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)
Sorry for the delay with this video, but here it is!
I'll be playing a bit of catch-up with the posts for the remainder of the month, but they will all be up as soon as I can get to them. Here's to CrossFit!
This was a distinctly different visit than all the other ones because instead of joining a class, or working out with the coaches, I stayed for 6 hours as part of a gymnastics seminar. Basically it was a day of realizing just how out of shape I actually am. But, the good part was that i learned a lot of great progressions and I feel very confident in not only building my own personal skills up a lot, but in helping others learn how to control their bodies.
Roger, the head coach and gymnastics wiz at CrossFit Marin lead the class with coach Russ. We moved through things quickly but very thoroughly, and in the end, I know all of us in attendance had made some pretty great strides. But let's go back a bit and I'll talk a little about the actual location before getting into how the seminar was. Just like the vast majority of CrossFit gyms, this one was hidden from view completely. But once you find which entrance to drive in, it is impossible to miss. Two things stood out to me when I rounded the corner to the back of the warehouse complex: the incredible view of the mountains, with trails winding like a spider web towards them. And, the string of rowers and bars resting on the ground outside two massive roll-up doors. This was CrossFit Marin!
The place is big. Facing the doors, to your right is the gymnastics half. Just like your typical gymnastics center it is filled with tumbling mats, parallel bars, uneven bars and the whole collection of gear that inspires running around, jumping around, swinging around, rolling around and more. To your left is where you see all the weights, rowers, racks and bars. Then, to your far left you'll find a collection of what seems to be construction junk, but actually is all the equipment to their successful Parkour classes. They have everything! It had that down to earth feel about it that your typical family style CrossFit gym has. There was a group of very young children swinging around the gymnastics side, a CrossFit class with a few older people in it, a couple strong looking dudes, and a couple younger people in it as well. Then, off to the side there looked to be a personal Parkour lesson going on with a young teenager. Everybody was all smiles, and everybody was working hard!
I really think what stood out the most here was the view from the open gym doors. For me, and clearly for so many others, looking out on scenery like that just touches something deep inside that makes you connect with your inner workout animal. When I look out onto a mountain range, I want nothing but to be running around in nature, throwing my body around and throwing heavy objects around. I am sure that within the CrossFit community most of you know exactly what I'm talking about. I think that CrossFit Marin has that special aspect to it. It's really just a huge warehouse with a ton of equipment lying around; but with the addition of the view, it becomes something entirely different. Add good coaching (which they clearly have), add a ton of really cool athletes (they have one of the largest member bases of any affiliate I've been to thanks to all their different programs) and you have a pretty unique spot.
A good collection of CrossFitters showed up for the seminar and we all mingled and chatted amongst ourselves before things got underway. And things got going quickly. Roger got us prepped and we went right into tumbling. I would say we spent an average of about 30 minutes at each skill: forward and backward rolls, handstand progressions, muscle up progressions, planches, pull overs and a handful more. Let's just put it this way: we were there for 6 hours and we only had a 15-minute break to grab some food. Yeah, we got after it!
Rogers coaching was great. He talks very deliberately and clearly and you instantly understand what he's trying to say. What stood out so much to me was how much focus on safely and spotting we worked on and I appreciate that. Rather than just throwing us into drills and progressions, he really allowed us to learn how to approach this with our training partners and clients. All is all, it was one of the most informative seminars I have ever been to and as mentioned before, I not only feel that much more confident in practicing all this myself, but getting others to do it with my support.
Talking with some of the attendees and with Roger and Russ, I am that much more excited for what CrossFit has done for the “specialties” that are out there. I honestly feel that with the interest of the growing CrossFit community, gymnastics, power lifting, Olympic lifting, martial arts, running, triathlon and so much more get more and more attention. CrossFit focuses on becoming generally fit, more athletic, it focuses on allowing each athlete the means to attempt any sport. And because of the incredible effects of CrossFitting, people seek out these specialties and give them a try. I personally want to do so much more gymnastics work thanks to not only CrossFit, but to the motivating an inspiring instruction of Roger and his crew. Sure I can bang out “Fran” in a great time, and hoist a super heavy barbell off the ground. But what about having complete and total control of my own body. Gymnastics gives us the ability to understand ourselves in space. Imagine what you’d be able to do from a physical standpoint if you could do even a fraction of gymnasts can do. Yeah, it would be insane!
As for a video for this trip, it is in the works. Given the slightly different nature of the visit, I realized that I have to put a good deal more effort into the editing process. But I wanted to get the write-up up at the very least while it was all fresh in my head. So, apologies for the delay in the video but it should be up at some point this week.
I strongly urge any and all of you out there to seek out your local gymnastics center and set up a few sessions with an experienced coach. If you are in the Bay Area, CrossFit Marin is clearly top of the line. If not, I have a couple resources that are really great to get into them, and I highly suggest, CrossFitter or not, that you learn more about how you body works from a physical standpoint. Your overall athleticism will thank you!
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