Nobody wakes up, jumps out of bed, and admires their bad self in the mirror and shouts – today is a great day to get injured!!!!

Ever.

Yet every day, hundreds if not thousands of CrossFitters around the world pull, pop, strain, tweak, tear, dislocate or break something.

This is not the place to decide whether CrossFitters are more or less injury prone than other athletes. I know from experience, however, that CrossFit Boxes can be injury-friendly environments. Most people who CrossFit push their bodies harder than they have ever pushed them before. If an athlete is training with an unknown weakness or physical imbalance, (and let’s face it, who isn’t) the intensity of the workouts can expose that weakness. Pop!

CrossFitters are infamous for that gung-ho, don’t stop till you drop and still keep going attitude. Rather than pay attention to the nagging body ache and stop the movement that hurts, they honestly believe that one more Girl Rx will make it go away. Combine that attitude with deteriorating form during a metcon. Tweak!

Finally, a weekend Level 1 Cert does not bestow a trainer the experience and knowledge he or she needs to ensure everyone is training safely. The two day cert just does not have that magical ability. Tear!

For these reasons and others, some would say fate being right at the top, chances are that you or someone you know has been injured doing CrossFit.

Injury is devastating. It happens in the blink of an eye. You have been training consistently, your goals are defined, and your schedule, diet, job and relationships are structured around the time you spend in the box. You are happier than ever. Then, one pull-up or thruster and ow! Shoulder hurts. Or that deadlift and Ugh! the hammie, the back, something is not right anymore. I know a woman who tore her ACL coming down from the rings after a muscle up.

Injury can be life altering and devastating for an athlete. Injury can also bring about deep personal transformations. Forced into a dead stop, people who are used to constant motion and performance-based lifestyles can experience unexpected, positive change as athletes, coaches, and as human beings.

Anne Berryhill is 46 years-old. Anne had always been athletic and competitive. When she discovered CrossFit at age 42, she found her passion and her tribe. She became obsessed. For Anne, every woman in the gym was fair game for competition, whether they were 25 or 45. She was driven to beat them.

At the age of 44 Anne qualified for her Box’s Regionals team. She was the oldest. With the sweet taste of competition stimulating a desire for more, Anne entered local competitions and in 2010 won the NCI! Anne revved up to Beast Mode. She trained for strength, focused on Oly with Coach Mike Burgener, and made it to team regionals again in 2011. As Anne describes, “I was in the absolute most unbelievable shape of my life. Strength, speed, endurance, power – I had it”.

Never satisfied, Anne pushed to the next level. She hired a coach who inspired her. While before she was training for herself, now she had a coach she did not want to let down. This increased her performance-oriented, competitive, numbers-driven way of life.

And then it happened. A Deadlift. Not even heavy. She felt her hamstring pop. She cried a little bit, finished the workout. Rested a week. Another Deadlift. Pop! A few days rest. Came down from a HSPU. Pop!

Anne realized that this thing would not magically go away. She started a 6 week physical therapy treatment with a hopeful attitude. When she showed no real progress at six weeks, she succumbed to an MRI. Anne had a partially torn hamstring. Shockingly, both hips also had a torn labrum.

Anne felt the debilitating devastation of injury. Her training, coaching and performance were the center of her life. Six months of healing, they told her. But as a driven CrossFitter, Anne decided it was “six months for everyone else, but not me. I was going to badass my way through it”. In her mind badass thinking was positive thinking. It wasn’t about healing properly. It was about healing fast.

To deal with the depression of her injury, Anne says “I put my heart in a freezer. I had already learned in life how to not feel too up or too down about things. So I froze my heart and shut off my feelings to get through.”

Timing is everything. Anne’s injury coincided with the eruption of painful family issues. As she began to badass her way through recovery, life slammed her into an emotional wall. Hard. For the first time, the woman who had always been in control melted down. Anne landed at a physical, emotional, and spiritual full stop. She realized she could not use her old ways of thinking to deal with her injury. Something had to change, but she had no idea what.

Following the advice of a fellow CrossFitter, she asked for help.

Anne’s recovery from injury became a discovery of a new self. With months of painful self-inquiry and, as she states it, a rediscovery of her Faith, Anne saw that her performance-driven, measuring self worth by the numbers, she will never do enough way of thinking was supremely toxic. “I saw how these performance-driven patterns that had motivated me my whole life actually limited me in every way. Like, if I can’t be that person, I can’t be anything worthwhile. CrossFit was a perfect place to live that out. I finally saw how driving for perfection and feeling like I could never be enough held me back from true happiness. “

By being forced to stop that daily drive for numbers, Anne says she learned how to find new, deeper sources of happiness and ultimately, be truly at peace with a different self. Her real self. It was not easy. “I was still training and coaching, watching all of my peers post every PR on Facebook. At first it was painful to sit it out. I wanted to be a part of that. Then, as I learned how to be at peace with myself as I am, truly at peace, it was painful to watch the old me.”

