Why High Impact Workouts Are More Dangerous Than You Think

A PT explains why everyone keeps injuring themselves

SAN ANSELMO, CA - MARCH 14: Stephanie St Claire does a deadlift during a CrossFit workout at Ross Valley CrossFit on March 14, 2014 in San Anselmo, California. CrossFit, a high intensity workout regimen that is a constantly varied mix of aerobic exercise, gymnastics and Olympic weight lifting, is one of the fastest growing fitness programs in the world. The grueling cult-like core strength and conditioning program is popular with firefighters, police officers, members of the military and professional athletes. Since its inception in 2000, the number of CrossFit affiliates, or "boxes" has skyrocketed to over 8,500 worldwide with more opening every year. (Photo by

A CrossFit deadlift. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

There’s a reason fitness instructors always ask about injuries at the start of every class. Almost every New Yorker can name a friend who has sprained an ankle in dance cardio, or had a megaformer incident. And everyone has a Facebook friends who posts far too often about CrossFit Burpees, Spartan Races and Tough Mudders and the injuries they incur.

At Professional Physical Therapy, the team advises their patients on how to avoid injuries during these high pressure, intense workouts that have become completely normal, but still end in bad ankles. Their PT team has worked with NFL teams and Alvin Ailey dancers to prevent injuries, so they can certainly help New Yorkers looking to prevent weak ankles or a Tough Mudder broken arm.

PPT’s Clinical Director, Michael R. Dunne, PT, DPT, ATC, told the Observer that while there aren’t specific high intensity workouts people should avoid, but they shouldn’t do too many workouts at once. That means no two-a-days, no matter h0w close beach season feels. Dunne finds the most common injuries are from overuse, not from a particular workout, although CrossFit athletes have had problems in the past.

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 24: Participents take part in the Tough Mudder endurance event at Dalkieth Country Estate on August 24, 2013 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The world-famous Tough Mudder is military style endurance event over 10-12 miles with various obstacles around the course designed by Briish Special Forces.

A Tough Mudder competition. Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

If your knees, shoulders or back has been bugging you, you’re not alone. “Shoulder injuries are typically from lifting weights with poor form, such as using weights that are too heavy to control, which can lead to loss of good form and possible injury,” he warned. Try going to smaller classes where the instructor can focus on your form, instead of ClassPass offerings with too many people.

If you’re into dance cardio, you’re more prone to lower body injuries. Dunne recommended purchasing the right sneakers, which is the perfect excuse to invest in a new pair. But before you turn to barre or yoga to avoid injuring yourself, know that poor form and not mixing up your routine can lead to aches and pains. “Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness from a workout can be expected. This soreness should get better and diminish over a 48-72 hour period after exercising,” Dunne explained.

While there’s no way to avoid injury entirely, at least mixing up your routine, focusing on form and sneaker shopping are helpful. And it could be good to avoid high-intensity races, because crawling through the mud never ended well for anyone.

Why High Impact Workouts Are More Dangerous Than You Think