With the CrossFit Open kicking off, we asked one of our expert team, Richard, to give his top tips for athletes competing and taking part in it. Not only does he work with a lot of CrossFit boxes across Dublin, but he’s competed in the Open himself so has experience with what really happens and what you’ll be facing with the workouts.
“The [CrossFit] Open is the first qualifying stage of the CrossFit Games. Any athlete who wants to compete at the Games must first make it through the Open in their region.” The CrossFit Open is also for every other level of athlete and sees those who take part pushing themselves harder over the 5 weeks than they are used to.
The CrossFit Open 2019 spans 5 weeks, with new workouts released every Thursday. The workouts will begin on February 21st and runs through to March 25th.
Every year athletes attempt to perform to the best of their abilities in order to see where they rank in their region or worldwide. If you currently feel pain, discomfort or tightness, now is the time to address these problems before the start of the Open.
If you’re competing and feeling a little bit less mobile than usual, our physiotherapists can help guide you in the right direction, whether it be to treat an injury or to give advice and help prevent further injuries during the 5-week period.
If you've participated before then you know that some movements are always present: deadlifts (often heavy), thrusters, rowing, double unders, chest-to-bar pull ups, and burpees, to name a few.
Each of these exercises, and most of the other exercises in Crossfit, can put a great demand on the shoulders and the lower back. Due to the competitive nature of the Open, athletes can push themselves past their limits and cause a muscular injury or continue to train and compete with persistent pain.
Every athlete will go through this at some stage in their training or competing, but what you need to determine is whether you are dealing with just another muscle tweak or an excruciating painful amount of structural and functional damage.
Nobody likes to be injured or train through an injury so, as we near the Open, most CrossFit athletes will be increasing their training activity. Look at the list below and ask yourself if any of these symptoms resonate with how you are feeling:
Unable to find a comfortable position
Pain stays at the same intensity for over a 48-72 hour period
Unable to reduce your pain with over the counter painkillers, gentle self-massage, ice or heat treatments
Pain reduces in severity but continues to be present after 10 days
You feel numbness and tingling in your arms, back or legs
You are dropping heavy items
You have difficulty standing on tip toes on one foot
Increased pain in certain movements - whether it’s an initial press into overhead or the beginning or end of range of your snatch or overhead squat
Suddenly tripping while walking due to a floppy/weak ankle (i.e. drop foot)
Loss of sensation anywhere
If you answered “yes” to any of the symptoms in the checklist above, the worst thing you can do is push through the CrossFit Open or any of your normal workouts. Your best bet is to seek out an initial assessment from one of our trained physiotherapists who can provide you with guidance, allowing you to return to training and the Open in a safe and effective manner.
If you are feeling good and want to prevent injury, below are some tips to help keep you moving safely throughout this year’s Crossfit Open.
Pre/mid and post workouts
Warm up: Everyone warms up prior to daily workouts on a regular basis but, from my experience when the Open comes around and all the hype is at its peak, people tend not to warm up sufficiently for the upcoming workout. You should be spending at least 10-15 minutes warming up the essential body parts for that specific workout before you start – this will help you prevent many injuries.
If you are not sure what to do for a targeted warm up, visit one of our specially trained physios to help you establish a safe, effective warm-up for every kind of exercise routine.
Your warm up checklist
Increase the heart rate: This gets the muscles nice and warm, as well as increasing the heart rate, which improves blood flow throughout the body. This should be done for 3-5 minutes.
Dynamic stretching: These stretches take the body through differing range of motions allowing the muscles, tendons and joints to be prepped and ready for the forthcoming workout. This will effectively warm them up to their full range and help to prevent injury.
Specific stretching/rolling for the movements to be performed: If you have a muscle that is feeling particularly tight or if you have prior injury or niggle, it is important to stretch and warm that muscle as well as the areas and muscles surrounding it.
For example, if you have a shoulder niggle it is really important to warm up your lats, upper trap muscles, triceps muscles and mobilise your thoracic spine. All of these areas work together to stabilise our shoulders, and by not warming them up as a whole it can cause a discrepancy in movement patterns and create injury. This rule should be applied to all body parts.
Warming up the movements to be performed: It is really important to mimic the movements that you are about to perform with weights. You should make sure your body has gone through the movements of the workout under a progressive load until you reach your workout weight.
This means that you start off on a low weight and continue to load the weights allowing your body to recognise that the load being placed on it in a safe and effective manner. This way you’ll know if your body is ready to perform or if it needs a little more warming up
During the WOD
ALWAYS REMEMBER TO KEEP PROPER FORM. No matter what time the clock has on it, never surrender your form because proper form is what prevents you from having injuries.
As an athlete who has participated in CrossFit Opens in the past, I understand that the adrenaline can sometimes take over and do whatever it takes to perform the lift or movement to get that extra rep. This puts you at a very high risk of injury and can end your Open competition early. If you're not sure of your form or are a little worried, pick a buddy who will tell you when your form is starting to crumble so that you can reset yourself properly.
So now you are done and that is then end of it … isn’t it?!
The answer is NO.
The cool down is as important as the warm up because it allows your nervous system and adrenal glands to relax and realise there is no perceived or heightened threat called a WOD which needs a burst of adrenaline anymore.
Cool down allows the body to not stop suddenly, which will help with faster recovery and prevent some injuries.
Important parts of the cool down:
Decrease your heart rate: Walk around or row to slowly bring down the heart rate. This will help to recover faster and to also start some of the muscle flushing to decrease the amount of soreness.
Static stretching: Gently hold stretches for 1 minute each to allow the muscle to relax and to return to its normal length.
Tip: Stretching should feel very comfortable and relaxing. If you push a stretch, you put yourself at risk of a strain. There should be no pain when stretching during a cool down.
I hope these tips help and give you a brief idea of what you should be focusing on throughout the Open to make it the most safe, effective and enjoyable one for you yet. If you feel that you might have injured yourself during one of the open workouts, do not wait too long to talk to one of our physiotherapists.
If you just want some general advice on prehab ideas or strengthening any discrepancies you may have then don’t hesitate to contact us and book in with one of our specially trained physiotherapists.
Good luck and enjoy the journey that is the CrossFit Open 2019.
Richard Dodd, Chartered Physiotherapist in our Stillorgan, Churchtown and Newbridge clinics. He also runs our dedicated strength & conditioning prehabilitation/rehabilitation facility in Stillorgan.