Busting CrossFit Myths: Myth #1 - CrossFit is Dangerous

“CrossFit is dangerous.”

“You’re going to get hurt.”

These are some of the warnings people gave me when I told them I was going to start doing CrossFit.

While the idea that CrossFit is dangerous and the cause of injury is ubiquitous in the fitness industry, it is not an accurate portrayal of reality. In fact, CrossFit corporate just won a major lawsuit against this false notion and the people that spread it.

Do people get injured doing CrossFit? Yes.

Is CrossFit dangerous? No.

The fact is, every activity in life carries with it the risk of physical injury. I could slip walking down my steps, I could twist my back playing catch with a football, I could stab myself in the tongue eating with fork. There is always some risk of injury in everything we do, but I don’t consider stair walking, playing catch or eating with a fork dangerous.

So why does CrossFit have a bad reputation?

To start with, I think many people misunderstand what CrossFit is and what the goals of the program are. People hear about CrossFit workouts that include Olympic style lifts and it scares them. Heck, learning to do snatches and dead lifts and hang cleans scared me. That fear, combined with a lack of understanding, makes it easy for people to believe and perpetual false stereotypes.

Secondly, it is undeniable that CrossFit workouts can leaves an athlete feeling sore. When someone works muscles they don't normally work it leaves them feeling fatigued and sore. This happens whether you go to CrossFit or a Globo gym, or simply for a jog down the street.

The unique thing about CrossFit is that it changes what muscles are worked each day and keeps the body in a general state of variability. This can lead to more soreness at the beginning when an athlete starts CrossFit. For my first month or two I felt generally sore all over, every day. However, as my muscle groups became accustomed to the work load they got stronger and recovered faster.

Another reason it may seem like CrossFit is dangerous is because people with a competitive mindset do tend to injury themselves more at CrossFit boxes than Globo gyms. One of the things I love about CrossFit is that everything is scored and measured. I can compete not only against myself and my own progress, but I can also see how other people do on a specific workout. The danger in that for me, is in pushing myself too hard or breaking down my mechanics in order to try and achieve a score or time. This is when most injuries occur.

What people need to remember is that just like the fork isn’t responsible for stabbing someone’s tongue, CrossFit isn’t at fault for an athlete pushing themselves too hard or breaking good mechanics. The athlete is responsible. At CrossFit Skopos, where I workout, the coaches are awesome about focusing on safe lifting mechanics. We spend time each class going over proper form and there is no pressure to perform or compete. In fact, the coaches will force athletes to scale back workouts if the athlete cannot perform them in a safe manner.

A final reason CrossFit is thought of as dangerous is that it can lead to overuse of the body and muscles. CrossFit can be addicting (something I’ll touch on in a future post) and it can be difficult to stick to a schedule of work-out, rest and recover. However, proper rest and recovery are essential to avoiding injury. Overuse may be the reason I sustained the injury I did. I simply enjoyed CrossFit so much that I didn’t give my body the time and space it needed to stay healthy. You can hardly blame CrossFit for that though right?

Do people get hurt doing CrossFit? The answer is yes.

Does this fact make Crossfit dangerous? I would say absolutely not.

If athletes gain a proper understanding of what CrossFIt is, if they do the daily workouts (WODs) using correct mechanics and form, if they resist the temptation of a constant competition mindset, and if they allow themselves proper rest and recovery, then CrossFit is no more dangerous than riding a bike down the street or typing this blog on my keyboard.