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 bright and early, still feeling broken downcompletely to take on a double workout with the athletes at CrossFit EastBay. I was actually really excited forthis visit for two reasons: first, they were doing a couple workouts that fitperfectly with my hopes to recover from such a crazy tough workout. Second, I was really excited to visit theOakland/Berkeley area of the Bay Area, an area I had yet to visit since movingout here!
The day started off with a visit to a track up in thehills. I got there a bit early and waspretty impressed with the amount of people getting after it up there. Right when I was getting worried that I wasat the wrong location, or that I had missed the cancellation notice, a noticeda group of definite CrossFitters walking on in. The high socks were the give-a-way.
The group was small but they were all clearly ready to getafter it and I was in some serious need to a good track workout. It was exactly what I needed to get thingsloosened up in my body a bit, and looking at this group, I knew I would be pushedvery hard! Head trainer Maximus welcomedme to the group and I chatted with a few of them as we got ourselves warmed up.
We had a set rest between all sets as well and just likethat, we were off. I ended up runningabout a step in front of a beast of an athlete and that helped SO much to pushme that much harder. I got a prettyslow, but very comfortable 6:45 on the 1600, then 3:01, 3:12, 1:12, 1:18, :34, :34, :35, :15, :18, :17, :16 respectively. I was so spent after this,but it was that sort of spent that makes you walk away feeling real good. All of us were gasping for air, but we allhad this sweet buzzing energy about us. And the best part: we were headed back to the gym to get after workoutnumber two!
Unfortunately, only ONE of the track folks (not countingwith myself and coach Max) actually showed up for the workout. Oh well, we had four others there and itended up being the perfect number for what we had in store. But before that, I have to go into thisgym. It was awesome!
You pull up to this massive freestanding building (lookslike it was an old paper mill or something) with this huge brick smoke stacktowering into the sky. There’s a hugefront archway, and to get in you go through what seems like a tiny little doorhidden the elaborate front. Duck on intothe front desk area and you are met with a classic welcome: a big front desk, abunch of snacks, sports drinks, and water for sale, along with shirts, climbinggear and a few other odds and ends. Thenyou look out into the gym floor and you see to your left a good 20 yards ofbouldering wall (differently angled climbing wall only getting about 15 feethigh). To the right is just a huge flatclimbing wall, but what blows your mind is what’s behind that wall. Towering to the probably 50-foot ceilings isthe biggest indoor climbing space I have ever seen. Back in Maryland I used to head to a placecalled Earth Treks, and I thought that place was big. This place seems so much bigger for somereason and it was pretty humbling to just stand there looking up at all theholds.
To get to the CrossFit, you got to walk past all thebouldering area and head to the back where a normal space would keep all theirstorage. Wedged into an L-shaped, smallarea is everything you’d expect from a CrossFit box: pull up bars along thewalls, bars, plates, KB’s, rowers, bands and a few other odds and ends. It’s not packed with equipment by any means,but for the space that’s available, it has everything you’d need. Max welcomed me back once again and I wasintroduced to another coach, Ynez. Agood group warm p and we were back at it for workout number two.
1 mile run
50 KB swings 1.5 pood
Rest until the clock hits 20 minutes
Starting at 185#, each athlete performs 1 deadlift, add 10#repeat, add 10# repeat. Continue goingaround until everyone fails.
This was fun. Itwasn’t super tough, but just enough to push the body a little harder. And, after the track work, that mile feltlike 3! I finished the first part injust over 13 minutes, but soon realized I had used a 44# KB rather than theprescribed 53#! I banged out a quick 20extra reps just for the hell of it. Thedeadlift relay was a pretty fun one. Weall took our reps and as we got into the 300# range, people started to findtheir wall. Max stuck with it through355# and then it was all me. This iswhen it started to get tough, I basically had to pull the weight, then stepback while a couple people added weight, then go and get another repagain. Surprisingly, I was able to getall the way up to 465#. I went for475#, but the second the weight left the ground I knew the form would bebrutal, so I stopped there. Was veryhappy with that.
I hung for a little longer getting some interviews and justtalking with the athletes. The communityhere seemed really closely connected. Ithink the space they worked out of added to that tight-nit feel; I also couldfeel that having that climbing space right next to the gym added a whole new,awesome dynamic all around. I amsurprised you don’t see more of that really. CrossFit mixed into the same spot with Martial Arts is a little morecommon, but it seems that climbing and other extreme sports and CrossFit wouldgo hand in hand.
Either way, I had a great time with Max and crew and Ireally do hope to get back out there. Perhaps I can get a little bouldering in before a good workout! I also have a cousin who lives up in Berkeley,so I have even more of an excuse to get up there. I highly recommend checking the place out, it really is breathtaking!
CrossFit East Bay
520 20th Street
Oakland, CA 94612
One final post in the Bay Area for my CrossFit CommunityMonth is coming up soon! I’m excited toget out to Sacramento to hang with my buddy Blair Morrison and check out a fewaffiliates out there this weekend!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
Get Discounts Below!