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 if words are stuck together (liekthis), for some reason when I save to a live post that us just happening)
After waking up in just about as much pain and soreness as I have ever been, I took the drive down the Peninsula to visit CrossFit MountainView. This affiliate is a very new addition to the Bay Area and is run by a real cool coach Alex Rollin. It is actually the second gym owned by Jason Khalipa, who I visited a few days before at his base gym CrossFit Santa Clara. Basically, click on the Mountain View website and you end up at the Santa Clara one. But head to one or the other and you will see two totally different boxes.
Mountain View looks a little bare bones but you could tellthe second you walk in there that what it lacks in equipment, it makes up for 100% in coaching, programming and hard working athletes. Located just a turn or two off the 101, it’s the last warehouse in a string of them. Head to the back and you see the pull up bar across the large roll-up doorway. Walk in and you are met with a pretty barren gym floor, a great pull up rig with rings and such along the back wall, bumpers, KB’s, bars, racks, GHD’s and rowers along the right side wall and a few plyo boxes scattered bout. And that’s about it. I came in for the noon class and was just going to hang out and watch them and then get a workout in with Alex afterward. The intensity thatthe class had got the blood pumping instantly in me and I was stating to lose the doubts I had had earlier in being able to actually workout.
Alex ran the decently sized group through some Oly lifting progressions and they all got themselves set up for their workout. This place seemed to take their fitness very seriously. But what stood out to me was the fact that everyone approached the workout at the highest level of intensity they could handle. What I mean by this is that each athlete clearly had the understanding that no matter what weights and modifications they might need to utilize, they would still go at 100%. This led to a hugely intense and fun class to watch. Some went for the ring dips, pullups, squats and run unbroken, others just prescribed weight, and others used modified exercises. It was clear that from the top down here, people knew what was going on and things ran smoothly and efficiently. More mental notes were taken on my part for my space!
After the class got after it, and after we all hung for a bit chatting and talking fitness, Alex, his friend “handsome” Dan and myself slowly got prepped for out little workout. Dan was a little hung over, I was feeling like I had been hit by a truck, then backed over by an even bigger truck, and I’m sure our enthusiasm for a workout was bringing Alex down a little. But, we put our heads together for a little burner and wrote it out.
3 rounds for time of:
50 air squats
40 total walking lunges w/ 45#
30 KB swings 1.5 pood
20 toes to bar
10 meters burpee broad jumps
This seemed like an alright workout on the white board, but right around the middle of the second round things just came crashing down on all three of us it seemed. Yeah, this one crushed me like crazy. The squats were fine enough all the way though, the lunges…good lord did they burn, and for me, my back just tightened up like crazy on them. By the third round I could only get 5-8 steps before standing for a little rest. The KB swings were fine until the back tightened, and on the final set I couldn’t even get 10 unbroken. The toes to bar is where I actually made up my time. I chose to use a staggered grip and this helped me to be able t get at least 5 reps per effort. The first round I got unbroken. In the end I rolled in with a time of 18:09, a little less than a minute behind Alex, and I was ready to just curl up in a ball and go to sleep.
We all hung for a bit and chatted and I really enjoyed that. Alex is a cool, down to earth guy. And with his background in baseball, we had all kinds of stories to share with each other (for those ofyou who don’t know, I did play a few years of independent Minor League ball). I would easily put Alex’s spot in that “classic” category, and even more bare bones than the ones I have already put in there. Yet another perfectexample of good coaching and programming leading to a well-attended gym,despite the lack of equipment and fanciness.
I know for a fact I’ll be hanging out with Alex in the very near future. If I were to surround myself with people I have met in California so far with the energy that motivates me perfectly, Alex would be in that group with no hesitation. I think there is nowhere but UP for him and his gym. And with the help and guidanceof Jason Khalipa right there with him along the way, it is pretty much guaranteed that his spot will grow fast.
CrossFit Mountain View
1280 La Avenida Drive,
Mountain View, CA 94043
Back on my own programming now and feeling pretty weak. I am excited to feel the gains though with the programming I am designing. I’ll post up in a few days what the program is all about. Two more posts coming shortly!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
Get Discounts Below!