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)
A couple weeks back my good buddy Blair Morrison convinced me to extend my CrossFit visits out to his neck of the woods in Sacramento. My original goal was to hit up 4 affiliates, but when reality hit, I resorted to just getting to two (a combo of scheduling and REALLY wanting to stick to a set program after being so crazy all January). So, I took off after my Powerlifting class and took the scenic drive to Sac-town.
Given the craziness of the weekend, and the fact that I was only able to spend a little more than a day with my girl (her travel schedule sent her away all last week, and she’s gone all this week again!), I have decided to post up both visits into one post. Each will get a video and I will have them both up tomorrow.
CrossFit East Sacramento:
I arrived to CrossFit East Sacramento with a bit of time to goof off before classes started to roll in. Blair and coaches Justin, Brooke and Travis were all there and we got to mess around on a couple things befog I went after 5x5 sumo deadlifts. The best part of the messing around was this hanging rope ladder they had; tough to describe but really tough! Basically this place looks exactly how I want my place to look. It’s a freestanding warehouse style box, tons of open space, TONS of all your typical equipment and a handful of extra that really stood out to me. Besides the rings and ropes and that cool rope ladder, the pull up rig was a DIY ordeal and had all different heights and even that “flying bar” option (where you can jump from one bar to another). All in all, this one of those gyms that I could see myself just hanging out at for way too long because of how great it felt.
As a couple classes started to shuffle in, I jumped on a bar and got a quick 5x5 sumo deadlifts, working up to 405# unbroken and feeling pretty strong with it. I then hung out for a while talking with Justin and watching their two classes get underway. The energy in that gym with these people getting warm was incredible, and it was so clear that from the top down, this place was the real deal.
What made this place stand apart even more though, was the level of professionalism they all had towards the program. It was eye opening to see how much time and effort was put into getting the gym to run the way it did and I can’t respect the group enough for putting their vision to action so well. And to top it all off, the seriousness that they had towards programming and how the gym was run did not stop them from being able to have a crap load of fun. I was watching two different classes being run at the same time and it was great to see how seamlessly things rolled along and everyone seemed to be having so much fun.
I would definitely go out of my way to get back here at least one more time in the next few months, not only to t a great workout in, but to hang out with the coaches and athletes and just feed of their awesome energy!
CrossFit West Sacramento:
After logging a couple hours there, Blair and I drove across town to CrossFit West Sacramento where we joined their evening class for a brutally fun workout. Now this place was a bit more of your “classic” CrossFit box. The thing that really stood out about it though, was the insanely high ceiling. It literally was a box of a gym, just a huge square; a good pull up rig along the back wall and two rows of rings hanging from the ceiling on both sides of the gym. A good-sized group shuffled in and we all got warmed up and then went through the Burgener Warm Up before working on our squat snatch form a little. We then split up into two heats and attacked the workout.
21-15-9 squat snatch 135#
9-15-21 ring knees to elbows
We went in the second heat and blasted out of the gates. The strategy here was to just chip away at the snatches one at a time, and then get the rings all unbroken. Once I got into the teens with the snatches I was able to feel a little more comfortable with it and tried to settle into to rhythm. For me, this was all right at the line of being to heavy to go fast, I never quite got out of breath, and I never quite felt like I wouldn’t be able to get a rep. I ended up only missing three reps on account of not using my legs enough, but all in all it was one hell of a work out. But the best part was the fact I got to work out with such a large group of people! It never fails really, get a good group of hard workers together (it does not matter fitness level at all, as long as they all are willing to work their butts off), and your workouts will be exponentially better.
I could tell from the coach’s attitudes and energy that this place had an incredible following. Yeah, not going to lie, any place that has a handful of coaches in the gym on a Friday night after 6pm, teaching a class of around 20 (with a good handful of people just hanging around cheering everyone on!) is a damn sweet gym to spend your time. Over the years I have found it more and more frustrating that I can’t find a good group of people willing to forgo Happy Hour or their typical Friday night shenanigans to head to the gym or out to the trails for a hardcore workout. And this place packed them in! Sweet!
I must say, the overall welcome I received from both these boxes was humbling. I can’t say enough for how cool and down to earth the Northern California CrossFit community is (at least the close to 30 affiliates I visited), and I know this must be the over-all trend around the world. The desire to just be in the gym, or out on the trails, or running around the water all day in the Sacramento area with Blair and his fitness buddies was overwhelming and I will not pass up any opportunity I have in the future to head back out there. It is the most incredible feeling to know that if you ever want to go do anything active, you will have an insane number of people ready and willing at a moments notice to join you. That right there was the feeling I got from being around Blair and visiting these two affiliates. Their excitement towards fitness in general matches mine; hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if it surpassed mine a good deal of the time. I love that.
I was saddened by the tough decision to cancel my visit out to Sac Valley CrossFit in Elk Grove. Scheduling and the desire to get back home to the girl led to keeping my visit to 2 gyms. I also had the opportunity to visit CrossFit Stompin’ Ground, and just couldn’t swing it. Well, I guess I’ll really have to head back out there soon!
I was able to et some great time hanging with my buddy Blair, checked out the spot where his new gym will be opening in about a month (insane how awesome it is!), and had tons of great conversation. Ideas are running wild!
Over the course of this week you can expect a couple things: LOTS of updates on the Courage Games 2011, a whole slew of posts on my programming as we get closer and closer to the CrossFit Games Open Sectionals, and, tomorrow, along with the videos from this past weekend, I’ll be posting up the big news in my life that I have been struggling with and talking about posting now for the past month.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
Get Discounts Below!