If you think CrossFit is still just about looking good in a swim suit or lifting ridiculous amounts of weights, you need to read this.
I’ve been at this for three years (which is just a drop in the bucket for some), but the longer I stay in this game, the more I realize it’s a tool. How you use it is up to you.
I started my first CrossFit class about three years ago with almost twenty years of competitive volleyball on my body. I had painful arthritis in both my knees and could barely sit cross-legged without serious pain. The rest of me was basically still in tact and I had a competitive spirit, so of course, I loved CrossFit immediately. Ice bags and ibuprofen were still my main forms of recovery. Don’t judge.
Still, though, I struggled with the lifting aspect of the sport and it took me a while to graduate from our Basics program into full-fledged CrossFit. I remember getting my first pull-up and then my first rope climb, my first MURPH and my first Fran. Although I was feeling strong, my knees were secretly crying under my skin.
Bad form and too many jump/land cycles in my previous sports life began to catch up with me and despite taking time off and scaling and modifying workouts, I still had chronic knee pain. I know this now to be patellar tendinopathy, arthritis, trolls eating my knees…whatever you want to call it and I know also that it was connected to poor mechanics in both volleyball and in my new found love at CrossFit.
I decided to have one of my knees scoped. A decision I made not knowing then what I know now. Surgery cannot cure crappy form.
I rehabbed quickly and got moving again, because when you’ve played sports forever that’s just what you do.
But this time instead of rushing back under the bar, I did things differently. If I was going to stay pain free, I was going to have to change the way I move.
I learned more about how my body should be positioned under a bar. How I should get into and out of a squat with or without weight. What to do with my knees, hips, ankles and everything else to compensate for the ridiculous length of my femur. Because now that I wasn’t jumping or blocking balls anymore, my femurs were really just in the way.
I started to secretly hate my femurs for being so long. I started to hate my arms for being so long (they were meant for blocking volleyballs, not for snatching). I wanted to be better and stronger and my limbs were not on my team.
If you are thinking “but you are good at wall balls and rowing” – I’m here to tell you that yeah, wall balls and rowing are not CrossFit.
I ambled my way through proper form and very scaled weight on the Olympic lifts and I listened to my body. If something hurt, I backed off and tried to figure out what I needed to change. About six months in, I noticed something amazing.
My knee pain was gone.
I’ve iced my knees as long as I can remember since I stopped playing competitive sports. If I had pain (not soreness), I’d take ibuprofen and be ready to roll again. I could get myself through a workout, but I’d pay for it about twenty minutes after I finished. I knew I was making a terrible deal with the devil, but I wanted to keep getting stronger and speed shorts need some booty to hold them up (I’m still trying).
The thing was, once I started paying attention to my form, modifying movements and taking some weight off (see ya later booty) – my knees stopped crying.
My knee pain was gone.
Guess what? It’s been gone for more than two years. That isn’t something I could say for a very, very, very long time. And in a season of my life when I’ve got to work harder to keep on muscle and pain at bay, that is a huge win. In fact, I notice if I am down for too many days without squatting, my knees start talking to me.
Now this isn’t to say I am 100% pain free. I’ve had some low back pain (currently resolved) and some hip pain, and every now and again I get a little tweak in my knee, but it’s not that chronic achy arthritic pain. Being smart and combining CrossFit with mobility and an occasional stint with a physical therapist, my body feels really good.
That is important for me as mother of two young kids who require me to move.
I have to take responsibility for my own body. I have to be smart about what I choose to do for activity. I have to decide how hard I am going to go on any given day so that I can continue to be active for more days than just today. I’m not eighteen, so I no longer have the luxury of laying it all out on the floor in a bloody battle anymore. My days of that kind of training are long gone.
But (and this is a big squatting but), if I don’t move it, my body stops working for me.
I no longer use ice and ibuprofen as my main recovery tools. I look for recovery sources from mobility, my food, water and physical therapy.
My body has taken good care of me, now I just need to return the favor and be smart about what I do in the gym and outside the gym.
And guess what? I’m even starting to love my femurs again.
This isn’t medical advice. As always, you need to consult your doctor, physical therapist or coach if you have chronic pain or illnesses that limit your movement or if you are on any kind of medication that may prevent you from starting something rigorous. But do not let those things stop you from getting started. We don’t all start at the same place and progress is progress is progress. If you are not a great mover (like myself), you will always have challenges trying new things and new sports. Take your time, learn how to move your body safely, but move it.
Categories: Volleyball Life