To the average onlooker, Crossfit is crazy. Tractor tire flips, dead lifts, and as many rounds of push-ups, kettlebell snatches and sprints you can manage in a matter of minutes–everything that makes the workout so intense, also appears to be a recipe for injury. I was skeptical of the fitness craze, but hard-pressed to find anyone who had anything negative to say about Crossfit–even people who got injured. There are definite Crossfit addicts out there–and this is changing their lives for the better (injuries and all).
Crossfit has built a cult-like following—people love it and swear by its effects on their bodies, their weight and their self-confidence…even if it’s injured them to the point of sticking them on the bench. One member, Sashy, admitted to injuring herself, but says that didn’t stop her:
At first I hated it, but after quickly seeing results in my body, I was hooked. I have hurt myself as a result of going to fast during a workout in order to achieve the best time, which can be considered a negative aspect of the themed fitness; however, I believe the positive aspects of continuing Crossfit helped me to get right back into it as soon as I was healed.
Dan Trink, CSCS, strength coach, nutritional consultant and personal trainer at New York City’s Peak Performance gym, says risks are part and parcel of any workout, but that Crossfit carries particularly high risks:
While fast-paced workouts like CrossFit have increased in popularity and do have benefits, risk of injury is certainly one of the major drawbacks. Shoulder impingements, rotator cuff strains and tears, and spinal disk problems such as herniations seem to be the issues that occur most often. Any workout has some level of risk, but these issues are a bit too common in the fast-paced, high intensity workout population.
But even the trainers and clients who have seen negative side effects of training remain hooked; this is probably because, for so many people, Crossfit is just so damn effective. Shannon, a member in Phoenix, Arizona, told me that even though she got physically sick from the challenge of her first several classes, she was hooked within a few months:
I went from attending two classes per week, to attending class every day, sometimes even twice a day—I loved it! I can’t tell you how many hours I logged in that gym, but I am forever grateful for my experience as I was really able to kickstart a healthier lifestyle. Five years later and I weigh nearly 50 pounds less and I’m an active marathoner…
To find out why, exactly, Crossfit yields such rave results, I talked with Tuscon, Arizona Crossfit Level I coach, Kate Price:
It continues to be a very popular craze. I think this is because of the unique challenging workouts, the group setting that breeds competition that most of us former athletes are looking for and because people are getting results due to the workouts and changing their eating habits (most crossfit gyms are huge proponents of either the zone diet or paleo).
Unlike many fitness classes, Crossfit is constantly varied so you never do the same workout two days in a row. In fact, there really is no routine. This, Price says, combined with the proper diet, helps people lose weight and that dreaded belly fat quicker.
The high intensity, constantly varied met-con keeps the heart rate up and taps into all the different metabolic pathways that help you lose weight. Also, every movement in Crossfit is core driven. Olympic lifting, swinging kettlebells, doing body weight movements (pull-ups, push-ups, burpees), all work the core making it stronger and tighter.
And Price has witnessed a number of dramatic transformations in her own clients. She recalls one member who was particularly out of shape when he began Crossfitting with her group six months ago. His first week, she said, “He really stressed me out because he had very limited range of motion in everything from his squats to anything overhead, and his cardio was terrible.” But since then, he’s lost 15% body fat, and53 pounds and is able to do all the movements with proper form.
She also recalls a woman who came to the group weighing over 200 pounds, with very low self-confidence. With consistent workouts and a proper diet, Price says she lost 74 lbs and got down to 21% body fat.
These stories are pretty convincing… So, about those injuries? People do get injured when they have improper form, Price said.