In the past couple weeks the institution of CrossFit has had a decent amount of press in comparison to the past many years. A good bit of it has been relatively critical and as entertaining as it has been for me, CrossFit HQ lights up the social media with all sorts of backhanded, argumentative remarks about the articles.
One of the articles was all about something called rhabdo (Rhabdomyolysis) which is a severely serious reaction to incredibly rapid muscle tissue breakdown. This causes all sorts of damaging toxins to release into the bloodstream and leads to some pretty messed up symptoms.
So, CrossFit teaches about rhabdo in their level 1 seminar, and even makes a joke of the condition by having created a CrossFit mascot named “Pukie”. Anyway, some people don’t understand it, others think it’s funny, some think it’s horrible, and some (like me) just choose to ignore it because CrossFit HQ has always tended to push the envelope with political correctness as they grow (maybe they think it’s cool, maybe they think it will attract attention, maybe they’re just a bunch of weirdo’s, who knows, but they’ve ALWAYS done it).
Anyway, I’ve had a handful of people reach out to me about this article and my thoughts, so I thought I’d write a little something about it.
I will give credit to CrossFit HQ on the fact that they actually raise awareness of it at their level 1 seminar. They are one of the only fitness companies that actually teach all about some of the potential issues that training in their style could lead to. Everyone who has gone to a level 1 seminar will have received a base-level understanding of rhabdo and how to prevent it. In fact, I have had some 5 trainer/coach (not CrossFit obviously) friends of mine admit to not knowing anything about rhabdo, so, credit to CrossFit there for sure.
So, because of the attention CrossFit brings upon itself, it’s easy to assume that training CrossFit will inevitably lead to getting rhabdo. It’s simply not true. Any athlete can get rhabdo, check out HERE, and HERE, and HERE. While intense exercise may increase the risk of more negative issues, it should never be a reason to avoid being intense. Sort of a simple statement that everyone has heard a million times, but: CrossFit does not cause rhabdo, coaches/trainers who push their athletes/clients too hard cause things like rhabdo.
CrossFit claims that since all their coaches have been supplied some info on what rhabdo is, they are actually better informed on how to prevent it than most other coaches. While the statement itself is true, to assume that all their coaches actually practice good coaching methods is a pretty broad and, well, dead-wrong assumption. I have met a TON of CrossFit coaches who have no idea what rhabdo is (and also have no idea how to protect their clients, program properly, or teach proper technique to most movements). To assume the thousands of coaches you put through a 2-day seminar actually care enough to remember and put to practice everything you threw at them is pretty ridiculous. And when you make a public joke of the condition by making your mascot a vomiting, rhadbo-inflicted clown, you’re not helping your cause all that much. So it should not be that surprising that people have a few negative, critical thoughts about the company. It appears as though CrossFit harnesses some sort of pride in the fact that their program has been known to potentially really break people down. A lot of people who actually understand health and fitness know that it is not CrossFit in and of itself that hurts people, but irresponsible coaches that do, as mentioned before. There are bad coaches in CrossFit, just as there are bad coaches with many other backgrounds and certifications.
But if CrossFit really has an issue with people criticizing them, perhaps they’d take a few seconds to change their very confrontational approach. Or, they should continue being confrontational (they claim to not intentionally be controversial, but libertarian), and stop acting all confused and annoyed when people question and criticize them.
Or, all of us people need to realize that this is just what they do. The people who run CrossFit have ALWAYS been pretty abrasive. And now that social media is so popular, and the concept of “trolls” has become a “cool” thing for bored people who think it’s fun to stir up conflict; CrossFit has jumped headfirst into it. And it has brought them TONS of attention. And they don’t care if it’s good or bad. They will fight incredibly established companies and people on twitter, they will talk down to established figures in their own community, they will “play dumb” to conflicts they start, and you can watch the comments and attention roll in.
In my opinion, this is a bit unfortunate and seems to be a little counterintuitive of CrossFit. The concepts that CrossFit originally promoted (and that Greg Glassman talks about when speaking publically) have been some of the most influential in the world for promoting health and fitness. Thousands of new, small gyms, eager to help people live better lives and support each other have popped up around the world thanks to CrossFit. It’s a beautiful thing. Many of the best CrossFit gyms that I have been to (the ones with the best coaches, intelligent programming, understanding of true community and support) generally choose to just ignore the actions of CrossFit HQ and continue to do good, staying out of trouble and controversy.
I suggest that if annoying arguments are something that cause you stress and anxiety, just don’t follow CrossFit on Facebook and twitter, and avoid reading the comments on the articles that pop up about it. They have said over and over again that they could care less if you follow them or not (I’m sure this has led to thousands of more followers as another CrossFit HQ employee has stated). If you like to get all worked up and pissed about stuff, read away! They will not disappoint. I personally find it entertaining here and there.
One of CrossFit HQ’s now-well-known employees made a pretty clear statement about CrossFits approach to what they choose to talk about: “Fuck PR”
My personal thoughts?
