A First Time Crossfitters Experience

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I usually prefer to write my own articles, but I saw this one online and thought I would like to share it with all of you. It really speaks volumes about the injury that occur while exercising. 

By Ryan Burns

At the age of 36, long gone were any accumulated benefits of my active youth. Married with 3 kids, I was at a point in my life where I knew I should be taking better care of my health, and my witty “I run… when chased” was getting old, even to me.

Having not grown up with much exposure to weightlifting, I knew a $10-a-month gym membership would just lead to me wasting $10 a month, and experience had shown me that relying on my own will power to go run and do body weight exercises would be short lived at best. I needed something to push me, to train me, to help me.

In my excitement to try something new and hopefully establish some healthy habits in my life, I began to tell my friends. Most of them couldn’t believe that I was actually going to begin working out. A few gave me looks of concern. Then came the email.

“Hey Ryan, a friend of mine thought you should read this before you get into CrossFit.”

I clicked the link and began to read about cases of Rhabdomyolysis connected to CrossFit. For those who don’t know, Rhabdomyolysis (also known as Rhabdo) is a breakdown of muscle tissue that releases damaging protein into the blood often resulting in kidney failure and has been connected to cases involving high intensity workouts.

The article certainly gave me pause. Was CrossFit really that dangerous? I talked about it with my wife and decided to give it a try, promising that I would not push myself so hard that I died.

I’m now a year and a half into my CrossFit journey, and I am by far in the best shape of my life. And, perhaps more importantly, I’m not dead of Rhabdo-induced kidney failure.

What I have learned in this year and a half is that CrossFit isn’t dangerous. I am.

While I have not experienced any catastrophic injuries as a result of my workout regimen, I have suffered three injuries since starting CrossFit, and when I look closely at all three, I am the one to blame, not CrossFit.

CrossFit isn’t stupid. I am.

I had been going to Full Circle for 2 months. I had completed the fundamentals training and was really enjoying the WODs and learning how to lift. It was all so new to me.

In my zeal and excitement, I decided to do an extra WOD on my own at work. It called for push presses. Not having much of a baseline on what I was able to safely lift, I went too heavy.

I stood with the bar in my front rack position. I took a breath. I dipped. POP! A sharp pain shot through my back. I dropped the bar and fell on the floor.

Completely freaked out, I laid there wondering if I had just broken my back. “Stupid” kept repeating in my head.

Eventually, my back loosened up and I was able to get to my feet, but my back gave me trouble for weeks after that. Ultimately, there was no major damage and a few weeks rest was enough to get me back to normal.

The injury, however, wasn’t CrossFit’s fault. In fact, I believe that CrossFit could have prevented the injury. See, the advantage of joining a good CrossFit box like Full Circle is that you have trained coaches who are there to look after you.

I have no doubt that had I been in the box that day, Mike would have looked at me and told me to go down in weight. He would be watching me on each lift and yelling at me that I was way too arched.

CrossFit doesn’t lie. I do.

I finally added muscle ups to my repertoire, a feat any CrossFitter will tell you is a big deal. Shortly after, Nate came around providing the perfect opportunity to finally use them in a WOD.

Now, at this point I was nowhere near mastering muscle ups. The only reason I gave them a shot in the WOD is because Nate only calls for 2 at a time. The problem is that my technique is still rough and my drop out of the dip and into the kip is really violent. After Nate (7 rounds for those wondering), my neck was pretty sore.

The following week, muscle up technique work was on the whiteboard. My neck was feeling better for the for the most part, so I worked on them some more. My transition was still violent and I’m pretty sure I gave myself slight whiplash. My neck was really sore.

But, here’s where the real problem came in. I went to the box the next day for the WOD. My neck was not feeling good, but I really wanted to workout. Looking at the whiteboard, I knew the “smart” thing was to scale the workout. I approached my coach and said, “I think I’m going to scale this one. My neck isn’t feeling very good.”

No sooner than the words had left my mouth did Matt’s countenance changed. I had said “neck,” and I knew what was coming. I knew he was going to tell me to sit it out and not risk it. I should probably just go home.

As soon as I saw that look on his face I quickly blurted out, “I mean, it’s more of just a twinge. I’m fine. I’ll be careful.”

I lied in all three statements. It was more than a twinge. I wasn’t fine. I was going to push hard.

Halfway through the WOD I knew I was making it much worse. I finished, regretting my very bad decision.

