What I Learned From Spending 10 Hours in a CrossFit Box

There are many things in life that become obnoxiously obvious but only after you’ve been slapped across the face with them for weeks, months, and sometimes years.  What is becoming more and more obvious to me, as a physical therapist and someone who watches, studies, and promotes movement A LOT is that there is no such thing as a bad exercise.  Yes, that’s right.  Specific exercises or activities do not cause pain and are not inherently “bad for you.”

What do you think I mean by this?  Well, you’ve probably heard someone say or ask…”Oh, I’ve heard CrossFit causes injuries.”  Or how about this one…”You shouldn’t run because it’s really bad for your knee joints.”  Or my personal favorite…”Deadlifting is really bad for your low back.”

So, what I’ve slowly been coming to realize patient after patient, consult after consult, and injury after injury, was very rapidly summed up in 10 hours in a CrossFit gym for a great local event.  2 weeks ago, I was present and evaluated and performed interventions for athletes at the “Ice Bowl” which is a local CrossFit competition for some of the top fitness athletes in the area.  In a span of 10 hours and 30 treatments later, I finally was convinced of something that I’d been pondering for a while.  That something was this.  There is no such thing as a bad exercise or physical activity...these are just activities or exercises that certain individuals don’t have all the prerequisites to perform efficiently.  

What that means is that CrossFit, Running, Deadlifting...these things don’t cause injury.  Individuals attempting to perform them when they are not all the way there physically, are what cause injury.  And really why it’s important to understand this thought process is that people who want to be proactive and healthy should be able to keep doing that.  It’s just that maybe they need a little help and guidance in the right areas to make sure they can keep doing that pain-free and for a long time.

Here’s a good example of this.  During this competition, I had the pleasure of helping with at least 10 different shoulder issues.  Now many of these athletes had just finished or just were about to press well over 100 pounds over head.  Much of what they were performing was incredibly impressive and to be honest, downright freakish.  But a couple of them that were having shoulder pain, when I attempted to cue them to, could not lift a PVC bar off of the ground to above the level of their ears when lying on their stomach…In a quick assessment, they had what I’d consider to be scapular instability or weakness or significant mobility concerns.  In their cases, was it pressing overhead that caused pain?  No, it was these findings of muscle imbalances and dysfunction that caused the pain...the overhead pressing was just the straw that stirred the pain drink.  

So I share this experience because it hammered home all of my suspicions about not only our ability to perform certain activities and exercises but how we perceive those activities.  There are not bad exercises, just bodies performing exercises that may not have the prerequisites to perform such exercises at that time without pain.

Why this matters to you is that the right individual will not only understand this, but they will help you ensure that all of your prerequisites are in place for what you want to do for a long time.  If you hear someone tell you that you have to stop doing what you love, that what you’re doing is bad for you, or that you just need to suck it up but they don’t understand this principle above, then you may want to kindly remove that person from your circle.  Because proactivity is always the best choice, regardless of the activity, as long as you feel you’ve done all you can to prime your body for that activity.  And that’s exactly what we believe we offer individuals here at Motus Rx.  A partner that will come alongside to help you reach your goals and ultimately your transformation.