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How To Get Crossfit – Without Hurting Yourself

So you’ve decided to give this workout a try…
By Karen Kwan


We’ve all seen those CrossFit epic fail videos all over the Internet: people dropping heavy dumbbells on themselves, missing their mark and flailing and falling in the process—the series of cringe-worthy failed moves and injuries seems endless. Samantha Diamond, a public relations director based in Toronto, fell in love with the sport about five years ago, until she was sidelined with a back injury. “The instructors were pretty casual and sometimes corrected my form, but they pushed me to lift more and more weight,” she says. And when she continued to go to class when pregnant, she was often left to her own devices to modify the workout.


While CrossFit definitely has a rep for being dangerous, if you’re keen on trying it, how can you keep injury-free? Here are key considerations to help you learn to crush every WOD (that’s “workout of the day,” for you non-CrossFit types) without ending up in your own epic fail reel.


Research CrossFit trainers
One criticism of CrossFit is that trainers can be certified over a weekend, and many have very little experience. Do your homework on finding trainers with a strong background of experience. “It comes down to the instructor,” says Blair Lyon, co-owner and head coach of Crossfit YKV in Toronto. He suggests looking for trainers with at least two years of experience teaching. “The instructor should get to know the athletes in front of them, and scale the weight or prescribe a different movement for each athlete.”


Begin by building a solid foundation of the sport
Be wary if you’re a newbie at a CrossFit gym and are thrown right into regular workouts with people who’ve been doing the sport for years. Get prepared for regular classes by doing a series of foundation (or on ramp) classes: you’ll learn proper technique, and both you and your trainer will better understand what kind of volume you can manage.


Beware sacrificing proper form
Any trainer or gym that focuses only on completing as many reps as possible or on sticking to the prescribed weight for the WOD—without taking into account form and your fitness level—is not good for you. “Every rep should meet standards; that is the goal,” says Lyon. (As for research on the injury rates in CrossFit, one study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 2013 reported that 73.5 per cent of CrossFit athletes in the study injure themselves, from which researchers calculated an injury rate of 3.1 per 1,000 hours trained, which has been said to be similar to training for a triathlon or marathon.)


Don’t buy into the “no pain, no gain” mentality
Lyon insists CrossFit has come a long way since he first tried it eight years ago, but does admit that in its earlier days, the mentality was to push through the pain no matter what. In his first CrossFit workout, he recalls, he felt like he was going to throw up. Despite his body’s distress, he says that the guys at the gym (“They had limited experience,” he notes) encouraged him to keep going until he finished the workout. “It was a miserable first experience and if I hadn’t had the body awareness that I did, I could have potentially gotten injured.”


Diamond says she would happily return to the sport—even with the back injury she suffered, and even though she acknowledges that the classes she has tried lacked personal attention, which could spell out danger and injury for someone with little fitness knowledge. She points to CrossFit’s community feel and the efficiency of the WOD (“It could be a quick 30-minute workout some days, so it’s very convenient!”) as two of its benefits that make her a fan.


So, what do you say: do you care to risk becoming OCD—obsessive CrossFit disorder?


KAREN KWAN is a freelance health, travel and lifestyle writer based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter at @healthswellness and on Instagram at @healthandswellness

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