Why I Quit CrossFit: My Neck Injury


I’m sad and humbled to tell you all that I had to quit CrossFit…

neck-pain-241x300.jpgI told you in my recent post, “I’m A CrossFit Newby: My Thoughts So Far”, that I loved it, that I loved my coach at Ruya CrossFit in Boulder, and that I felt strong in ways I’ve never felt strong before. That it helped my climbing, it was a quick and efficient way of getting fit, and that it’s so expensive that you’ll actually show up to classes.

All of that is still true. However, since I wrote that post 6 weeks ago, I injured my neck and had to cut back on CrossFit, and finally quit.

The reason I’m writing is to give you my thoughts on how CrossFit may or may not have contributed to the injury and why I didn’t think I could continue doing the WODs, even in a modified way.

The Back Story

I had a car accident in 2000 that resulted in whiplash, a bulging disk in my neck and a messed up hip. Since then, I’ve had every kind of therapy you can imagine to fix my neck. Rolfing and chiropractic work have helped the most, and I wouldn’t be a functional person if I hadn’t spent a lot of time and money on both of those things over the years.

Anyway, I was relatively pain free until 2008, when I injured my neck again by holding a phone to my ear with my shoulder whilst irately yelling at an innocent AT&T employee. I got off the phone and could no longer move my head. That’s when I was diagnosed with my second bulging disk in my neck. I spent about two months not exercising at all and moving my head only by moving my entire torso – kind of funny to watch, actually. Again, I got chiropractic work, Rolfing, massage, and acupuncture done, and finally relieved the pain and started exercising again. I invested in some belay glasses (prisms) so that I wasn’t constantly craning my neck back to look up at my climbing partner on the wall.


I got better.

The Current Situation

The day I injured back in the beginning of January, I had done a really intense partner WOD at CrossFit and then went climbing without my belay glasses the same day. I woke up the next morning totally f-ed.

Lots of pain and no CrossFit or climbing for about 10 days. Then I went to CrossFit once I thought my neck was feeling better. The next day it was really messed up again. So I stopped CrossFit and just climbed a couple times over the next week. I felt better and then went in and did a 2k rowing WOD – probably the dumbest thing I could’ve done. The next day I couldn’t move my neck and it was back to square one. Another week off with little exercise, it felt better so I did another WOD and I was screwed again.

So I quit.

Was It CrossFit’s Fault?

Maybe CrossFit contributed to the injury, or maybe it was just a product of me straining my neck to belay that day, or perhaps it was the combo of all of it. The reason I think I was re-injuring myself in CrossFit was not because of the exercises themselves. If I take the time, listen to my body and go slowly, I can avoid injury for the most part. But when I’m in a competitive environment and I’m being timed, like you are in every WOD, I lose sight of my body and start working through pain. I lose good form and use muscles in ways they are not meant to be used. I will do one last pushup even if it means my forehead is the last thing to leave the ground.

Maybe my coach could’ve modified the WOD for me, but even then I’d find a way to push too hard. Even when he was checking in with me every 5 minutes, “You ok? Your neck feeling alright?” I would just lie to myself and him and tell him, “Yeah, I’m good”. I’m a big dummy sometimes. My ego is large and I like to win.

So I’m sticking with things that are not timed and easily modified like climbing, slow weight lifting, and sprint sessions for now with the hope that I’ll get back into it before too long. CrossFit was just too much fun for me I guess. It’s getting better every day.