossFit because a friend of a friend said it was dangerous, or you read it on the internet, considering trying it for yourself before dropping it into such harsh judgement.

 

 

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