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How Dangerous Is Crossfit And HIIT?

We’ve all heard of HIIT, Crossfit, Grit. These types of workout are becoming more and more popular by the day. Men and women of all ages are sweating it out at the gym or Box (as known by Crossfitters); lifting weights, jumping, bear climbing, running up and down stairs, burpees and doing pull ups. These high intensity training methods are “functional” exercise that train the whole body: inside and out! Physically, they help to build muscle, tone and decrease overall body fat percentages. Internally dramatic changes to the cardiovascular, respiratory and neuroendocrine systems can be observed and measured.

These types of training methods don’t target one specific body part or area; it’s all about “functional’ fitness”. One of Crossfits’ philosophies is to train for the unexpected – to be physiologically capable and ready for anything. This means training to be cardiovascular fit, strong, flexible and adaptable.

But how safe are these high intensity workouts for regular people who seek to be ‘fit’ or sports weekend warriors? Can it be dangerous, and most importantly how can you prevent yourself from possible injuries? We addressed these questions to osteopath Lee Muddle, who practises in Canberra. Lee is also a director on the Osteopathy Australia board.

Can Crossfit and other high intensity interval training methods be dangerous?

Like participation in any sport, Yes there is an element of risk of injury. For example, Crossfit may be considered dangerous in a couple of ways.  If participants aren’t coached by a qualified instructor, who is educated and skilled in using proper techniques; especially for Olympic lifts and gymnastic skills, then there is a chance for potential injury.  Poor technique and/or haste in increasing weight or complexity of skills before suitably capable can be hazardous.

What are the typical HIIT/Crossfit injuries?

Crossfit (and the HIIT method) don’t have ‘typical’ injuries per se. They utilise ‘the whole body’ when exercising and no one body part is targeted more specifically or more often than another.  However, the causes of injuries from these types of training are ‘typical’. These include overuse, poor technique, lifting heavier weights than capable and attempting skills beyond skill level.

Who should avoid any kind HIIT?

High-intensity interval training is often introduced to participants who have been exercising regularly for a while. This is not a common form of ‘beginner or introduction’ type exercise.  Although it can be effective and time efficient in regards to fat loss, it is also very demanding both physically and mentally.  It’s not for the faint-hearted or beginner who may already have a dislike for physical exertion. The decision to utilise HIIT methods is not influenced by the age of the participants, but rather their sensibility and maturity to train within their physical limitations and to not push themselves senselessly beyond them. Similarly, the same guidelines apply to Crossfit participation, regardless of age, gender or even being pregnant; everything can be scaled as required.

How to minimise the risk of injuries, and can an osteopath treat the injury?

The best way to avoid injuries is to train under a qualified coach.  Training sessions should be programmed to have incremental increases in skills, weight, flexibility and mobility as experience is gained. Warm ups should be specific to the ensuing activity, cool downs may include stretching. Adequate hydration is also important, throughout and post, training sessions.

  • Should you injure yourself during a workout, cease the painful activity promptly and notify the coach.
  • Apply a compression bandage (if available) to assist with any swelling, and use ice if pain management is required.
  • Elevation (raising the injured area to improve drainage) may be tempting, but gentle movement of the injured area (within your pain tolerance) is likely to improve your recovery time and overall outcomes more

Osteopaths are fully qualified to treat and manage musculoskeletal complaints including those commonly experienced from participating in Crossfit and training methods utilising HIIT. Osteopathic treatment involves safe, gentle and effective manual techniques, including soft tissue stretching, mobilisation, inhibition and manipulation. These techniques assist in improving elasticity, strength, endurance, mobility and performance.

Q&A with Surfing Legend Sally Fitzgibbons

Sally Fitzgibbons is one of the hardest working athletes in world sport – and her incredible passion makes her one of SheSaid’s most inspiring women. A child surfing prodigy who dreamed of emulating seven-time world champion Layne Beachley, the 22-year-old holds the record for shortest time ever to qualify for the world tour, in 2008.

Addicted to any form of competition that involves a bat, ball, watercraft or finishing line, the ever-energetic Fitzgibbons lives for sport and for perfection. When she’s not on tour, you won’t find her shopping or attending a plethora of parties and events but instead doing anything possible to get an edge on her rivals.

Fitzgibbons is outspoken about the plight of women’s surfing, often going in to bat for her comrades in the name of equality. And with her infectious lust for life, endearing charm and clean-living lifestyle, she has become not just an amazing surfer but the ultimate role model.

She’s never had a drink, never tried a cigarette and the only speeding ticket Fitzgibbons has every received in her Mini was courtesy of dad, Martin. No wonder she’s proud to be an Arrive Alive ambassador, supporter of numerous charities and the reigning Australian Bachelorette of the Year.

