CrossFit, an intense strength-training exercise, has swept the nation, with the number of gyms skyrocketing from 13 in 2005 to 7,000 in 2014, according to Channel Signal, a consumer marketing company.

People are attracted to the workout’s ever-changing nature that incorporates weights, speed training, gymnastics, and stretching. Meanwhile, the intense camaraderie CrossFitters develop while working their way through mind-blowing workouts adds a dimension that many say fuels their devotion.

However, chances are that if you or someone you know does CrossFit, they constantly complain of soreness and have perhaps even been injured. CrossFit is intense—that’s the point. But is it dangerous?

Potential risks

High-intensity workouts like CrossFit do carry potential risks. The intensity alone increases the risk for injury, whether pulled or strained muscles, or even broken skin from repetitively lifting weights.

In rare cases, people have developed a muscle injury call rhabdomyolysis.  With this condition, muscle becomes so weakened that it begins to break down or even rupture, leaking their insides into the bloodstream, potentially leading to kidney failure. The same CrossFit culture that cheers you on and encourages you to push your limits sometimes leads to over-exertion with potentially fatal consequences.

To avoid rhabdomyolysis, stay mindful of your limits, stay hydrated, and avoid exercising if it’s too hot.

People with minimal physical strength or endurance who are just starting to work out should also be extra careful and listen to their bodies. Do not push yourself beyond what’s healthy.

Precautions

Besides listening to your body, there are several other precautions to take so CrossFit helps your body instead of hurting it. Find a good trainer, one who pushes you, but not beyond your breaking point. Although CrossFits all operate on the same premise, some gyms have reputations for being tougher than others.

If you’re just starting to get in shape, try a few different facilities or talk to fellow CrossFitters in your area to find a gym and trainer that’s right for your ability level.

Make sure you complete exercises with proper form, wearing any back or knee braces as necessary. A good trainer will help you achieve the best form possible, which will help reduce the likelihood of injury.

Try to avoid comparing yourself to other, stronger athletes. In CrossFit, like in many sports, competition can spur people to push themselves extra hard. While the motivation is sometimes beneficial, it can also lead to injury.

Ultimately, CrossFit has dangers, like all other sports. However, by staying conscious of your limits and practicing self-care, like taking days off if you’re too sore, you should be able to complete the workouts safely.

Have you ever been injured while doing CrossFit?

Image by Arctic Warrior via Flickr

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