I often find myself having conversations about CrossFit and its ability to lengthen a person's quality of life. It usually starts because of someone getting an injury while doing CrossFit and they are contemplating no longer continuing with CrossFit. The injury scares them into thinking that their body just isn't made to withstand the “abuse” of CrossFit. I can totally understand why they could fall into the trap of believing this and I enjoy talking about why I believe in this style of training so much. Here are some things that I think can really help CrossFitters stay in the game long-term.
1. Understand what your training for.
*If you are training for overall health and fitness, which I think is about 99% of CrossFitters, then you need to understand what this means. This means you are never going to be battling Rich Froning at the Home Depot Center for a spot on the podium at the Games. This means that whether you have a 500# deadlift or a 300# deadlift is COMPLETELY irrelevant. I will be the first one to cheer for you as you are trying to PR one of your lifts, however, you need to pick and choose your moments. Always keep in perspective the “risk vs. reward” of your training. Is going for that PR worth it? Is what your getting ready to do going to make you function better during your life outside the box? I am all about the competition aspect of CrossFit and how great it is to have people around you that push you to work harder/faster. However, you need to know when to push and when to hold back because something just doesn't feel right. The atmosphere in a CrossFit Box is what makes us so unique when comparing what we do to a Golds Gym or other big box globo gym, however, if you can't control yourself inside of that atmosphere, it can be a humbling experience and leave you on the sidelines nursing an injury. Sometimes a slower time may be a tough pill to swallow but in the long run, much better than the alternative of getting injured because you decide to push the pace with improper form.
2. Understand rest days may be as important, or more important, than training days.
*If you wake up and your body is sore, as in, you can't make it down stairs or into the bathroom without using the handrail, it may be a good idea to take a rest day. Last I checked, resting for 24 hours isn't going to kill you. When you constantly beat your body down over and over again, something is going to give. Our bodies are extremely resilient but only up to a point. Once you cross that point, you will go down, and go down hard. Quantity isn't better than quality. I would rather have 3 quality training sessions in a week than 5 days where i am just checking the box and going through the motions. The notion of “active rest” days is something that took me about a year to realize that they are garbage. That is a term that people use to justify overtraining. Your body needs a complete day of rest, not another moderate workout that will still tax your central nervous system, ultimately further delaying your recovery.
3. Mobility, Mobility, Mobility
*I can't stress this piece enough. So many of us have huge holes in our mobility that put us in positions that are not anatomically ideal. We continue to re-inforce these poor positions and we turn into a ticking time bomb that is just waiting to go off. Sore lower back…probably tight hamstrings. Can't get your elbows up in the rack position…probably tight triceps. Every limitation you have can be fixed but takes time and effort. Many of us are willing to get up and go to the gym but are unwilling to put in the time to improve our mobility. Without mobility, I can gurantee that you WILL NOT find longevity in any fitness program you choose to follow, especially CrossFit. This is your choice, if you choose not to fix it, it is no one's fault but your own. There are so many resources out there that are available, the solution is literally a click away. DON'T be that person that gets hurt and says, “CrossFit is dangerous, too many people get hurt”. It is not CrossFit that injured you, it was your laziness. My advice to anyone that wants to start CrossFit is that it is more important to work on mobility in the beginning than ANYTHING else. If someone has good mobility, it will be much easier for them to pick things up, no matter where there level of absolute strength is.
4. Have Fun
*If you dread going to the gym, you are on the fast track to getting burned out and will find yourself back on the couch drinking slim fast and eating 100 calorie pack oreos before you know it. You need to put yourself in an environment where you are held accountable but look forward to training. Everyone has their days of not wanting to workout, but those days need to be few and far between from the days that you are anxiously awaiting class to start. Every day you are in the gym, you are adding days to your life, I truly believe that. Make it fun so you won't ever want to stop. I don't care how old I am, fitness will always be a part of my life and who I am. I want to re-write the norm on fitness. I am stronger and more fit now in my 30s than I ever was in College. There is no reason why I can't continue to evolve as an athlete and there is no reason why our quality of life in our 70s and 80s can't be very similar to it is now. However, it is like an investment account. If you start investing at a young age, you will see huge dividends when your older. Same goes with fitness, the earlier you start, the better things turn out when you get older.
5. Take care of yourself
*We all have some miles on our bodies and those miles add up and if we are not careful, our past will come back to bite us. Remember all those times we were kids and we never warmed up or never stretched…..those days are long gone and the results of all that lack of stretching will haunt us for quite some time. CrossFit is going to expose some mobility issues and cause different injuries to come to the forefront. Because of this, it is imperative that you are smart about this. If something hurts, rest it. Take advantage of the resources that we have available to us. I can tell you this, in the year that I have been training for the games, my weekly schedule includes the following in order to keep my body healthy and able to train:
-2 Hour Massage every 10 days
-25m Nap Daily
-9 Hours of Sleep every night
-60m Mobility and warm-up before EVERY workout
-20m Cooldown post workout
*These are just a few of the daily routines that I have added in order to be able to train the way I need to. Again, this isn't necessary for everyone but you can't expect to get great results in the gym without making some sacrifices in order to make sure your keeping up with the maintenance your body needs. If you don't believe me, next time you go to put gas in your car, just throw some diesel fuel in there and see how far you get. Or better yet, just go 15,000 miles b/w oil changes and see what happens to your car. Your body needs some maintenance, the extent of that maintenance comes from quite a few different factors which you will have to determine. I won't rant too much but there are many of you who don't believe in chiropractic and that is fine. However, if you are living with pain, I think it is crazy that you won't consider this as a possible solution to your issues. I have used chiropractic for 3 years and I am sure, like anything, there are some chiropractors out there that aren't any good, but there are others that are extremely knowledgable about the body and how it is supposed to work and they can help you become pain free. There is nothing worse than going through each day in pain, no one should have to do that.
6. Train Smart
*The new craze that I have seen over the past 12 months is that everyone wants to do personalized programming. I don't have any issues with this other than the majority of people who do this, don't need it. People who have no desire to ever compete in CrossFit are spending hours a day following a training program. Again, I don't have any issues with that, if they have the desire, good to go. However, the problem arises when they do all this training and their lifestyle outside the gym is a mess. If you are following a rigorous training plan, your sleep, nutrition, supplementation, recovery, etc.. all need to be on point. I will see people put 2 hours in the gym and then eat garbage for dinner and sleep less than 8 hours a night. This is a recipe for disaster. If your reading this and saying, “ha, 8 hours of sleep in a night, I can't remember when that has happened for me”. That means working out more than 3-4x/week will probably be more of a detriment than an advantage for you. People will see CrossFitters on TV and they don't realize the amount of work they put in OUTSIDE of the gym. In my opinion, it is more important what you do outside the gym than in. Don't get me wrong, if your goal is like most, to be fit and healthy, you can easily do that with 3-4 workouts a week. You don't need to have blackout curtains or prep your food for weeks at a time or spend hours in the gym. You can simply follow a constantly varied, intense, functional workout program like CrossFit and you will be just fine…..as long as you follow steps 1-5 above. CrossFit isn't a FAD, it is a lifestyle adjustment. It is putting your health and fitness near the top of your priorities. It is imperative you set yourself up for success in doing this. Good luck and continue to train smart!