Still a CrossFitter and a Coach, Anne believes her post-injury self is a much better trainer and athlete. “I find deep joy helping others fulfill their highest potentials rather than pushing for short term numbers.” And I have found I am most fulfilled serving others instead of being obsessed with my own performance”. Always focused on form, Anne says her training and coaching style is also better than before, more protective of the body, highly tuned into safety and her athletes’ total well being.

Best of all, Anne feels that she is back to the essence of why she CrossFits. Because she loves it.

Kimberly Malz is a 42 year-old mother of 3 girls. A former high school gymnast, Kim suffered a back injury as a teenager and spent her adult years staying fit in step aerobics classes and the gym.

Kim is a Cancer survivor. In November of 2007 at the age of 36, Kim was diagnosed with breast cancer. Detected in its earliest stage, Kim chose the most aggressive treatment available: a double mastectomy.

During the difficult time of her diagnosis, surgery and immediate recovery, Kim’s husband began to CrossFit in their garage. Just minutes after her mastectomy, Kim hit the garage to join him. At that time, CrossFit was Main Site. Together they religiously followed the programming of Main Site and in 2008 as a post-op double mastectomy 37 year old mother of three, Kim qualified for Regionals.

For Kim, CrossFit and surviving cancer were deeply connected. Having a double mastectomy was an aggressive treatment, but no guarantee that the cancer was forever gone. For Kim, “CrossFit was a daily way to achieve, survive and a reason to believe I could beat Cancer. Every day I had a challenge that showed me the power of mind over matter, that I can conquer something.” Pushing herself athletically by attacking and finishing the Main Site WOD was a vital part of Kim’s ability to stare Cancer down and believe she would win.

Kim is no stranger to pain. In 2009 they discovered bone spurs in her AC Joint. She chose to receive epidurals for the pain, keep her rigorous training schedule and in 2010 finished 8th in NE Regionals.

For Kim, pain did not signal a need to stop training or slow down. Pain did not tell her she may be doing herself further harm by ignoring it. Kim was a mom, an athlete and a survivor who “had stuff to get done”. Pain, like Cancer, was something to overcome and conquer.

After Regionals, Kim set her sites higher: The Games. Suffering constant back pain, she pushed herself mentally through the discomfort and trained harder until she simply had to listen. When the pain finally forced her to get an MRI, she found out she ruptured her L3/L4.

Her choice was epidurals. Surgery would keep her from training. That was not an option.

Then it happened. One day in 2012, just like any other, Kim got into a GHD and experienced the most intense pain of her life. The pain started in her back and shot down her leg. It took her breath away. Kim finally had to stop. She scheduled back surgery for March 2012.

The day Kim was wheeled into surgery, she placed 59th after WOD 2 in the Northeast Regionals.

Kim had back surgery. This is a big deal. For Kim, however, recovering from back surgery was not as emotionally daunting as her daily life as a Cancer survivor. While recovery as a setback, in her mind this injury was something fixable. It was not life or death. Cancer shadowed Kim with a daily fear of recurrence, but her back injury had a knowable end, a light at the end of a finite tunnel. Healing from back surgery did not mentally debilitate Kim, it motivated her.

Still, as Kim describes, “the back injury shattered my confidence completely. Posterior chain is everything. I knew I had to heal right if I was going to compete again”. Kim spent her first three months walking countless miles – the only activity she was permitted. Her drive to push her body was now tempered by a new and powerful drive, a drive to protect. Never letting go of her goals, Kim slowed down and rebuilt her confidence by learning to train more safely, conservatively and smart. “I am smarter and more efficient. I work harder on form and technique rather than muscling through everything. I feel protective. I wear a belt. And I stop when I’ve had enough. I am always aware that I don’t want to do anything that is going to mess this up.”

Kim has a three year plan. She is going to the Games as a Masters athlete at the age of 45.

By Eileen Schreiber

About Metcon

Metcon Media is headquartered in Southern California and is a media company dedicated to promoting a healthy and active lifestyle through functional training and proper nutrition.
Metcon Media’s functional fitness lifestyle specific agenda gives our readers a variety of training and nutrition related articles, podcasts and video from experts in the field on fitness and nutrition as well as other interviews including breaking fitness and nutritional news, product reviews and advice from certified coaches.

View All Posts