Very often, when we have an athlete come to us with some sort of pain, their first question is trying to understand what they could have done to themselves to cause their injury. They are trying to pinpoint the exact thing that caused their knee to hurt, their shoulder to ache, their low back to explode. What I always point these athletes to is the simple explanation that what likely happened (as long as there wasn’t any actual event, i.e., a fall, rolled ankle, accident, giving a friend a piggyback and tripping) is that they simply pushed passed their body’s capacity for load.

Our bodies are able to handle a lot of stress — a LOT. Look at weightlifters snatching 300#, powerlifters squatting 700#, runners going for 50 milers, women giving birth to children. Those are some incredibly intense stresses to the human body. What they all show is that the body is incredibly resilient and capable of some absolutely amazing things. It also shows that the human body is incredibly ADAPTABLE.

So what’s the point of all that and what does load and capacity even mean?

It’s not a perfect example, but let’s think of it like a 12 oz cup. That cup has a capacity for 12 oz of fluid. What happens when you pour 8 oz of water in? The cup can contain it. What if we try to pour 16 oz into that same 12 oz cup? The water overflows but it likely only makes a small mess. Now, what happens if we dump 20-30 oz in? We have a much bigger mess on our hands.

Same goes for when we stress our bodies more than they can handle! When we pour more stress into our lives and bodies — whether that’s the bad stressors from life or the good stressors like exercises and fitness — too much can lead to overloading our body’s capacity to adapt, and that is when injuries occur.

So while it’s not always 100% the case, in the world of the CrossFit box, when we are dealing with an injury or some nagging aches and pains, we can usually take a look at the movements we are performing, the volume we are performing them at, and the loads we are using as a big clue to what could be causing our pain.