Primum Non Nocere

“First, Do No Harm”

This fundamental precept of medical ethics should apply equally, and perhaps even more so, to the fitness industry.  We, as trainers and coaches, who are dispensing knowledge, skill, and advice to our clients and the general public should be held to the same ethical standard as the medical community to first, do no harm.  Yet in the increasingly growing world of fitness this standard seems to be severely lacking.

The vast majority of the population comes to us, the fitness professionals, to become healthier, stronger versions of themselves.  We have a responsibility to deliver this service to them at the highest possible level we are capably of, and to insure that we are placing their health first in our quest to get them fit.  Yet when we look at the fitness landscape it seems as if health has slipped the mind of many trainers, heck some of them don’t even have the word in their vocabulary!


In my mind there are a several factors contributing to the madness, but in the interests of time I will list only 2.

Crossfit, A Danger

The first one that comes to mind is the proliferation and popularity of systems (and I use that word loosely), like Crossfit.  It seems the brand has become so popular there’s a new Crossfit box on every corner.  Yes, the intensity is addicting, but where is the accountability?

From the Wikipedia entry on Crossfit:

According to Dr. Stuart McGill, a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo, the risk of injury from some CrossFit exercises outweighs their benefits when they are performed with poor form in timed workouts. He added there are similar risks in other exercise programs but noted that CrossFit’s online community enables athletes to follow the program without proper guidance, increasing the risk.[36]

Makimba Mimms, who suffered injuries while performing a CrossFit workout on December 11, 2005, at Manassas World Gym in Manassas, VA under the supervision of an uncertified trainer,[37]claimed that CrossFit poses an elevated risk of rhabdomyolysis. He successfully sued his trainers and was awarded $300,000 in damages.[38]

Articles on many websites criticize CrossFit for its lack of periodization, lack of quality-control accreditation standards for trainers or affiliates, and illogical or random exercise sequences.[27][unreliable source?][39][unreliable source?][40][unreliable source?]

Some publications have raised concerns that CrossFit promotes a potentially dangerous atmosphere that encourages people, particularly newcomers to CrossFit, to train past their limits, resulting in injury.[41]


The human body simply cannot operate at high intensity all the time.  By encouraging people to constantly push past their limits without regard to waving intensity, recovery methods, periodization, and well, simple common sense, the system itself is broken.  Under trained coaches who know nothing but – “push, push, push…” are a liability and danger to the people who put themselves in their hands.

We must do better.

Yes, there are many excellent Crossfit Coaches out there who do understand how to properly program training and intensity to get spectacular results for their clients, but the vast majority who simply drink the Kool Aid and follow the prescribed WODS need to reexamine how they are training in light of a more balanced, health first approach.


The second problem I see with the fitness industry as a whole which greatly contributes to the lack of a health first approach is the unbelievable number of inexperienced personal trainers teaching in gyms, fitness centers, or setting up shop with nothing more than a computer based multiple choice test judging their ability to be a “nationally certified” personal trainer.  These trainers may mean well, but they simply do not yet have the knowledge and hands-on experience to be effective coaches.  They do not have the education and training to effectively craft well-rounded programs for their clients and fall prey to the “flavor of the month” type training method or protocol.

More study, more knowledge, more training, more experience is required.  A balanced understanding of proper warm-up protocols, training approaches and methodologies, and cool down work is necessary.  As trainers and coaches we have a moral responsibility to our clients to give them the very best results they are looking for, but first we must DO NO HARM.