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)
I woke up early Tuesday morning and got myself prepared for probably the toughest day of my CrossFit Community Month: 3 visits in one day! I really was not al that worried as each of the three visits this day looked to be so distinctly different and exciting, but, I was feeling pretty damn beat up from my workout with Jason Khalipa at CrossFit Santa Clara the night before. Either way, I packed up a load of food and hit the road for CrossFit Burn.
This was officially the farthest visit for me, being about a 1.5-hour drive from my home with no traffic. But the drive was great. I went thought the city, across the Bay bridge and into the hills; such amazing scenery all around. As usual, I had to do a few turn-arounds to find CrossFit Burn. But again (as usual) I was not let down in any way once I pulled in.
I would categorize CrossFit Burn as a “Classic” CrossFit affiliate. A pretty good sized warehouse space with a sweet graffiti logo on the left wall as you walk in. There are a string of squat racks and platform wood in front of that wall, with bars and plates lined up against it. Plyo boxes and other equipment line the back wall and then smack dab in the center is a massive Rouge Fitness pull up rig. What a sweet set up! I was instantly welcomed and ended up chatting up a few different people before and during our warm up. It being the noon class, head coach Jamie explained that it was a little more relaxed. People would shuffle in, get a good warm up in, and then everything would filter into the workout. I enjoyed that approach, especially given the cool people I got to talk to who were hanging out.
From the feeling I got walking in, to chatting with athletes and coaches, this place is one I foresee just getting bigger and bigger. From what Jamie told me, it’s a pretty new gym and already it seems like a staple in the area. Things just seem comfortable there. What really stood out to me though (and I honestly do get the feeling this is a very regular occurrence at Burn) was the variety of people that were there when I walked in. A couple people around my age give or take, a few older people, a couple much younger people, and then, a handful of kids. The fact that all of these drastically different age groups could hang in the gym without having any part of the workout compromised speaks a ton to the leadership. We all got to work at our own pace, with our respective weights, and we all gave it 100%. And the best part: the kids were all playing wonderfully while we worked out. One of them goofing off on a GHD and a couple others playing with the “CrossFit Ghost” they met in the office. Awesome!
5 x 2 back squat
Squat clean thrusters 115#
Chest to bar pull ups
Oh my goodness, my poor shoulders! With my arms feeling like they did, I was not feeling like this would be the easiest workout in the world. Then, when I felt like I was completely stuck with only 335# for the back squats, I became even more defeated. But, when everyone began getting their weights ready, and finding their spot on the pull up bar, I got a little burst of energy. I have to admit, the feeling one gets just before a workout when everyone in the room is truly ready to go is difficult to describe. There are so many levels of feelings you can have right here, and I can’t choose which one I like the most. I think that it’s all a matter of how you feel on a given day. With this workout and how I felt, having this particular group of people ready to go was so motivating. I felt like I was competing against the bars with all these other athletes on my side, rather than competing against them. That team feeling I got the second Jamie yelled go got me pretty fired up.
I blasted through the first round unbroken, and then hit the second round, breaking the squat clean thrusters into 3 sets, and the chest to bar pull ups into 4. Then the last round, the round that really got me came around. I ended up going to singles on the barbell after about 4, and the same with the pull ups after 3. I was spent. With the extra pump from Jamie at the end I finished in 6:42, a time I am very happy with for how I felt, but overall I feel it should be closer to 5.
I really felt like just hanging out there for a while after we were all stretched and done. The people were that welcoming and fun. I would like to think I’ll be back out there in the coming months, I just wish they weren’t so damn far away from me! But anyway, tons of respect for all the athletes and coaches that make up CrossFit Burn. I get that much more excited with each “Classic” box I visit, and I learn so much more on how I can build mine.
110 2nd Avenue S, A-14
Pacheco, CA 94553
As I write this I am down to only 2 visits remaining in the Bay Area (I am scheduling 3-4 out in Sacramento for the first weekend in February though!). I’ll be posting up a couple tomorrow as on the day I visited CrossFit Burn, I also visited CrossFit KMSF and CrossFit Potrero Hill…
Never Stop, GET FIT.
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