The next few days were miserable. I couldn’t bend my neck to the left, and looking over my shoulder was impossible.

Like my other injury, I can’t pin this one on CrossFit. If anything, CrossFit was there trying to save me from my own stupid self. My coach, who has my best interest in mind, looked at me and was about to give me advice that would save me a lot of pain and injury.

But, I lied to him. This injury is on me.

CrossFit doesn’t ignore my body. I do.

Like my neck injury, there have been times in my CrossFit journey where I’ve had warning signs from my body. Something more than sore muscles that says, “time to take a rest day, dummy.”

Sometimes I listen to that voice. Other times, I go in for max effort fronts squats.

My right side had been feeling “pinched” for a while and it wasn’t getting better. Occasionally I would modify my WOD to accommodate. But, it was front squat day and I had my eyes on some big gainz.

I loaded the bar, pulled it out the rack, took a deep breath and… POP! I dropped the bar and let an expletive or two fire off, freaking out most everyone in the class.

Moving and breathing hurt. Sleeping was worse.

I went to the doc and, of course, he asked how it happened. I explained that it happened at the gym while I was doing front squats. He probed a little more until I said the word… CrossFit. The judgmental “that’s what I thought” look came across his face.

A couple months of misdiagnosed costochondritis and negative x-rays eventually led to a bone scan and the discovery of an acute fracture of one of my ribs. The doctors look of judgment at my involvement in CrossFit stuck with me and I’ve thought about it a lot. But, like my other injuries, I have to take the ownership of my folly.

It wasn’t CrossFit’s fault. My body was telling me to take it easy. It was telling me something was wrong. I told it to shut up and lift. It said no.

CrossFit isn’t dangerous. You are.

The trick for having a safe, injury free experience, is to find a quality CrossFit gym that has small classes and trained & certified coaches.

Once you’ve done that, it is your job to follow their instructions, trust their guidance, and for goodness sake listen to your body and don’t lie to your coach.

Postscript

While my article focuses on my injuries, it should be restated that my time at Full Circle has resulted in a level of strength and fitness I’ve never had in my life. Since joining, I have run a sub 5:30 mile, deadlifted 425 pounds, competed in 5 Spartan races, and (for the first time in my life) learned to love exercising. Thanks CrossFit Full Circle!

At the age of 36, long gone were any accumulated benefits of my active youth. Married with 3 kids, I was at a point in my life where I knew I should be taking better care of my health, and my witty “I run… when chased” was getting old, even to me.

Having not grown up with much exposure to weightlifting, I knew a $10-a-month gym membership would just lead to me wasting $10 a month, and experience had shown me that relying on my own will power to go run and do body weight exercises would be short lived at best. I needed something to push me, to train me, to help me.

In my excitement to try something new and hopefully establish some healthy habits in my life, I began to tell my friends. Most of them couldn’t believe that I was actually going to begin working out. A few gave me looks of concern. Then came the email.

“Hey Ryan, a friend of mine thought you should read this before you get into CrossFit.”

I clicked the link and began to read about cases of Rhabdomyolysis connected to CrossFit. For those who don’t know, Rhabdomyolysis (also known as Rhabdo) is a breakdown of muscle tissue that releases damaging protein into the blood often resulting in kidney failure and has been connected to cases involving high intensity workouts.

The article certainly gave me pause. Was CrossFit really that dangerous? I talked about it with my wife and decided to give it a try, promising that I would not push myself so hard that I died.

I’m now a year and a half into my CrossFit journey, and I am by far in the best shape of my life. And, perhaps more importantly, I’m not dead of Rhabdo-induced kidney failure.

What I have learned in this year and a half is that CrossFit isn’t dangerous. I am.

While I have not experienced any catastrophic injuries as a result of my workout regimen, I have suffered three injuries since starting CrossFit, and when I look closely at all three, I am the one to blame, not CrossFit.

CrossFit isn’t stupid. I am.

I had been going to Full Circle for 2 months. I had completed the fundamentals training and was really enjoying the WODs and learning how to lift. It was all so new to me.

In my zeal and excitement, I decided to do an extra WOD on my own at work. It called for push presses. Not having much of a baseline on what I was able to safely lift, I went too heavy.

I stood with the bar in my front rack position. I took a breath. I dipped. POP! A sharp pain shot through my back. I dropped the bar and fell on the floor.

