Sport vs Exercise/Health

[Sparked by a discussion in the gym, regarding the CrossFit Open workouts.  Just some stream of consciousness, and perhaps a more complete expression of where I stand on the subject of CrossFit Competitions]   

Another CrosFit Games Open Workout is upon us.  Are 17 minutes of Snatches and Burpees healthy?  Should you sacrifice form for a faster time, or one more rep?  My personal take on it is this:

If you want to do the Open workouts, by all means do it.  It’s a cultural experience for many people, to be doing the same thing as literally thousands of other people who share their interest.  It’s fun to see how you stack up against the rest of the CrossFit Nation, and it’s a way for you to test your mental and physical capacity. 

But decide:  Are you doing CrossFit as a Sport, or are you doing it to be healthier and get in shape?

Much has been made of the potential for injury in CrossFit.  I’ve beaten that drum a time or two myself. I’ll wager a fair amount that I’ve been around CrossFit longer than just about any (or all) of you reading this, and I know people who have sustained injuries through their participation in CrossFit.

But, I know a lot more who have been injured playing soccer.  I personally have had knee and ankle reconstructive surgery, fractured an ankle and several toes, torn a hamstring, separated a shoulder, suffered more sprains, strains, and contusions than I can count and at least 1 concussion (that I can remember), all from playing soccer.  Oh, and a torn labrum and rotator cuff, and another shoulder separation from playing flag football.  

And yet, I’ve never discouraged someone from playing soccer or flag football.  

Injuries are an accepted part of Sport, and I would argue that as the level of Sports performance increases, that risk of injury also increases.  Athletes routinely put themselves into situations where they can be injured, or worse, and we applaud them for it.  ”Playing hurt” is a badge of honor for many.  

And that, I think, is what needs to be acknowledged—if you approach CrossFit as a Sport, you have to accept the potential for repercussions.  In the quest for a faster time, or a heavier weight, or more reps, it’s possible to push yourself to the point of injury.

This is where common sense and a dose of reality need to come into play.  I’ve said this before , but if you aren’t physically capable of performing the movements with appropriate range of motion and control,  you probably shouldn’t be attempting to do them quickly and with intentionally compromised form.  It makes no sense from a ‘health’ standpoint.  

In the end, it should be looked at as a risk/reward relationship.  There will always be a risk of injury anytime you move.  Some activities increase the potential for injury—although these are often the same activities that provide the greatest potential for reward.  The key is to establish basic competencies and strength before pushing boundaries.  

To paraphrase a conversation I had with Ido:  Don’t be afraid of something because it might hurt you.   Ask yourself, ‘what can I do to prepare myself so that it won’t hurt me?’  

Most of the people who train here at CFSW are not planning to compete in CrossFit competitions.  They want to look better, feel better, and move better.  That said, one of the hallmarks of CrossFit is and always has been the competitive aspect of the workouts.  In many ways, competition is the driving force behind CrossFit’s growth and popularity, and it can’t be removed without fundamentally changing things.  

How do you reconcile the two?   Understand the difference between training and competition.   Realize that even professional athletes don’t compete every day.   Understand the basics of how to move effectively and safely, build a foundation of skill and capacity, and then make decisions based on an assessment of risk/reward.  Recognize where you can charge forward and where you need to scale back.

By all means, COMPETE.  Never quit, never take the easy way out.   But also don’t intentionally take the path to injury.