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What is CrossFit? - Part II

Demystifying the popular strength and conditioning program

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What is CrossFit? - Part II
©Jack Oughton (Creative Commons)

In part 2 of this interview with Jason Kart, PT, DPT, the physical therapist and owner of Core Physical Therapy – Chicago talks about ways to keep your CrossFit workout safe and healthy.

About.com: What are your tips to ensure a safe, healthy workout?

Dr. Kart:

Proper rest periods. People forget that the rest period is as important as the exercise. Your body needs to rebuild the tissues you have broken down. The rest varies depending on the type of workout, prior conditioning, general health and age of the participant. Exercises may need increased rest periods initially as the body starts to make adaptations, older exercisers require increased rest periods due to a slower body metabolism.

Have a good partner. It is helpful to have a partner that encourages you to make gains while also making sure to watch your form. A good partner will see signs of breakdown in form and movement patterns and give you good feedback in order to make sure the exercises completed safely.

Pay for the individual sessions if you have to. It's better to develop good habits from the outset, than have to go back and retrain bad ones. One-on-one sessions allow you to ask questions and get individualized feedback.

When in doubt ask questions! Get clarification about form before you start the workout.

Know the signs and symptoms. Delay Onset Muscle Soreness, a general soreness and stiffness in muscles after workouts, lasts for 24 to 36 hours and generally does not impede normal function. Symptoms that are sharp, persistent and focal are signals of acute breakdown of a tissue. Systemic symptoms of rhabdomyolysis can be generalized but typically include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, swelling of affected muscles, and dark tea colored urine. Failure to produce urine 12 to 24 hours after activity may indicate kidney damage.

My personal recommendations:

I generally do not recommend CrossFit to sedentary individuals looking to start exercising. The temptation is great to see rapid gains, but with little pre-conditioning, there is a higher risk of injury. Begin a progressive resistance and cardiovascular program for at least one year before attempting CrossFit. This will develop consistent fitness gains and tolerance to the stress of exercise, as well as let you familiarize yourself and your response to increasing levels of challenge. As any skier will tell you: master the bunny hill before you tackle the moguls.

Former athletes and exercisers moving back into activity I advise caution. It is easy to get carried away and overexert too quickly. Be sure to allow yourself time to condition back into this level of activity.

Understand that fitness is a long-term commitment. The most sustainable improvements come from lifestyle changes, not jumping from fad to fad. Create and routinely re-assess your short- and long-term fitness goals. Establish realistic timelines with the help of fitness and nutritional experts

Avoid the "work through it" mentality. This goes for any exercise program. Many people often write off initial symptoms assuming that they will go away on their own. This leads to unnecessary exacerbation of an injury requiring increased treatment and healing time. This idea becomes more necessary with higher-risk exercise routines. CrossFit provides an opportunity for rapid returns on exercise investment, but at an increased risk. Symptoms that persist through your normal recovery phase or appear consistently in an area of the body should have medical attention. Always err on the side of caution, it will keep you in the game longer.

Read Part 1 of this interview here.

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