- Build a good core of aerobic conditioning and muscle endurance before any workout that is “extreme.”
- Slowly progress your performance in terms of repetitions. Even if you are fit, a workout that included hundreds of reps of something you haven’t been doing is potentially very dangerous.
- Understand and maintain proper form during an exercise. When you lose form, your muscles are tired and the benefit from continued additional reps is exponentially less.
- Provide ample rest and recovery. Stress loads the system, improvement happens during recovery when your body rebuilds.
- Stay hydrated, with balanced nutrition, ensuring you have enough carbohydrates on hand for energy while you exercise.
- If it’s really hot where you exercise, consider using early morning or late evening workouts to reduce the risk of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.
- If you feel like you have questions about these steps or the risk factors, consult a health provider. Physical therapists and physicians are great choices here.
I wrote a response to this author's original article which stated that CrossFit's dirty little secret was rhabdomyolosis. While I appreciate his situation - he didn't mean to be in the middle of a national firestorm, and probably would have edited his article differently were it intended for a national audience (and I would not want to be held to the carpet for every single thing I've written in this blog for the last five years, by the way) - his response could have simply been, and should have been, "I was wrong to imply or state that CrossFit has been deceptive about rhabdo."
Instead he wrapped himself in a mantle of "I started a debate" and "I'm a scientist, you guys just don't understand scientifically informed folks like me."
Kinda weak, but who cares. Folks may learn more about rhabdo from this kerfuffle and that's good.
The author is an example of how being baked into a profession limits one's ability to perceive and analyze something new. He sees through the same beliefs that allowed him to become a professional PT, so he sees value in platitudes like the above. It's not that there's anything wrong with the above, but it won't make anyone well or fit, and he doesn't understand how CrossFit makes folks well and fit better than whatever else is in the market. He also doesn't realize that's why CrossFit is growing like it has. He also doesn't realize that while there are certainly some of the 7000 CrossFit gyms who put more emphasis on to the max exertion than I do, most of the CF gyms are filled with blue collar athletes like I am who were never at any risk of earning glory for our guts or athleticism. We just want to live better and have useful bodies.
He recommends using "good form", which is an industry term that has no meaning beyond the perception of that person using the term, and what that person has come believe "good form" is. I prefer the term technique, which can be quantified - the technique that gets the work done more powerfully with the least risk of injury is better. Sure, drink water. Sure, rest after you workout, and don't overtrain. Sure, have some "balanced nutrition" (with the caveat that the professionals of nutrition say that but don't generally prescribe a diet that is "balanced" in any way that seems to help people; thanks very much for another meaningless buzzword, media). Definitely don't do anything extreme, in fact, it may be better to stay inside your house all day. As for aerobic conditioning and "muscle endurance" these are likely to set you up for rhabdo more than trying CrossFit as a neophyte - CrossFit neophytes generally cannot work hard enough to rhabdo themselves. But take a bodybuilder who's a killer athlete and have that person attack even a moderate CrossFit workout without prior exposure and beware. If you want sound advice about how to avoid rhabdo, try this: First work mechanics, then consistency, then intensity. This is CrossFit's time tested approach. All beginners should hear this, and every introduction to CrossFit should reinforce this.
How many times has a PT been confronted by a client who said "I started squatting, worked on the technique for months, and my knees are awesome now!" I bet, next to never when compared to the number of times a PT or doctor encountered a person who squatted heavy weights, with zero technique, and complains of knee injury. In this way, doctors and PTs can be the worst folks to ask about exercise - they have no skin in saying "sure, train hard and do stuff that's out of the box." They are almost professionally bound to say "well, there was this article published in 1960-something that said squats loosen your knee ligaments, so just walk briskly 30 minutes per day and eat less."
I look forward to the day I can get an MD in my gym, who will cure what ails her, and she will tell all her patients "go to CrossFit, and do what they say, and you will get the health you want without the pills I will give you if you don't do that." I bet this is happening often in the 7000 affiliates around the world, and I think this can - no kidding - change the world.
Note to Memphis CrossFitters: Dr. Brad Cole, of Cole Pain Therapy Group, will work with you to make your CrossFit much better! He's an example of how the traditional medical providers can recognize the value of CrossFit and help us do it better.