Yes you love CrossFit results, but is there such thing as training too often? (Photo: Tempura)
Five years ago, not many people had heard of CrossFit, let alone participated in any sort of CrossFit Workout of the Day (a.k.a. WOD). Today, CrossFit has become one of the fastest-growing sports. There are currently more than 9,000 affiliate gyms, (called “boxes” in CrossFit lingo), up from just 13 in 2005. The sport is experiencing 166 percent year-over-year growth in participation.
Enthusiasts are attracted to the ever-challenging workouts, getting in great shape and making friends along the way. However, as the bars are raised – both literally and figuratively – so are the risks. Whether you are a seasoned CrossFitter or a newbie just getting started, there are steps you can take to reduce these hazards. Here are the 8 most common CrossFit mistakes and how to avoid them so you can be a successful, healthy and injury-free CrossFitter.
MISTAKE #1: Not Building a Base
Just like the construction of a building, a solid base must be laid down before participating in any heavy lifting. At CrossFit South Bay in Manhattan Beach, California, trainers take beginners through a six-week on-ramp program in which individuals learn the foundations of the movements and start with little to no weight. It’s easy to want to jump right to lifting big weights or doing five WODs a week, but it’s not smart or safe.
If you want to improve your fitness level, train smarter, not harder. Craig Liebenson, chiropractor and owner of LA Sports & Spine, has worked with Olympians, professional athletes and training staffs around the world. “Slow and steady is the best way to build an athlete. If power is at the top of the pyramid, then stability is the base,” Liebenson says. Fitness is a constant process. Build your foundation of fitness first and then begin to increase the intensity, whether it’s weight, reps or variations of an exercise. Trust in the process.
MISTAKE #2: Neglecting to Warm Up
Warming up is one of the most important things any athlete can do. Olympic track athletes warm up for more than an hour just to run a sub-10-second 100-meter race. If the muscles are warm, they will perform properly; if they’re cold, they will not perform as well and increase the risk of injury. PJ Stahl of CrossFit Lock Box in Los Angeles says, “Make sure you have properly stretched the joints and sufficiently established the ranges of motion that will be used in each exercise. This is not only increasing blood flow to the muscle and preparing it to perform at peak potential, but it is also mimicking the neurological movement patterns.”
When Stahl coaches, he creates what he calls “a dynamic warm-up that includes full-body movement patterns, body-weight skill work and mobility work for different joints and muscle groups depending on that specific workout.”
MISTAKE #3: Overtraining
Many will agree, CrossFit can be addicting. From pushing past self-imposed limits to setting personal records to the new friends you make, CrossFit always leaves you coming back for more. While CrossFit does wonders for your mind, body and spirit, it needs to be done in individual moderation. For some people, such as competitors, this can mean two workouts per day four or more times a week. For others, this can mean three WODs in a week. Signs of overtraining include irritability, change in appetite, change in sleep patterns, a plateau in performance and loss of motivation.
Overtraining leads to burning out and even injury. Recovery is just as important as training. So remember to schedule “off” days for your body to fully recover. But recovery isn’t just rest. Liebenson says, “[Recovery] involves hydration, diet, sleep, soft-tissue work and corrective exercises.” He often sees CrossFit patients only after it’s too late. Lauren Conner of CrossFit ARX says, “When athletes who want to compete come to me, the first thing I change is an assigned, mandatory two days off. When athletes first decide on a goal, they are full of hope and ambition. What they don’t realize is even when they physically feel good, they still need to mentally get away from their training.”
MISTAKE #4: Skipping Mobility
When listing the reasons why one does CrossFit, we usually see losing weight and building muscle at the top of the list. Unfortunately, flexibility and mobility usually don’t even crack the top 10. However, mobility is crucial when it comes to long-term performance and general well-being.
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