Crossfit, Boxing, and Movement.

Anyone who knows me understands that I speak in a string of movie quotes or silly made up words for anatomical terms; that covers my whole day. But if I was going line for line with the actor from my favorite movie, I probably wouldn't be able to recall his name. And I will never be able to quote How I Met Your Mother no matter how much peer pressure goes on guys.

I’ve never fan-girled over a celebrity, but last week there was a moment. There may have been a squeal in the excitement. Someone who inspires me professionally, who I count on to spark interesting meaningful discussion; she quoted me. It was a moment of, ‘hey, we’re listening’. And it reminded me that if I want my message to be heard, our message as physical therapists, I need to start talking. Thanks @themovementmaestro, you’re awesome. Check it out. 


The discussion was one that I have with patients and colleagues everyday in the clinic, in the gym, even at home. Is [Insert choice of exercise modality, fad workout, online training app] bad for you?

Unfortunately, crossfit has gotten a bad rep. That’s not because the crossfit workout is bad. There are numerous arguments agreeing with that assertion; We'll save that for another time. My defense, the quote that inspired my voice, is that “poorly executed movement and sloppy form in any workout can lead to injury. But sitting on your couch afraid of movement is exponentially worse.

As a doctor of physical therapy working primarily with the fitness population, this statement is a summary of my mission. Almost every patient that sits down to tell me about their pain, mentions something along the lines of ‘I know I should have rested more’ or ‘I know I’ll never go back to [insert sport, workout, class]. It’s not crossfit. It’s not running. It’s not barre. I want to scream this so everyone hears. The limiting factor is not the workout. It is you. 

That was harsh. But hear me out. Let’s go to a fun example. In the spring, a young guy in average shape came in with patella-femoral pain after boxing for 2 months. He told me his story, went through the physical exam, determined there was no urgent pathological cause. Told him to stand up and throw a few punches. He stared at me puzzled laying flat on his back on the exam table. “Get up and hit me,” I repeated holding my hands up. 


Nontraditional I know. Yet after a couple jab-cross combos I could see the problem. I’m no boxer, but I know you pivot on your back foot when you throw a punch across your body. He was pivoting with his back heel flat on the ground. DEMO: Stand up-keep your right heel on the ground-twist your knee in. Now imagine doing that for 45 minutes of an hour training session 3 days a week. Yeah, my knee hurts just thinking about it. 

Again, I am not a boxer. I am a movement expert. That is the definition of a physical therapist. We study movement. For 7 years. I may not be able to teach him correct boxing techniques. But I sure as hell taught him how to pivot on his toe and strengthen his hips to maintain that form. PS I’m not blaming his instructor for this flaw because even with verbal cueing he wasn’t strong enough to maintain proper form. So no pointing fingers!

This boxing client of mine, he came in saying things like “I know I should have rested sooner” and “I have to find a safer way to get in shape.” HE LEFT…with a clear plan of x amount of weeks to strengthen before returning to his sport. He left with the understanding that rest wouldn’t have solved his problem of poor form and poor execution. And most important, he left WITHOUT fear of movement. 

That’s the goal. The ultimate goal is to spread awareness that movement is the medicine. Everyone needs a few tweaks here and there. Be smart about your exercise. Listen to your body. Learn to ask for feedback. Seek out a movement expert.


Comment with your thoughts. Start a discussion. 

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