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CrossFit: What To Know

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CrossFit is an exercise program that uses different types of functional movements, done at a high intensity. And if you've ever met a CrossFitter- you know they are passionate about this style of exercise. But, I found out it's not something to undertake lightly, so here's what you need to know.

CrossFit is the most popular class at the University of Nevada's Lombardi Rec Center. And it's quickly growing - only about a dozen years after its inception, the program boasts more than 5,000 affiliated gyms around the world.

"This is the most profound thing I have found as far as people sticking with it," says Jim Fitzsimmons, UNR Director of Campus Recreation.

Trainers cite the challenge, competitive nature and social environment as reasons for its popularity.

"When the students come back next week we'll be overloaded."

In a typical CrossFit class, you'll see participants lifting, jumping over, swinging on - and running around a variety of equipment.

The "Workout of the Day" or "WOD" can include just about anything. "They're things that we do every day. Squat down to pick up your child, place a heavy object on a shelf..."

But whatever it is - expect it to be intense. And if you're not careful - that can cause some problems.

"CrossFit is an intense, high-powered workout. But I think any intense workout can lead to the possibility for injuries," says Dr. Cheryl Hug-English, Student Health Center Medical Director.

Doctors at the Student Health Center on campus have seen a number of injuries come through the doors from CrossFit style workouts. They say sprains are common, along with shoulder and back injuries, and occasionally, something worse.

"Rarely, with very intense physical activity, there is a risk of something called rhabdomyelysis, which is really the breakdown of muscle, and death of muscle tissue."

Dr. Hug-English says the biggest mistake people make is not listening to their bodies, not resting when they are fatigued - and taking on too much too soon.

"Knowing kind of what your limits are before you start something is really important...The adage of 'no pain no gain' is not the proper mantra."

Of course having a good coach makes all the difference.

So here's what trainers say you should look for:

  • You want a gym that offers an "on-ramp" class, basically an easier intro version, to start with.
  • At the class, make sure there's a small student to coach ratio that the coaches are actually leading the exercises and adjusting the students' form.
  • Make sure the class always includes a good warm-up and cool-down period.

Written by Arianna Bennett

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