High intensity interval training, CrossFit, and bootcamps are all popular and effective ways to exercise. While they are great methods to improve your fitness and performance, there is also a risk of injury if you don’t approach it intelligently.

Results and Risk

These programs often include skilled movements and explosive exercises like plyometrics and other high-intensity movements. Olympic lifts, sprints, power lifts, and variations on gymnastics are also common.

The benefits of these types of exercises are that they stimulate maximal muscle engagement and quickly take joints through their full range of motion. However, the same qualities that make these movements so effective also makes them very challenging if you haven’t been doing much fitness training.

“They are great exercises to get results because they are ground-based, engage multiple joints and muscles groups, and have high intensity” says Coach Ken Vick, high performance director for Velocity Sports Performance. “They are more athletic, but with that comes some risk of injury just as in sport. The key is to know your limits and follow good coaching.”

Keys to Success

Vick says for those who are interested in training this way, there are Four Steps for Success:

  1. Assess your own readiness.Have you done these types of workouts in the past? Do you have past injuries? Do you have limitations in your joint range of motion?

    If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you need to get some guidance before you start. A qualified coach can help assess if you’re ready, and a sports medicine professional can help identify any injury risks and how to alleviate them.

    You don’t have to be in great shape before you can start taking these kinds of classes, but you do need to realistically assess your readiness with the help of professionals. They can give you a roadmap to a safe starting point.

  2. Check your ego at the door.One of the benefits of these programs is the energy and intensity that comes from training with a group of people all pushing through a challenging workout together. Be wary that you don’t let pride and ego tell you to push yourself farther than you should, lest you pay some painful consequences.

    “I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard someone say: I knew I was pushing myself too far,” says Coach Vick. “There will always be others better than you at any given exercise or workout. They may be younger or older, male or female.”

    The key is to change your focus from competing with others to competing with yourself. Focus on improving your skills, technique, results, and your own PRs and you will not only get better, but you will stay safe.

  3. Find an onboarding classwith a coach who can get you involved safely rather than joining an advanced, competitive class. A good coach teaches you the correct mechanics and form for exercises and has variations to adapt them to your needs and skill level.
  4. Know when to stop. Severe pain is always a red flag. While soreness is normal, the amount of soreness you experience with workouts should decrease as your body adapts over the first few weeks.

    If you experience joint pain, swelling or instability, stop. See a sports medicine specialist for evaluation. They can figure out how to eliminate the pain and how you can correct the underlying causes. They should work with you and your coach to adapt your training so you can keep building fitness while fixing your injury.

    Research has shown that when an experienced coach or trainer is involved, the rate of any kind of injury decreases dramatically.

    To prevent injury from happening in the first place, it’s very important to perform an active or dynamic warm-up to prepare the muscles to work at high speeds or under heavy loads. Some programs incorporate a warm-up into the workout, while others will show you what to do and give you time to do it beforehand.

Train Harder, and Smarter

Adding the intensity, motivation, and fun of these kinds of programs can inject new energy into your fitness regimen. All of these elements can help you work harder and push your fitness to a higher level than ever before. If you’re smart and follow these four keys, you can reap all the benefits and avoid injury.

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