I personally love CrossFit as a sport. I train for it, compete in it, appreciate the athletes and what they can do, and how entertaining it is.
I coach all my athletes and clients in athletic performance, not CrossFit. Do you know the difference?
I love that CrossFit has helped create so much more attention to health and fitness. We’ve seen pretty dramatic growth in Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, gymnastics, track, nutrition and general fitness education thanks to CrossFit. That. Is. Awesome!
I’ve made friends and been able to grow my business into two gyms and a pretty successful blog/brand with direct and indirect influences from CrossFit.
I can’t stand the way CrossFit HQ chooses to act. It used get me so worked up that I would get angry (and even now I will sometimes rant on my dislike for them, or allow one of their instigating posts to get me started on a post myself, or even engage them here and there). Now I just avoid their posts if I am feeling like I don’t need more annoying things in my life.
Nothing you or I say will make them change the way they act. So either read their craziness and engage in whatever way you will, or just stop paying attention. But if you want to get worked up, and pissed off, and question why they choose to act like they do; well, you are just wasting your time and energy. Maybe constantly defending themselves and arguing will get old to them, and they will change (I have actually seen a slight shift in wording in that they actually ask for opinions rather than just randomly post stuff with the implication that they endorse it. Also they have been on a kick recently talking more and more about how scaling and modifying workouts are so important to beginners; and understanding proper movement patterns and technique are more important than times. So who knows).
Either way, CrossFit is here to stay, no matter how they choose to act, and no matter how you feel about it and the people that run it. Take what you will from it and try to ignore the crap if it really bothers you. There are plenty of incredible ways to get into health and fitness, choose the one that helps you the most and you’ll probably have a better life. Easy as that!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
PS - If you want to see what I'm talking about with the Facebook and twitter craziness, just spend 5 minutes on either of the those things on the CrossFit page and you'll see. I don't have the patience to link to them (plus, there are WAY too many and I can't choose the best ones)
This evening’s visit brought me to Coach Aaron Ryan’s sweet gym: Amity CrossFit. Located just south of Palo Alto, and directly on the busy El Camino Real, this place just pops out at you when you drive by. Easy to get to, huge space, cool coach, fun and hard-working athletes, yeah, good times all around.
It’s a pretty new gym and the minimal equipment shows that. But what it lacks in equipment it makes up ten-fold in its sweet location, how it’s put together, and overall size. The main room is a tad smaller than your classic CrossFit gym, but then there’s a little hallway that leads to another room just as big. And what blows my mind is that Aaron runs this place alone, impressive. I walked in a few minutes late but everyone was quick to welcome me to the workout. We all walked though a good active warm up and then everyone grabbed bars to set up for deadlifts.
Another aspect that makes this gym distinct is the fact that it has a proclaimed bias. Aaron’s background in barbell training has led him to focus his programming on strength and power. And what I instantly respected upon looking over the website and meeting Aaron is that he does not pretend to be something he is not. I have never seen anyone put on their website that if his spot does not fit well, go check out the other options in the area. He understands what he does, he believes in what he does, and he just does it. This is something I have found to be a commonality between the most successful CrossFit gyms. The ones who know what they excel at, and then focus on that aspect to grow their business see huge growth. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s just the same concept of following your passion. It’s motivating to me to meet guys like this because it reminds me to stay the course when things are a little up I the air. I guess I can thank Aaron not only for a great workout with his great athletes, but for motivating me outside the gym as well.
On to the workout! I took it easy while the rest of the crew worked on their final phase of Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program (yeah, heavy deadlifts yesterday…). I worked a little on form for a few light sets, but mostly just talked with Aaron, got some cool shots of people hoisting up heavy weights, and met the athletes. We then split up into two heats for the metcon.
3 round of:
10 deadlifts 125% body weight
10 KB swings 2 pood (32kg or 70#)
I set up with 255# for the deads and got after it focusing on keeping form throughout. I was feeling pretty fatigued through my posterior chain and it hit me on the third round hard. The KB swings really got me the most, it just felt...heavy. But I was able to get everything unbroken and finished in 4:14. I am sure a sub-4 time is possible; it would be a matter of taking less time transitioning between exercises.
What made this workout such a blast (besides the short sweetness with heavy weights!) were the motivating cheers of the rest of the group. These people had each others backs and there is nothing like that, especially being a new face and knowing that rather than being judged, you are being fully supported. I am a huge fan of a place that does not pretend to be something it is not (pretty much all of CrossFit), has awesome programming (surprisingly not too many CrossFits), has a supportive, helpful and hard-working member base (most CrossFits) and appeals to divers demographic (again, most CrossFits). While Amity does have a distinct bias, I still had an overwhelming feeling of that Classic CrossFit box I have been realizing I like so much. Kudos to Aaron for creating a generalized, overall athletic feel to a gym that has a particular focus.
3516 El Camino Real
Palo Alto, CA 94303
I have two visits tomorrow, then a few groups to train. Yup, got 10 visits in the next 10 days!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
Get Discounts Below!