6 TIPS TO RETURN TO CROSSFIT
By William Imbo
CrossFit, just like any other sport, is not without its share of risk.
Whenever you move heavy weight or perform complicated
exercises, there is a possibility for injury. Then again, you could
get injured going for a jog, or walking down your stairs in the
morning. But I digress. This article isn’t about CrossFit and risk.
I’m not going to talk about the fact that injury rates in CrossFit
our comparable or less to sports such as gymnastics, Olympic
weightlifting and other fitness programs—far less than the
mainstream media perceives it to be. No, instead I’m going to
acknowledge that every athlete, regardless of the sport they
practice, can sustain an injury. When this happens, he or she will
take the necessary steps to rest and recover before coming back
to the box. But how do you know when you’re ready to hit a full
WOD again? To lift heavy weight again? To perform with the
same effort you had before you got hurt? This article will
examine the process of returning to CrossFit post injury.
Take it slow. Regardless of the type of injury you sustained, your body and
brain need time to begin communicating again. The channels of
communication between your brain and body that are necessary
to carry out a physical task weaken with disuse—such as when
you are sidelined with an injury. Unless nerve damage has
occurred, the communication signals can definitely be
strengthened, but this process takes time so it’s important to
remain patient. There’s not much sense in coming back to the
box and trying to perform at your pre-injury levels. You probably
won’t have the fitness to be able to do so, and trying to exercise
at such a high intensity in your first trip back to CrossFit can
open you up to sustaining another injury. Swallow your ego
and SCALE movements and WODS where appropriate.
Remember, at this point your time, weight and rep count is not
important. What does matter is building up your fitness levels
steadily to a point where you will feel comfortable taking off the
training wheels to test out a full WOD at full intensity. That’s the
end goal people.
Listen to your body. In the middle of a CrossFit workout, our body is usually screaming at us to stop and take a rest. In the case of your first few WODS back from injury, listening to your body becomes even more important—especially in the areas where you got hurt. If you hurt your elbow and it flares up during a push-up, stop. If you hurt your knee and you experience a flash of pain when you squat, stop. When you experience discomfort in a WOD you usually press on—mind over matter right? Not so when you are coming back from injury. Your body will let you know when you’re ready to execute certain movements with certain weights. In the meantime, you have to scale—both in your intensity and in the prescribed movements. Fortunately, there’s someone who can help you with that…
Listen to your coach. Your coach’s primary job is to make sure that you, as an athlete, are safe. They are there to provide you with help when it comes to scaling or altering a WOD in order to match your abilities—especially when returning from injury. Hopefully you will have built a solid relationship with your coach so he or she knows what you are usually capable of doing. That foundation will allow them to gauge how far you should scale down or what movements to alter.
Talk to other CrossFitters who have had similar injuries. Most CrossFitters have some sort of athletic background, which likely means that they will have suffered some sort of injury during their sporting career. If you happen to be ‘lucky’ enough to workout alongside someone who has sustained a similar injury in the past, ask them what steps they took when working their way back to full fitness. Although everyone’s experience with injury and recovery is different, you may pick up some words of wisdom that could help you prepare for each WOD or cool down appropriately. There’s no harm in asking!
Consult your Doctor/Therapist*. I’ve put an asterisk next to this ‘tip’ because you should take it with a grain of salt. There are a number of stories out there of CrossFitters who ignored their doctor’s diagnosis and made a successful comeback in the sport. Lindy Barber fractured her L-5 vertebrae during the 2011 Open and was told ‘never to squat again’. In 2013, she competed at the CrossFit Games. Lindy’s triumph over adversity (and her doctor’s orders) isn’t rare within our sport. HOWEVER, one must acknowledge that doctors and physical therapists do have knowledge and experience when it comes to the human body, so their advice must be taken into consideration. How much of that advice you actually use is up to you.
Recovery is crucial. Recovery is a crucial part of a healthy CrossFitter’s routine, but it takes on even more importance when you are looking to fight your way back to full fitness. Mobility, cooling-down properly, active recovery, sleep and nutrition are key areas that can be the difference between a speedy and healthy journey back to your badass-CrossFitting self, or a prolonged stint of scaled workouts, slow progress and even the chance of regressing in your recovery. You should never neglect recovery when
Nickname: Outcast Ninja
Fave wod: Linda(10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 Deadlift 1.5 BW , Bench press BW, Clean .75 BW)
Least fave wod: Cindy(20 min AMRAP 5 Pull ups, 10 Push ups, 15 Air Squats)
Things that make you happy: My family
Pet Peeves: The word “can’t”
Favorite wod music: Country
Cheat meal: Pizza
Goals: Stay alive and be healthy
Favorite Crossfit Moment: Watching Sara do the World
Record Dead lift at Outcast
Favorite thing about the gym: The people
What people should know about you: “Military Brat”
Favorite thing to do (non Crossfit related): Hiking
For more on Jeff’s CrossFit Training and Experience, Go to “About Us”
- Get organized. Sketch out what you want this challenge to look like for you. Diet plans, exercise goals, end goals. What do you want to accomplish? Lose body fat? Gain muscle? Be specific.
- Stay organized. It’s all well and good if you have a plan, but you need to actually implement it. Also? You know how your GPS has to recalculate occasionally? Be prepared to do that for yourself as well. And be ok with recalculating. It’s how you are going to get to your destination.
- Put some thought into your plan of attack. Is this the 10th nutrition challenge that you’ve done? How successful were the
other ones? Before you just jump into the same old diet plans, think about what has and hasn’t worked for you in the past. Act accordingly.
- Reach out. You have an incredible amount of resources at your fingertips. And I’m not talking about the World Wide Web. I’m talking about a gym full of well-educated, caring, and fit people who are invested in your success. Call, text, group chat, Bat Signal. Use them. You are a valuable member of a great community, take advantage of that. And
- MyFitnessPal is an awesome tool for tracking your macros. It’s a free app that can help you pinpoint exactly what
you are putting into your body. A great tip I read once is to track not just your food/workouts daily, but your energy levels as well. This will allow you to go back and see what the magic combination of proteins/carbs/fats it takes to make you say “Awesome WOD! Felt great all around!” And therefore will make replicating diet challenge success days easier.
- Nickname: #putalilenglishonit
- Fave WOD: Every WOD that includes running
- Least fave WOD: Anything that involves sit ups
- Things that make you happy: English Bulldog puppies
- Pet Peeves: People that throw their cigarette butts on the ground
- Favorite WOD music: Mostly ’80s
- Cheat meal: A whole jar of smooth natural peanut butter
- Goals: Outlive the competition
- Favorite Crossfit Moment: My favorite moments are the reactions of the athletes when looking at the WOD.
- Favorite thing about the gym: The people
- What people should know about you: That I am passive-aggressive
- Favorite thing to do (non Crossfit related): Distance running which means running more than a mile. With distance running I solve all of the world’s problems but since I’m running I don’t take notes and I have short-term memory and thus still left with all of the world’s problems.