Dr. Kristen Mitteness
The Four Step Prehab Program for CrossFitters
This article was originally written for Undefeated CrossFit and can be found here. No matter what kind of workouts you prefer, I think this information is something you can benefit from. It's much easier to make choices that will keep you well in the long term than it is to back pedal and try to fix a problem from long term, poor habits. So, dig in and start your prehab program!
Everyone seems to be familiar with the term rehabilitation or rehab when it comes to sports injuries. If one experiences an injury, he or she will nurse it back to health by seeing specialists, taking time off from the offending activity, applying therapies such as ice or cold, stretching muscles that are too tight or strengthening weak muscles. Most of us have experienced this in some capacity or know someone else who has.
Sometimes these injuries are inevitable. Often, these injuries can be prevented. This process is called “prehabilitation” or prehab. But before we get too far into prehab, let’s touch on CrossFit’s impact on your life.
Unless you come from a high level competitive background, you may not have exercised with the same intensity you are now experiencing in CrossFit. You have never been exposed to Olympic Weightlifting or gymnastics. Your bones, joints, muscles and nervous system have never felt the impact that they do when you step inside your gym for your varied, intense, functional workout. You love it! And we do, too! But with this new stress on your body, you have to set up an appropriate plan to keep your body in tip top shape. You still have a life outside of CrossFit and we want you to live it to your full potential. CrossFit makes living your everyday life just a little bit easier, both mentally and physically. But staying well is the key to success and longevity both in CrossFit and life.
1. Warm Up. The warm up on the board isn’t optional. It’s there for a reason and that is to get you properly ready for your workout. Arriving 15 minutes early to get your warm up in is crucial. The first step to preventing injury is to get your muscles and joints warm and ready for movement. This is also the time to get your nervous system primed so it can respond to what’s coming. No matter what you do in life, best results come from properly preparing. When it comes to exercise, this is your warm up. It shouldn’t tire you out. You should feel loose, your breathing and heart rate will increase and you’re ready for more. Sweating is essential! Dynamic movements such as leg swings, arm circles, butt kicks, high knees, ect get the joints moving in all directions. Keep your stretches shorter (hold less than 20 seconds) and get your body ready to take on weight or reps.
2. Cool Down. You just finished your workout. You are sweating heavily, panting hard and your muscles ache. Time to go home! Not so fast. Moving around slowly allows your heart rate to get closer to normal. Now that your muscles are beat up, rolling out with a foam roller or lacrosse ball will push out any junk that has built up in your muscles and reduce prolonged soreness. It will also help maintain mobility, which you will lose with muscle gain if you don’t keep up on it!
3. Recover. You love your sport and the high you get after your CrossFit workout. It might even be the highlight of your day! As much as you don’t want to take a break from it, you need to. This could be as simple as one to two days off per week to a more elaborate plan of one week off every 6-8 weeks. Not only will you be more than enthusiastic to get back in there, your body can take the time to rebuild. This is a rest for both your body and your brain. You might feel antsy and feel ready to get back to the gym, but if you want to be doing this for the long haul, TAKE TIME OFF. Humans aren’t made to run at 110% all of the time. You need time to recharge the batteries. Take this break before you feel like you need to take a break. CrossFit is your fun time! Keep it fun.
4. Support. You’ve got the previous three rehab steps on lock. Good for you! Unfortunately, it’s not always enough and there are professionals trained and ready to take care of you. Find your support system. It usually takes a combination of a few different modalities and often you need to shop around to find the best fit for you. The biggest advantage to finding your “team” when you are well, beyond preventing injury, is that if you do need them in an emergency, they already know your body and the best way to treat you. And you know you are with someone you trust. Find your people. Be picky. In all fields, there are practitioners that treat differently. Look to massage, physiotherapy, chiropractic, athletic therapy, osteopathy and acupuncture. Create your own support system so you can train your hardest and stay well throughout the process.
Chances are no one is paying you to CrossFit. You still have to work, you still have your family time, you still have obligations outside of the gym. CrossFit will help you be the best you, but you need to keep yourself well so you can be the best you all of the time. CrossFit is hard work and an awesome community. That’s why we see amazing results and why people keep coming back for more. Prehabilitation may not seem necessary when you are well, but as soon as you are injured and rehabilitation becomes the obligation you never wanted, you’ll wish you had taken better care of yourself. Now stop sitting there, find your lacrosse ball and roll out your glutes. Doctor’s orders.