Is My Training Program Safe?
There’s been a lot of buzz in the both social and conventional media about the dangers of certain fitness trends, specifically Crossfit. One particular article about weightlifting during pregnancy and another one about a condition called rhabdomyolysis spread virally throughout Facebook and Twitter in the past few weeks. It even spurned a feature segment on ABC yesterday.
The point of today’s post isn’t to defend or promote Crossfit. Most of my readers are very well aware of my stance on the phenomenon. The truth is, there are risks and benefits of any training program. I’ve seen and heard stories of rhabdomyolysis stemming from high school football training facilities, Tri-atheletes, and body builders.
My goal here today is to help you determine whether or not your training program is safe. Not only for the health of your spine, but for your body as a whole. So how do you know if your training program is safe? Let’s start by looking at the 4 principle reasons for training injuries:
1. Bad Movement Patterns – We’ve all heard this before, bad form will always lead to injury. People are pretty familiar with things like arching your back while doing bicep curls, or the crooked positions people take to get weight over their heads. However, form comes into play in things such as running and yoga as well. A coach or a trainer should be teaching and watching you perform the basic movements of any training activity before advancing to full on workouts.
2. Poor Programming – Everyone knows the guy that overloads on the bench press everyday and blows out their shoulder. We also know the guy that has never used their legs in a workout in their entire existence. However, programming an exercise regiment is about more than aesthetics. It’s about creating an ideal situation that ensures balance in the function of the musculoskeletal system.
1 and 2 are where finding the right coach and trainer play an important role in designing a safe and effective training program. A good coach or trainer is the difference between getting great results, and ENJOYING fitness, or getting hurt and finding it a chore.
When choosing a program of fitness, you should watch how clients in the gym are exercising:
Do their movements look well executed or do they look like they are all over the place?
Are there options for modifying movement patterns or is everyone regardless of skill level forced into one movement?
Most gyms offer a trial period to see if the gym is a right fit for you. Spend a week there. Over the course of a week, are there a variety of exercises performed or are the same ones repeated day after day?
Are trainers providing feedback to people to fine-tune their movements or are people just doing whatever they want with someone watching?
So as we can see, selecting a great trainer/program plays a critical role in exercising safely. But I can’t put the hook solely on the trainers. The 2nd part is how YOU determine how safe your program is.
3. Body Awareness Deficiency – the body is an incredibly intelligent piece of machinery. It is always giving us feedback on what does and what doesn’t work for us….most of the time, we just choose not to listen. If you pay attention, you’ll notice that certain foods (gluten, sugar, MSG) tend to cause drowsiness, fatigue, and headaches when we eat them. Muscles are always making us aware of when a muscle is on the verge of tearing.
One of the biggest reasons people get injured is that they ignore the signals their body is giving them. Now this doesn’t mean you should quit or slow down if you’re tired. That’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that when you are in tune with your body, you have a sense when something is off or wrong.
I remember just a few months ago, I was working out. While I was doing my warm up, I decide to skip a few steps despite the fact that my hips felt extra tight from the day before. I knew that I hadn’t warmed up properly, and that the weight may put me in jeopardy, but I decided to go anyway because of laziness. Sure enough, a rib popped out of place and I was sidelined for a couple of days because I didn’t listen to what my body was telling me.
Don’t let coaches or people bully you into doing reps that you know may put you in jeopardy. Your body is aware of what’s happening inside of you, take notice!
4. Inability to Rest – There is a certain point when you love to exercise so much, that you dread the days where you don’t work out. I know, because I’m on of them. Short workouts turn into 2 a days. You decide to do yoga in the morning, lift in the afternoon, and run at night. You feel like my friend Dikembe over here, and choose to have “active rest” days, which really turn into workout days anyway.
As much as it may pain you to do this, rest is one of the most important parts of someone’s workout routine. It’s the magical place where muscle grows and gets repaired. It’s what allows those joints to flush out the inflammation from your barbell assault. That’s right, I said it, working out is an assault on your body. A controlled assault when done right, but an assault none the less.
There is no defense against overuse. There isn’t enough proper form, coaching, ice, foam rolling, or chiropractic that can defend against someone putting their through the wringer each and every day. It may slow it down, but injury is almost inevitable.
Regardless of the name of the type of workout you’re doing, what counts is the quality of coaching, the programming, and getting a feel for your body’s response to exercise. I’ve been to Crossfit gyms with outstanding coaches who care and protect their clients from injury, just as I’ve been to yoga studios who let their members perform high risk poses recklessly.
The fact of the matter is, we know that consistent exercise is a cornerstone of vibrant health. With PREVENTABLE diseases like Type II diabetes and heart disease affecting people at younger ages, we are creating a culture that will collapse the health care system, whether the government pays for it or not. We need people to be proactive and to be PASSIONATE about maintaining their level of fitness.
If you’re looking for great resources in South Florida, check out some of my favorite gyms, studios, and trainers below. Happy lifting!
Crossfit Hardcore – my gym of choice. Great community and great trainers that will ensure your safety. Great boot camp and personal training options available to those who love intensity, but aren’t quite ready for Crossfit at the Royal Palm Beach Location
Hellman Holistic Health– CHEK Certified Coach and trainer. Dan Hellman is one of the most sought after experts in the world. He has helped thousands of people regain their health with a holistic approach to movement. He carries additional expertise in Golf training and working with people with degenerative conditions.
Annutara Yoga Shala – my personal favorite yoga studio. Outstanding teachers from the beginner to the advanced yogi.
Ncognito Personal Training – one of the premier training studios in Palm Beach County, and neighbor the Keystone Chiropractic.