If you're nervous about trying CrossFit (or doing more of it) because you've heard of scary injuries that happen at the box, we get where you're coming from. It's not an easy thing to stomach. But keep in mind that there isn't much statistical evidence out there showing that CrossFit is any more injury-prone than any other group fitness class or strength-training program. It all depends on how much you learn and who you work with.
To get the inside scoop on preventing injury in CrossFit, POPSUGAR spoke with Elisabeth Akinwale, five-time CrossFit competitor and coach and a spokesperson for U by Kotex Fitness. She's been doing CrossFit since 2010 (and she did her first CrossFit Games in 2011), so she knows a thing or two about keeping your body healthy and safe while you're working your ass off. Here are her professional tips.
Only Work With Trusted Experts
"Put some work into seeking out excellent coaching," Elisabeth suggested. The CrossFit instructors you work with should be well-educated, engaging, and caring. In fact, in many CrossFit gyms, you can't even do the WODs (workout of the day) without having gone through a fundamentals course first. This allows you to get acquainted with each movement so you don't end up aimlessly throwing weights around, because that's when injury occurs. It's the coach's job to keep an eye on you and help you in any way, so don't be afraid to ask questions at any time.
Pay Close Attention to Your Form
Elisabeth said "paying attention to detail" is extremely important when you're lifting weights or doing any kind of dynamic movements (looking at you, wall balls). "The more you're dealing with external load to your body, you need to do this," she instructed. Even if the WOD has you working on as many reps as possible within a short amount of time, that doesn't mean you should rush through the movements recklessly. Your form always takes priority over everything else; the second you take your focus off of it is when you make yourself susceptible to injury.
Make Mobility and Flexibility a Priority
You're demanding a lot from your body when you're doing CrossFit or any high-intensity exercise, for that matter. That's why Elisabeth says you need to be "balancing that with more structural strength, more controlled strength movements to supplement the dynamic, explosive-type movements." Invest some time into doing yoga, stretching regularly, and doing mobility exercises (which your CrossFit gym will teach you). These opposing movements will keep your muscles loose and supple.
Elisabeth also suggests you think closely about which muscles you're using during your workouts. Have you been doing a lot of squats? Spend some time working on the mobility of your quads, glutes, and knees. If you keep yourself flexible in these areas, the large muscles being used for squats will stay healthy. "Keeping it well balanced" is the name of the game, according to Elisabeth.
Be Patient With Your Progress
"Nothing's going to happen overnight," Elisabeth told POPSUGAR. "It's all about the incremental process." While it's exciting to increase your weights in certain movements, don't rush the progress. If your body isn't ready to tack on that extra 10 pounds, don't do it, because you may put it in a compromising position if you force it to do something it's not prepared for. Record your numbers so you can watch yourself grow and get stronger, but take your time and listen to what your body is trying to tell you.