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Safety before intensity…

Posted On November 1, 2016 @ 12:00 am By: Kellie Cowles

For years I have kept myself sequestered in what was once a very small world called CrossFit, as led by Coach Eric LeClair at Team CrossFit Academy.  Following his vision, we created one of the very best CrossFit affiliates in existence and it has been there that I have happily and safely trained for the last eight years.   Now that I am directly focused on building my private coaching business, my radar is fine tuned on the fitness offerings at other facilities and I’m a little concerned by what I find.

For example, I know many people who firmly believe that as long as they get in their “cardio” they are giving their body all it needs to be fit and strong.  These same people also tend to think that the more “cardio” they do the fitter they will become. Historically, that meant lots and lots of aerobics classes.  Word seems to now be well established that muscular strength is at least equally important (although I’d challenge that it is actually far more important to strength train consistently), but it’s the industry’s response that I want to talk about today.

Combine the aerobics mind set with the knowledge that weight training is important and you have a blend of the two worlds that has my attention.   While I applaud my friends motives and self-discipline, it is still with trepidation that I watch them go to their local gym and do their “cardio” and “weight training” by joining a group class using something akin to barbells under the “guidance” of someone working out in front of them.  I’m all for live and let live, but how on earth can a trainer teach movement while they’re also exercising?  The whole concept is beyond my grasp and in my opinion anyone trying to learn proper weight training in such an environment is looking in the wrong place.

Photo courtesy of:

Photo courtesy of:

Coming from a primarily CrossFit background, I am very familiar with using weights in a group class.  I am also highly sensitive to  the skill required to safely combine the two and how easy it is to cross the line when technique is repeatedly sacrificed to keep up with the group.  Being a CrossFit gym owner, I am also well aware of what happens when affiliates spring up like mushrooms and start offering super cheap classes to draw business…  Granted the human body may be very resilient, but it’s not impervious and as we age the risk buffer narrows. 

Safely and efficiently working with weight under stress requires a well-established ability level of the athlete along with an enormous ability of the coach to monitor the application of the movement(s), especially during group classes.  If either the client fails to maintain the proper technique or the instructor fails to properly monitor the participant, the risk of failure increases exponentially. Relying on safety with “light” weight is rather naive because whatever leeway is granted by the lighter weights can still be offset by sloppy form and muscle fatigue.  

I can hang out on this soap box all day, but I’ll suffice to say that there is a time a place for strength training and a time and place for metabolic conditioning and yes, at times it’s appropriate to combine the two, but ALWAYS under the direction of an experienced coach.  Whether you choose private coaching or join a group setting should be be first dictated by your safety and ability, then by your temperament and goals.  Consult with a professional coach to help decide the best direction for your needs.

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Fortunately, exercise related injuries are largely preventable when working with experienced, knowledgeable and dedicated coaches… credentials not always available at your average gym or CrossFit affiliate.  So do your homework before you waste your time or put yourself at unnecessary risk… and spend the extra money needed to work with the best.  Your safety and results are always worth the investment.

At the end of the day, regular exercise is critical to your health and I fully support your efforts however you choose to express them…  But, please use good judgement, listen to your body and instinct and be safe out there my friends!


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