Health & Wellness Blog

A Physio walks into CrossFit Newstead

Here is Donovan Baker, a Physio and one of our athletes here at CrossFit Newstead sharing his CrossFit experience to date………A once CrossFit sceptic. 

 

 

I’m sure we all know someone that does CrossFit?

Just like vegans, kale enthusiasts and the gluten free, those who CrossFit are more than obliging to let you know how they spend their down time.

Quickly, they become obsessed with WODs, thrusters and ‘the girls’. They look at you with an almost religious zeal in their eyes when they get talking about it.

It’s a sport that’s come under so much scrutiny due to it’s popularity, and has copped a LOT of flack.

Injuries, cult behaviour, injuries, no focus on form just get the bloody bar up whatever it takes, injuries…you get the point.

I’ll admit to being one of those physios that rolled my eyes when someone said they did CrossFit, ‘Come see me when you hurt yourself’.

But I got talking to a guy I respected one day, and at the end of the chat concluded I couldn’t judge something like CrossFit until I had at least tried it (anecdotal evidence, because us physios are so big on the E-train).

So I, very sceptically, signed up for an introductory month. My goal here is to give you an honest opinion on what my experience was like. There are plenty of guides and blogs out there that bang on about why it’s the best exercise protocol in the world, ‘constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement etc’ but I just wanted to share what it was like for me as an average Joe giving it a go, with maybe a preconceived bias against it.

So I boldly ventured where few physios have gone before…the box.

 

 

I walked in day one, expecting to be met like Johnny Utah at a locals only break (where my Point Break fans at?) but what I found instead was a little surprising – everyone was freaking lovely.

Just normal people that like to train hard. Calloused hands were shaken, introductions and welcomes made, smiles, not a crazy glint in the eye in sight. And the mix of people intrigued me; mums, dads, young, old, fat and fit. Your everyday population.

Huh, not what I expected, no bros with shirts off throwing fist bumps and bum taps around like plates at a Greek birthday.

But what about all the stigma on shitty form and injuries?

I wasn’t allowed to join in a class until I’d been ticked off on a 3 part introductory session, which put a huge focus on technique and mobility. Everyone had to meet satisfactory lifting levels before being signed off. And if you haven’t done Olympic lifting or gymnastics movements before, this can be a rude awakening into your body’s movement restrictions and crappy mobility. Huh, maybe these guys do pay attention to form. But wait until the workouts start and fatigue sets in.

The workouts started, and indeed the fatigue set in, oh Lawwdy how it set in!

I’ve grown up playing just about every sport on offer, trained hard and looked after myself all my life (except for that exchange semester to the states. A jug of beer and plate of wings for $10?! I’m only human), but I can honestly say I’ve never been so challenged or worked out so goddamned hard. Intensity redlined.

As expected my form, as well as others, definitely suffered once fatigue took its’ toll. But diligently every single time, the coaches would be onto it; stopping, adjusting, correcting, drop the load, you’ve gone to shit mate let’s get back to the basics. Interesting…

And just like that I’m now 8 months into CrossFit and I can honestly say my views have done a huge 180. I am the fittest, strongest, leanest, healthiest I have ever been.

I love the community. At no other gym have I walked in and gotten high fives and smiles from just about everyone, known all the trainers and most members by name. No one is wearing headphones, no one flexing in front of the mirror, you even get a little happy birthday sing along on your special day, and birthday burpees.

This community is amazing, double thumbs up from me. No cult behaviour, no initiation ceremonies, no sacrificial lambs. I guess people get that mad twinkle in their eye because of their genuine love of it.

 

 

Then the biggy that I was so focussed on for years, all the injuries. Surely pushing your body to the limits takes its’ toll.

A recent study by Moran et al [1] found ‘The injury incidence rate associated with CrossFit training was low, and comparable to other forms of recreational fitness activities (2.10 injuries per 1000 training hours to be exact). Previous injury and gender (male) were identified as increased risk factors for injury.’

And a small systematic review by Kilmek and friends [2] showed ‘Current evidence suggests that the injury risk from CrossFit training is comparable to or lower than injuries in Olympic weightlifting, distance running, track and field, rugby, football, ice hockey, soccer or gymnastics.’

So you’re just as likely to hurt yourself in the free weights section of your local gym, playing footy, or busting out your new Lululemon tights in your first Aerial Yoga class (kale smoothie afterwards anyone?) That being said there are the increased risk factors.

It can go almost without saying that a previous injury puts you at risk of stirring up said injury when you start any new exercise.

And us blokes…well we’re our own worst enemy, because we come with ego. We think that if 55kg Sarah can snatch her own bodyweight then surely we can do the same, in our first week, without any Oly lifting experience. What we don’t realise is that little Sarah has been coached for 5 years, and competing in a state lifting competition in 2 months. So gentleman, check your ego at the door, don’t be dumb, listen and progress slowly, slower than you think you should.

This little spiel on injuries is said with a little caution however, as stereotypes exist for a reason. I’m sure there are gyms and coaches out there less stringent on form that you are more likely to get hurt in.

What I’m about to say is a broad generalisation but I believe there are likely more injuries in CrossFit vs regular gym purely from the amount of training. Your average CrossFitter is likely to rack up those 1000 training hours more quickly. It’s not to say it’s in any way more dangerous. Just something to be aware of.

So if you’re keen to give it a go, find a box that focuses on form, technique and consistency, then intensity…and no twilight lamb ceremonies, unless said lamb is in the form of cutlets on the BBQ and there are beers involved.

Something important I haven’t touched on just yet, is that a sudden increase in ANY activity will increase the risk of injury. This rings true for all forms of exercise/activity; gym, running, cycling, moving house, spending 2 days sorting out the yard when it starts to look like Jumanji, even sitting for long periods.

 

 

So be smart and listen to your body. Adequate rest periods are an absolute must. Don’t be a bull out of the gate if you’re new and getting started.

So, to summarise, I’m about to say something I’d never in 100 years thought I’d say. In my opinion, I don’t believe there is a better form of general exercise out there. Obviously if you want to be a runner, you’ve got to run, swimmers gotta swim etc. But for general fitness and overall health, I give it a double Fonsi thumbs up. I’m a physio, and I approve of love Crossfit. Oh, and watch out for Fran, she’s a real bitch.

  1. Moran S, Booker H, Staines J, Williams S. Rates and risk factors of injury in CrossFit: a prospective cohort study. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 2017 Jan
  2. Kilmek C, Ashbeck C, Brook AJ, Durall C. Are injuries more common with CrossFit training than other forms of exercise? J Sport Rehab 2017 Mar 2:1-17

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