woman doing chin ups with weighted vest

Starting crossfit: busting common myths and finding your crossfit gym

How can you practice Crossfit safely? Learn to maximize your safety, progress and fun with Audrey-Laurence Farmer, an orthopedic and pelvic floor physiotherapist as well as a Crossfit L1 coach.

Recently, Crossfit has gained popularity across a wide range of exercise enthusiasts: from beginners to the expert athletes. The workouts target 10 major domains of fitness, making it an ideal workout for people who want to build muscle as well as good cardiovascular endurance and stamina. It is highly adaptable: everyone can do Crossfit.

However, some people have voiced valid concerns over the sport coming at the price of multiple injuries. Does Crossfit truly deserve its reputation as a high-risk sport? How can you practice Crossfit safely?

Audrey-Laurence Farmer, an orthopedic and pelvic floor physiotherapist as well as a Crossfit L1 coach, helps us answer these questions.

man lifting weights in a gym
woman doing push-up with elastic band

What is crossfit?

Created in 2000 by Greg Glassman and Lauren Jenai, Crossfit stands out from other fitness programs. This high-intensity functional training regimen consists of workouts that include a wide array of movements. Most exercises are compound movements, meaning they require you to use more than one muscle group at a time. The exercises are inspired by a variety of disciplines such as gymnastics and olympic weightlifting. The workouts are varied and can always be adapted to a person’s fitness level.

The myth: is crossfit dangerous? 

At its onset, Crossfit was considered by some to be a dangerous sport. Why? As with other types of training, such as gymnastics or football, moving quickly at high intensity may increasingly expose the body to injury. Critics were concerned about the outcome of performing heavy lifts in a state of fatigue, which could lead to injury.

However, Crossfit is not inherently dangerous when practiced under the right circumstances:

woman jumping on box

Train with proper movement patterns and techniques.

Take the time to learn the movements properly, before adding speed and weight. Be patient.

Have a program with adequate volume and intensity. 

Communicate with the coaching staff if you are feeling overwhelmed by the weights, number of reps or the movements themselves. Don’t hesitate to scale back on the workout if you feel that you need to.

Know your limits and respect them. 

Make sure you listen to your body. If you are starting to feel aches and pains, seek professional guidance immediately: don’t wait for little injuries to add up or develop into bigger ones. 

The top 3 things you should consider when picking your crossfit gym 

You want to maximize your safety, progress and fun. Here’s what to look for...

two people squatting back to back

The team

Audrey’s advice: Get to know the team that will be coaching you: what are their qualifications and expertise? How can they help you reach your specific goals?

The most important criteria in selecting a Crossfit gym is the quality of the coaching and services offered. Not all gyms are created equal when it comes to coaching and guidance. Ensuring you will be supervised by a highly qualified team of professionals is key in safely practicing Crossfit.

A team that includes multiple professionals, such as certified Crossfit coaches, kinesiologists, physiotherapists and nutritionists can be a huge benefit. Furthermore, find out about your coach’s specific expertise. For instance, if you are pregnant, make sure your coach is comfortable and familiar with coaching pregnant athletes.

The program

Audrey’s advice: Find out what a typical class looks like. Is there a lot of time devoted to working on technique? Does the gym follow a balanced periodized training program, or does each coach decide on the content of their class?

A good training program is carried out over a certain period of time and will not burn you out too quickly. Ask about volume (number of reps and sets for each exercise) and ensure that coaches put an emphasis on good execution over intensity (speed, amount of weight you lift).

Some Crossfit gyms have one program for everyone. Other Crossfit gyms offer multiple programs with many levels of difficulty: these individualized programs help people avoid doing movements that are too advanced for them. This approach allows each person to target their weaknesses and build a solid foundation, which will help them to avoid injury over time.

The community

Audrey’s advice: Take a look at who’s training in the gym with you. Your community is important and different Crossfit gyms will cater to different types of people.

Some Crossfit gyms are focused on professional athletic development and competition, some on weight loss and others on building a community. By choosing your crowd you will feel more comfortable and motivated, which will help you achieve your training goals quicker.

As is the case with any intense sport, Crossfit may exacerbate an existing injury or could even create a new one. The key to minimizing injuries is to be mindful of your limitations and to do your homework when choosing a gym. Start slowly, listen to your body and increase the difficulty one step at a time as your body gets stronger. The benefits of Crossfit abound: increased strength, agility and flexibility, improved balance, stamina, and of course, the opportunity to make new friends!

Audrey-Laurence Farmer

Audrey-laurence farmer

M. sc physiotherapy

Audrey is a Crossfit, strength training and running enthusiast with a masters degree in physiotherapy. She practices orthopedic and pelvic floor physiotherapy and is also a certified Crossfit L1 coach. Audrey is also very interested in horseback riding and has been a rider herself for over 20 years. She is a co-founder and owner at Symbiosis.

More like this

two men doing Pilates at home

Back to fitness: Discover Pilates

Do you want to get back to an active lifestyle? Pilates can be a great way to help you jump back into fitness.

people weight training outside

Build strength with resistance bands

Find out how to complete your weight training with simple, effective techniques and alternative methods.

men training on a field

5 strength training exercises you can do without equipment

No equipment? No problem! Here's a complete strength training workout you can easily do from the comfort of your own home, with no specialized equipment.

women dancing in a Zumba class

The importance of sports communities

Sport is a central part of our personal and social lives. It’s a wonderful way to push yourself, have fun, and learn about yourself; all while taking care of your well-being. These benefits multiply when you train with other people. Read on to learn more!

Two man working out with dumbbells in a gym

Workout ideas for people who don't like running

Incorporating aerobic exercise - any type of cardio exercise that moves your body and increases your heart rate - into your lifestyle has many benefits.