Almost everyone has been there at any given point. That time when you did too many double unders and had to take time off from training because the ankle and calf wouldn´t let you do almost anything. Or that time when you were too tired to pay attention to your form in that deadlift workout and your back got hurt, keeping you from training for two weeks. And don’t forget that one time when 100 pull ups followed by 100 toes to bar seemed a good idea, and you ended ripping your hands and couldn´t touch a barbell, dumbbell of kettlebell for that sake either. All of the above situations are from my personal injury history, and they act as a steady reminder of that we´re not indestructible.
One of the most common things I’m asked about is how to get rid of a certain pain, or how to fix an injury that has already occurred.
It would be awesome if people started to ask me about whether there’s a good way to prevent training injuries in CrossFit, instead of waiting until after they´ve injured themselves.
While we can never expect to prevent 100% of injuries – sometimes freak accidents just happen – there are a number of things you can do to improve your odds. Some of these are commonly talked about – doing a proper warm up, being aware of your environment and who’s around you when you’re training, and NOT letting your ego take over are a few that comes to mind. Here are a few more that may be a little less obvious, but are at least as important.
Quality is king:
The quality of movement is the single independent variable most commonly associated with injury free training. What does that mean? It means: the better you move, the less risk of injury. The CrossFit L1 handbook has one of the most overlooked statements regarding this.
Mechanics – Consistency – Intensity
Mechanics meaning your form or technique.
Consistency meaning your ability to perform several repetitions maintaining form, and also how often you train.
Intensity meaning how hard you go
Intensity comes last because you´re not supposed to go hard before you´ve mastered the other two.
Barbell loading and choices of movement:
Be careful with weight differences. When changing the weights on your barbell or going from simple movements to more complex ones be aware of the new task at hand. The heavier it gets the smaller the increments should be. If you struggled with that 55kg don’t go for 65kg, try 57.5kg o 60kg. Similarly, when going from hang power snatch to full squat snatch, lighten the barbell up slightly before going full out.
Communicate with your coach / therapist:
Your coach isn’t psychic! (it’s a shocker, I know!!) – unless you tell them, they might not know that your back has been giving you slight problems, or that you’ve been feeling a bit dizzy since you had that cold, or that your asthma has been worse this week, or that that technique they’re trying to get you to do makes your shoulder hurt. Sometimes people are reluctant to speak up if something’s not quite right, for fear they’ll look bad; clichés like “pain is just weakness leaving the body” and “go hard or go home” can make people feel that they should work through pain and not complain about it. But a good coach knows that looking after their students’ health and wellbeing while they’re training is part of their job – and without good information, they can’t help you to work around any problems you’re having.
Deal with old injuries intelligently:
One of the biggest risk factors for future injury to a joint, tendon or muscle is having had a previous injury in that area. Just taking time off, waiting for it to feel better, then getting back on the floor and hoping for the best is usually a recipe for disaster. Contact a physiotherapist, or similar health professional, who can give you a rehab plan to strengthen the area and reduce your risk of a recurrence is a good idea.
Build a good strength and conditioning base:
In my experience, probably the single most effective way to build resilience and reduce injury risk is to have a good strength and conditioning programme.
Eat your mobility veggies every day:
This brings us back to quality is king. If there’s one thing we all need to focus on, this is probably it. Moving poorly, or not having your mobility up to par to move well increases the chances of injury. There’s many ways of getting your mobility into your daily training. Give yourself 4 minutes before or after the class to just go through some of the positions you struggle with. Or take one day and spend 30-40 minutes practising or playing with your difficult movements.
Making sure your joints and soft tissues can hit all performance points of any given technique will greatly reduce your risk of injury.
Like Sergeant Phil Esterhaus said “let’s be careful out there!”