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)
But just with writing! While I have not been posting on any sort of schedule, plenty has been going on. I am re-committing to getting back on the writing, so be sure to read away through the holidays! So what's been going on? Well, I am now working out of a temporary gym space out behind White Flint Mall in North Bethesda. This is not the final stop for Courage Performance unfortunately (but fortunately, the last stop will be not so far away for so many people!). I am in the process of negotiating a lease at a spot that is about as ideal as anything I have ever seen. Fingers are crossed!
What else? Well, in terms of training i have been feeling very, very good. Friday I hit 1RM deadlifts in an empty Garage and was able to PR by 30# with a 535# pull!! So stoked about that one. Today I hit a 200# snatch. While this should be warm up weight for someone who has other lifts like I do, I have struggled so much with Olympic lifts that my numbers hover where my technique keeps me. This actually was a PR for squat snatches for me by 15#! Again, pretty stoked. This Saturday coming up I have competition out at CrossFit Hoboken, and the first is a snatch ladder. I fully expect to hit another big PR there. And on that note, please make sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter over the weekend as I'll be giving constant updates as things moves along.
Food update? Well, it hasn't been perfect I can tell you that much. But as stated before, I'm not too worried. I am feasting on plenty of food to keep up with the work-load of my training. My plan is to clean it up around January once i am feeling real good with my strength work and begin to cut the body fat down a little to make the running and gymnastics a but easier!
Ok, enough of the update crap, I know how badly you all want to keep completely up to date with all the inner workings of my life! No, no, let me get a little into some other stuff that I've been missing writing about for a while. Something that's been on my mind the past few weeks is leadership. I have been talking with and dealing with more coaches and trainers recently as I've been looking into expanding the company. What I have found is hours upon hours of conversation on what it means to be a good leader (while I speak of coaches and trainers in particular, i am sure it can be translated to any other form of leadership). I know there are plenty of points to be made here, but one that has been on the forefront of my mind has been the idea of having your students (I'll refer to them as "athletes" from here on out) respect you. I do NOT understand in any way why a leader would choose to scare the living crap out of his/her athletes. A great way to test how your athletes feel about you, or how you as an athlete feel about your leader ("coach" from here on out): how does the athlete react when the coach walks into the room? If there is a bit of excitement, a "hey coach!", a smile, a bearing down and getting ready sort of feel, then, I am willing to bet that coach is a damn good leader. But, if the coach walks in the room and it becomes silent, uncomfortable, stiff, and even awkward, well, that coach sucks! This does not necessarily mean the coach does not know how to coach his/her sport. It merely means he/she is a bad leader. I say this because I know plenty of people who are incredibly good at teaching the materials they need to teach but are horrible at motivating their athletes and making them feel comfortable challenging themselves each and every day.
I really want to touch more on how to react to this as an athlete rather than come at it from a coached perspective. I have been on the athletes side plenty, and perhaps that is why I have taken the time to find the best ways to become a halfway decent coach myself. So, if you're an athlete and don;t respect your coach, are scared of your coach, intimidated by your coach, feel uncomfortable around your coach, so on and so forth. Well, the most obvious response is to leave, go somewhere else! If that is not an option, go talk to him/her. Perhaps this should be the first step to be honest. One would assume that a crap coach probably won't take to criticism of concern very well, but it's always worth a try. After all, you are practicing your sport for YOU, not for them. And you never know, maybe the coach will open up an you things could change. But if he/she gets pissed at you for trying to be open and expressing your concerns, well, find a way to GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE. STAT!
But I'm sure there are still a bunch of you that can;t get out of the situation despite all of this crap (for example: a young athlete who can't just leave school becuase their sports coach isn't all that great), what do you do? What did I do? I nodded and smiled when the coach told me to do something I KNEW was wrong, then I searched like mad for coaches I thought were great and that I could truly believe in and practiced what they taught me. You see, sometimes you can;t escape from a crap situation. But what you can do is change they way you respond to the crap.
Always question, always voice your opinion and concern, always challenge. If people don't like that, do what you an to not be surrounded by those people, they will do nothing but bring you down.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
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