It has often been said that Crossfit gyms (boxes) are dangerous places. Truth is they can be dangerous but just like any other gym. We must take action when in the gym to protect ourselves from injury and from injuring someone else. Today I’ve put together 7 exercise safety tips to keep you rockin your workout.
From your first day in your new gym you need to familiarize yourself with your surroundings. Crossfit has what we call Foundations where you must attend either one on one classes or group classes that introduce you to the moves, safety, and your surroundings. Only then will your membership kick in.
So given that, here are my top ways to be safe in your gym.
Learn and Know the Equipment
In Crossfit, this is taken care of in your Foundations that I mentioned above, but leaning takes time so after you successfully complete foundations it is up to you to practice with the equipment before getting right into it.
If you are in a regular gym, try to hire a personal trainer to help you learn how to use the equipment, what to do with it and how to do it the proper way to get results and to not injure yourself.
Warm Yourself Up
No I don’t mean stand around looking at yourself in the mirror, but instead get to the gym early and spend good quality time on mobility (stretching). A great warm up routine can and will prevent injuries increase your flexibility so you aren’t restricted by your own body when attempting a skill. Stretching will also speed up your recovery time after your workout so I recommend a cool down stretching routine as well.
If it is warm out, go for a run. Run 200, 400 meters or yards. Grab a mat and do stretching exercises you already know or you learn from a trainer/coach. What ever you are going to be doing for your hour or more, concentrate on those areas of your body first, but just because you aren’t doing snatches doesn’t mean you don’t need to work on your shoulders. Wear your knee sleeves while warming up to warm up your knees. This improves blood flow to your knees.
Most gyms have large rubber bands you can tie to a pole and use them to stretch your limbs out. Grab a roller and roll your back out, your hamstrings and your calves. Rollers are a great mobility tool so if your gym has them use them.
Pace Yourself Not Only if You are New
Crossfit workouts are all centered around number of reps/rounds and time which means go fast to get a good time and go fast to get a high number of reps or rounds. These workouts are very intense, are made up of a few different disciplines, and can take upwards of 30-40 minutes to complete. The idea is to go hard and fast to get a great score.
The only way to accomplish the workout successfully or even complete i is to pace yourself. Pick a pace up to your ability and stick to it to the end. This way you won’t completely deplete yourself cardiovascularly and physically so you can’d do the moves with correct form and end up injuring yourself.
Sometimes you find your pace too much for you and your form begins to fail. Your grip on the pullup bar becomes a little lazy and you feel your hands ripping. Protect yourself in advance with a pair of hand grips.
The same goes if you are new to a gym. Pace yourself and don’t do too much that you pull a muscle, sprain a wrist, or even break something. You want to be at the gym so be careful. Your body only has so much energy to work with and needing a cane get you up in the morning isn’t what you want.
Follow the Rules of the Gym/Box
In the Crossfit box, the rules are always posted and have to be adhered to for safety reasons. It is not out of the ordinary to find 20 people in rows lifting and dropping barbells only a few feet from where you are doing the same. Health and Safety is of utmost importance in your gym even though you may not think so.
If it says to stay off the floor when a class is on, then stay off. If it says clean your equipment then clean your equipment. Getting sick is as bad as getting a minor injury because it keeps you away from where you want to be. If it says don’t drop the weights, then don’t drop them. At a Crossfit gym dropping barbells is what we generally want to do after a lift because a lift is a lift so be careful where the bar ends up when you drop it.
Take your water bottle with you to the gym to stay well hydrated. Drink water before you leave for the gym or drink BCAA (Branch Chain Amino Acids) hydration before and during your workout. These will certainly hydrate your body for a great workout.
I’m not a big fan or over the counter sports drinks. Too much salt. Unless you are doing an extremely intense, long and depleting workout, you aren’t losing enough salt for what is in a sports drink. If you want a drink to hydrate and to help performance, choose a good BCAA.
Crossfit Foundations show you the foundations of lifting and gymnastics movements. From there you have a certified coach running the class. At the beginning of each class the coach will spend time on correct lifting techniques for what you will be doing in the WOD (workout of the day). Listen and learn. Use free gym time to practice tour form on all skills you need and them use that form you learned. Proper form is intended for 2 things, first safety, and second technique to get the bar up efficiently or to get you to the top of a rope quickly and efficiently.
In a regular gym where you show up when you want and do what you want, get a trainer to show you how to lift a dumbbell, to use an elliptical, to bench press.
Lifting a barbell from the floor with heavy weight will require very good form to prevent a back injury. You can help yourself lifting heavy weight by using a lifting belt to aid in your form.
The number of times I have been in a gym other than Crossfit and seen horrible form I can’t even count. Brawn eclipses form there and injuries occur.
Rowing machines are popular these days. Many gyms are stocking the Concept 2 rowers. Rowing takes technique and proper form, but not many people ask for help from a trainer on how to correctly use them. Back injuries are common on rowers.
Use Protective Gear
Olympic lifting has risen in popularity in such a short time and Crossfit has spun a lot of styles of gym that feature many things Crossfit gyms are famous for and therefore where ever you are, invest in proper protection. Olympic lifting may require you to wear wrist wraps, pullups hand grips, and box jumps shin guards.
You are susceptible to injury at any gym and ignoring protection because you feel you don’t need it or don’t know about it is ignorance. Turn on the TV and watch a sport and look at the protection they wear. Are we as amateurs better than them, of course not
I’ve just covered what you should be doing in any gym you go to anywhere in the world. I have witnessed fellow Crossfit athletes injure their shoulder or back when form fails them. I have seen a barbell bounce across the gym with heavy weight on it when someone has dropped it from over their head.
Me, I’ve been an active fittness buff for as long as I can remember and 5 years ago I put all of my efforts into the great sport of CrossFit. This sport has elevated my fitness to new levels through a lot of hard work and dedication and I want to share this with you. Fitness keeps us healthy so get out there.