7 billion people live on this planet. There are roughly 7000 CrossFit affiliates worldwide. Assuming each of those affiliates has, on average, 200 members, that’s a total of 1,400,000 CrossFitters. Now let’s double that to take into account all of the CrossFitters who don’t call a specific affiliate “home”. That means we have 2.8 million people in the world doing CrossFit. Sounds like a ton, right? Guess again. That comes out to a whopping .04% of the world’s total population (and that’s with the generous 200 member affiliate assumption). If you do CrossFit you are different. There are no two ways about it.
Because we look at fitness differently we must also start looking at injuries differently. When ordinary people get hurt they stop working out. In turn, they lose their fitness. But what if you could actually stay just as fit, if not more fit, during injury? That’s the CrossFit way. The first rule you must start to abide by when thinking about injuries is the Golden Rule. That is, if by doing a certain movement or workout, and your pain stays the same, you’re alright. It’s only once a specific movement or workout makes something worse that alternatives should be considered. This is mostly for what we’ll call “minor” injuries. They include, but are not limited to, sprains, swelling, bumps, bruises, aches, and pains. As always, use your best judgement and be mindful of your body.
The other important rule has to do with major injuries. For things like muscle/ligament tears, broken bones, or any other debilitating pain, avoid the affected area altogether. You must if your interested in a speedy recovery. But what about the rest of your body? For CrossFitters, these types of injuries, while still very frustrating and depressing, offer up opportunities for improved fitness in areas we might normally neglect. Let’s take, for example, a broken foot. Obviously running, jumping, lunging (you get the idea) are out of the picture. The door, however, is left wide open for massive improvements in all upper body areas. Who says that by the end of a 3 month foot rehabilitation period you can’t become one of the best members in the gym at pull-ups? The same can be said of serious arm or hand injuries. A healthy dose of lunges, squats, jumps, and running will keep you just as fit, if not more so, than before the injury. At full health anything leg-related at full health will feel like a breeze.
In many ways, injuries can be blessings in disguise. They’ll force you to focus on areas of weakness you tend to avoid like the plague when healthy. When all is said and done, weaknesses will be strengths and you’ll be a better all around athlete as a result.
When there’s a will, there’s a way. We’ve had members dabble with one-armed ring rows and kettlebell swings as well as one-legged kettlebell deadlifts and box jumps. The possibilities are endless. For every excuse you might have not to work out because of your injury, we have 2-3 modification options for a workout. Look no further than our very own Marth Stein. She’s been experiencing some painful knee issues recently but that hasn’t kept her from showing up and working out hard five times a week. She has a difficult time bending one of her knees at all, so guess what? We don’t let her bend it! She’s been doing a ton of shoulder press, straight legged good mornings, and airdyne riding, and she’ll be the first to tell you that, even after all of the modifications, the workouts aren’t any easier.
With CrossFit, injuries no longer mean set-backs. They simply mean shifts in focus. For us, fitness is the ultimate goal, and sometimes that means its constant pursuit in the face of less than ideal situations. This doesn’t mean putting your health at risk. It never does. What it does mean is that you have options; and sitting down on the couch wallowing away in your own self-pity, because you’re hurt, isn’t one of them. Remember, you’re a CrossFitter. Your trainers are very experienced in working around injuries. Don’t be afraid to ask!
(This article has been inspired by Greg Glassman’s “Working Wounded” article in the CrossFit Journal)