SheSaid chats with Fitzgibbons about how she stays healthy and motivated, and where she gets her inspiration from.

What is a typical day’s eating plan?
I have to be really flexible when it comes to an eating plan as I’m constantly travelling around the world competing for the most part of the year. I try to keep it pretty simple and eat mostly a diet of fruit, vegetables and a variety of meats and quality proteins. Being lactose-intolerant I am a little restricted as to what I can eat and it can get tricky on the road but I love trying different cuisines around the world – often including some cultures’ ways of eating into my own regime. Like eating more of a dinner meal for breakfast; chicken soup or a stir-fry with vegetables and protein. It seems to keep me going for longer. I snack on fruit and nuts and I’ll often have a Red Bull before or halfway through a training session to help me push through.

How do you train on an average day?
Day-to-day my training sessions are forever changing according to what location I am in. I try to use my surroundings and create sessions around what I have in front of me. I use my training to help me see and explore all these amazing locations I get to travel to. I make my training sessions out of the water into a bit of an adventure, it can be anything from running to famous landmarks, biking, hiking, swimming or paddling kayaks or boards up and down the coast.

Having a competitive running background I love jumping in fun runs whenever I get the chance and Charity events like City2Surf, Biarritz Breast Cancer Run and I am also ambassador for Run Wollongong’s inaugural run which is raising money for Wollongong Children’s Hospital. It’s so much fun getting active and bringing a community together with exercise, it’s an awesome vibe. I’m also in the gym everyday for strength and conditioning on top of the my training sessions in the water.

How do you stay motivated?
I had the dream from a really young age that I wanted to become an elite athlete but wasn’t sure which sport I would make it in, so I signed up for every single one under the sun. Being driven by myself and my own will power to want to achieve this goal meant that I was constantly self motivated. I want to be the best so bad that I know myself how much hard work and long hours I need to put in. Great partners like Red Bull who are really supportive of my training definitely help when it comes to setting goals and making the impossible happen. There is still so much I want to achieve so this is what keeps me motivated and moving forward.


You have amazing skin – what’s your skincare routine?
It is hard to keep your skin protected from being in the harsh elements and the sun so much but I know how important it is to look after it and save it from getting damaged as best you can. I use a lot of Garnier products in my daily regime to moisturise and rehydrate my skin after surfing and use the BBcream as an all in one daily foundation with the SPF in it for my day to day go to. When we travel to extremely hot places I layer face suncreen with a foundation coloured zinc. Making sure at the end of the day you cleanse and clean your skin to avoid break outs.

Where are your favourite surfing spots in Australia and around the world?
That’s a really tough one to narrow down. There are so many amazing waves around the world and right at home in Australia. My top few in Australia would be the breaks on the South Coast of NSW where I have grown up Sandon Point, Werri Beach and Seven Mile Beach, Bells Beach in Victoria and Margaret River in WA.

Abroad I would say Fiji, Mexico and Hossegor, France are up amongst the top performance waves that I enjoy.

How do you like to relax?
I find it hard to sit still and relax, even in my time off I like doing a lot of things in a day. I love going hiking with friends or going on long adventurous runs. I am a bit of a sports fanatic so I try to go to big games and sporting events with friends and family.

Who inspires you?
I’ve always had a great passion for sport from this my inspirations were elite athletes at the tops of their sports. I loved watching those magic moments when you see them achieve their ultimate goals. Claiming World Titles, Olympic medals and personal bests. There was something really special about seeing someone’s hard work, dedication and sacrifice pay off. Athletes like Cathy Freeman, Kerryn McCann, Ian Thorpe, Robbie Maddison, Kelly Slater, Layne Beachley, Rodger Federer and Adam Scott are definitely ones I’ve drawn inspiration from.

What changes if any do you think we’ll see over the next 5-10 years in women’s sport?
In our sport of surfing I think you will really see it take off in the next 5-10 years. It’s gathering great momentum amongst fans and the public around the world and more great sponsors are wanting to host Women’s World Tour events. With the talent level at an all time high in our sport it is only fitting to see it get thrust into that main stream spotlight and have the addition of great events in world class waves for us to perform on.

As an Arrive Alive ambassador, how do you convince your friends to be responsible with drinking?
For me it was a lifestyle choice not to drink. I always wanted to wake up for the early dawn patrol surf and wanted to go and train and drinking never really fitted in with that. But I love going out with my friends and having a great time without alcohol. All I need is a Red Bull to keep up with them on the dance floor! I also like being able to look out for my friends too. I would always be able to drive everyone home at the end of the night and I felt that need to make sure everyone got home safely.

What’s your life motto?
A smile will take you the mile. Love what you do and make the most of every moment.

Greatest Job Ever - Wine a trip to Lake Tahoe
Greatest Job Ever - Wine a trip to Lake Tahoe