Completely freaked out, I laid there wondering if I had just broken my back. “Stupid” kept repeating in my head.

Eventually, my back loosened up and I was able to get to my feet, but my back gave me trouble for weeks after that. Ultimately, there was no major damage and a few weeks rest was enough to get me back to normal.

The injury, however, wasn’t CrossFit’s fault. In fact, I believe that CrossFit could have prevented the injury. See, the advantage of joining a good CrossFit box like Full Circle is that you have trained coaches who are there to look after you.

I have no doubt that had I been in the box that day, Mike would have looked at me and told me to go down in weight. He would be watching me on each lift and yelling at me that I was way too arched.

CrossFit doesn’t lie. I do.

I finally added muscle ups to my repertoire, a feat any CrossFitter will tell you is a big deal. Shortly after, Nate came around providing the perfect opportunity to finally use them in a WOD.

Now, at this point I was nowhere near mastering muscle ups. The only reason I gave them a shot in the WOD is because Nate only calls for 2 at a time. The problem is that my technique is still rough and my drop out of the dip and into the kip is really violent. After Nate (7 rounds for those wondering), my neck was pretty sore.

The following week, muscle up technique work was on the whiteboard. My neck was feeling better for the for the most part, so I worked on them some more. My transition was still violent and I’m pretty sure I gave myself slight whiplash. My neck was really sore.

But, here’s where the real problem came in. I went to the box the next day for the WOD. My neck was not feeling good, but I really wanted to workout. Looking at the whiteboard, I knew the “smart” thing was to scale the workout. I approached my coach and said, “I think I’m going to scale this one. My neck isn’t feeling very good.”

No sooner than the words had left my mouth did Matt’s countenance changed. I had said “neck,” and I knew what was coming. I knew he was going to tell me to sit it out and not risk it. I should probably just go home.

As soon as I saw that look on his face I quickly blurted out, “I mean, it’s more of just a twinge. I’m fine. I’ll be careful.”

I lied in all three statements. It was more than a twinge. I wasn’t fine. I was going to push hard.

Halfway through the WOD I knew I was making it much worse. I finished, regretting my very bad decision.

The next few days were miserable. I couldn’t bend my neck to the left, and looking over my shoulder was impossible.

Like my other injury, I can’t pin this one on CrossFit. If anything, CrossFit was there trying to save me from my own stupid self. My coach, who has my best interest in mind, looked at me and was about to give me advice that would save me a lot of pain and injury.

But, I lied to him. This injury is on me.

CrossFit doesn’t ignore my body. I do.

Like my neck injury, there have been times in my CrossFit journey where I’ve had warning signs from my body. Something more than sore muscles that says, “time to take a rest day, dummy.”

Sometimes I listen to that voice. Other times, I go in for max effort fronts squats.

My right side had been feeling “pinched” for a while and it wasn’t getting better. Occasionally I would modify my WOD to accommodate. But, it was front squat day and I had my eyes on some big gainz.

I loaded the bar, pulled it out the rack, took a deep breath and… POP! I dropped the bar and let an expletive or two fire off, freaking out most everyone in the class.

Moving and breathing hurt. Sleeping was worse.

I went to the doc and, of course, he asked how it happened. I explained that it happened at the gym while I was doing front squats. He probed a little more until I said the word… CrossFit. The judgmental “that’s what I thought” look came across his face.

A couple months of misdiagnosed costochondritis and negative x-rays eventually led to a bone scan and the discovery of an acute fracture of one of my ribs. The doctors look of judgment at my involvement in CrossFit stuck with me and I’ve thought about it a lot. But, like my other injuries, I have to take the ownership of my folly.

It wasn’t CrossFit’s fault. My body was telling me to take it easy. It was telling me something was wrong. I told it to shut up and lift. It said no.

CrossFit isn’t dangerous. You are.

The trick for having a safe, injury free experience, is to find a quality CrossFit gym that has small classes and trained & certified coaches.

Once you’ve done that, it is your job to follow their instructions, trust their guidance, and for goodness sake listen to your body and don’t lie to your coach.

Postscript

While my article focuses on my injuries, it should be restated that my time at Full Circle has resulted in a level of strength and fitness I’ve never had in my life. Since joining, I have run a sub 5:30 mile, deadlifted 425 pounds, competed in 5 Spartan races, and (for the first time in my life) learned to love exercising. Thanks CrossFit Full Circle!

Crossfit Bytown