In 2012, physical therapist Jessica Johnson visited her first CrossFit gym. At the time, Johnson was thinking of writing a blog for fellow PTs addressing the safety concerns she had about CrossFit — a high-intensity strength and conditioning workout (and competitive sport) that was quickly growing in popularity.
Instead of writing the blog, she returned to the gym for more group workouts. “CrossFit became a hobby,” said Johnson, a PT at Rebound’s Bend North clinic who has visited more than 190 CrossFit gyms around the country.
A Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach (CSCS) and Level 1 CrossFit trainer (CF-L1), she regularly incorporates CrossFit principles into her physical therapy practice. “CrossFit blends three important components of strength conditioning and sport: powerlifting and Olympic lifting, cardiovascular endurance and the flexibility and mobility of gymnastics,” explained Johnson.
The beauty of CrossFit, she said, is that the workouts can be modified depending on one’s physical capability. “It’s not just about squatting with a heavy barbell.”
Johnson tailors her patients’ treatment plans based on their goals and fitness level. But she believes most people can benefit from CrossFit-based weight training. “In our sedentary lifestyle, many of us can get through the day without having to do much lifting,” she said. “But if we don’t train our bodies to be prepared for the times we do need to awkwardly lift something — like carrying a heavy suitcase — we are much more likely to get injured.”
In addition to integrating CrossFit concepts into her patient’s exercise plans, Johnson utilizes manual therapy techniques (hands-on soft tissue work and joint manipulation/mobilization) in her PT treatment. A practicing therapist for 18 years, she is board certified in orthopedic physical therapy (OCS).
Johnson also uses her orthopedic PT skills outside of the clinic; for roughly 15 years, she served as a volunteer PT in Central and South America through Operation Rainbow — a nonprofit that provides orthopedic surgeries and care for children in need.
Participating in the organization’s annual trips was a rewarding experience: “You come back from a trip and feel like you’ve done something bigger than yourself by helping others,” said Johnson. “The medical teams (composed of 15-30 volunteers) become like family.”
Similarly, Johnson sees the CrossFit community as a way to bring people together for a common objective. “Everyone is working on accomplishing personal physical goals,” she explained. “But you are part of a team that is cheering you on.”