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Why I Swore I Would Never Do Crossfit

That was about 10 months ago.  The CrossFit craze was in full swing.  I continued to see more and more patients in their middle age taking up CrossFit and many of them were plagued with injuries.  So, I came to the conclusion that such high intensity, demanding exercise was okay for 20-somethings that were already fit, but not recommended for a lot of us, and certainly to be actively avoided by most of us.  So I swore I would never do CrossFit.  And I told patients the same thing.  Stay away from it!

However, I am a naturally curious person so I decided to do a little homework.  After all, how can so many people be loving a fitness craze if it’s all bad right?  I have to say I was a little surprised at what I discovered.  When I examined the training principles they seemed really sound.  In fact, the concepts are exactly what I have been teaching patients for years – High Intensity Intervals (aka Burst Training), strength training, lots of core strengthening, variation, muscle confusion, etc.

A Crossfit Convert

So I decided, that as a doctor who would need to give informed advice for patients on a regular basis, I would give it a try.  And here I am a 3X/week, CrossFit junkie.  I love it.  I am as addicted as I ever was to marathon running.  If I don’t get there my 3 times in a week I start to feel a little edgy.  Like something is just not right.  I am totally hooked.  I’ve been doing it consistently 2-3 times per week for 9 months and I have not yet had an injury.  I repeat:  9 months of CrossFit and I have not had any injuries.  And when it comes to exercise, I am a little intense.  I don’t go to the gym and coast – ever!  I go hard. I figure if I am there, I push it. So I am always feeling a little stiff and sore but never injured. And I’m 46 years old and have not done much strength training since my mid 20’s.  I have spent the last two decades running marathons so most of the muscle I built in my teens and 20s was long gone.
I was surprised to find that I am not the old guy at the gym.  In fact, I am middle of the pack.  There are frequently people there in their 50s and 60s who are doing the exact same workouts as me.  They just modify the movements for their fitness level.  That was when it struck me:  It’s not CrossFit that creates injury, it’s the mindset of the athlete.  By that I mean that I have just as many patients who injure themselves in Yoga as I do in CrossFit.  People get hurt when they think they should be able to twist and contort their bodies like the instructor does – the person who does it for a living and has done so for two decades!

I think it is important to understand that it is our attitude toward the exercise that keeps us safe or allows us to hurt ourselves. If your attitude is off-course, you can hurt yourself in any gym or workout.

And here is why I think CrossFit is the best all round fitness solution that is available to us right now.  Humans have certain requirements they need to fulfill in order to be healthy.  Exercise is one of them.  CrossFit is the absolute best program at mimicking everyday human movements.  This point really struck me last weekend.  How CrossFit prepares me for real life.

Here are some of the activities I was performing and the CrossFit movement that prepared me for them:

  • Throwing the kids across the pool = Thrusters
  • Picking up the gas tank to fill the lawn tractor = Deadlifts
  • Holding the gas tank up while I fill the lawn mower = Power clean
  • Pushing the lawn tractor up the hill out to the front lawn for the repair man = Sled push
  • Loading the bins of heavy camping equipment on the top shelf = Push press
  • Lifting the boat lift off its stand and into the water = Shoulder press
  • Hauling a tree stump up from the water = Wall ball squats

And the list goes on and on.  So, although I have resigned myself to the reality that I am not going to look like, or be as strong as, the young, fit instructors, I know that by continuing to go to CrossFit and challenge myself regularly I will be able to maintain the strength I need to keep doing all the daily activities that I want to do, regardless of age.  Not only do I want to ensure I can continue to practice into a ripe old age, I also want to be the crazy grandpa that throws the kids across the pool!


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