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)
Today's CrossFit Community Month visit had me traveling north of the city to TJ's Gym. I wish I had more time with these visits especially for these situations, TJ just so happens to own three affiliates (a fourth on the way) and I was only able to visit one of them, CrossFit Novato. Again, for more detailed info, hear it from TJ, his co-owners and coaches, and athletes themselves on the video below, I'll give a little write-up here!
I walked into the huge facility just as a good sized class was getting under way with their workout, and I hung out and watched as they all tore it up. The gym is pretty easy to get to, just off the 101 and sitting smack dab off a main street, it's pretty much impossible to miss. Of all the locations, this one is the baby and it has a bit of a minimalist feel because of that. A few rowers, a string of pull up bars, DB's and KB's, plates and bars. Besides a few other odds and ends, that's really it. And while I like how open the space feels (it inspires moving around a lot, which is awesome in my mind) I know it will begin to fill up a little more, both with more equipment and members!
TJ is a soft-spoken, down to earth coach who exudes passion for his work. He has this quiet confidence that I am sure is the only marketing he needs, and it clearly works. I am fascinated by the process of getting people into the gym, and TJ shows (along with guys like Jay from Albany CrossFit and Jeff Martin from CrossFit Brand X) that all you need to do is follow your heart and keep pushing forward and good things will happen. As cheesy as that sounds it totally works, and in only a few years TJ has been able to form himself a little Empire in Marin County. Pretty cool. And the people he has helping aren't so bad either. Andy Boone is the co-owner of Novato and it is clear he is a perfect fit for building up the community there.
What stood out to me is the all around commitment to building and supporting their community. As a bit of a foreigner to the area, I learned that Marin and the surrounding areas (yes, it's incredibly beautiful up there!) are ideal locations for people looking to settle down for the rest of their lives. TJ found that this is the majority of his membership base (about 500 between all gyms) and his gyms seem to have that secure, friendly, stay-here-for-life sort of feel about them. I applaud him for really getting to the root of the community, then supplying them exactly what works for them. I think this is something that all gym owners, and shoot, even athletes looking for a gym should really pay attention to.
So on to the workout. Well, I totally screwed this visit up by not getting there for the class I walked in on, so I ended up getting the same workout in by my lonesome.
5 rounds for total reps of:
45 sec. Sumo Deadlift High Pulls 75#
15 sec. rest
45 sec. thrusters 75#
15 sec. rest
45 sec. lateral jumps
This was a cardio test if there ever was one and I honestly had no clue what to expect, especially since my legs felt insanely tight from yesterdays prowler fun. The board had a couple of the better times up in the low 500's, so I had that to shoot for. I banged out 133 in the first round, really picking up tons on the lateral jumps. Then 130 on the second round and it was downhill from there. The rests were nice, but going all out basically meant that no amount of rest would have been all that beneficial. I got 120, then 115 and 115 giving me a total rep count of 613. I feel as though that's a pretty good score for that. I also feel like this sort of workout is something I do very well with, the endurance focused ones with lighter additional weights (fight gone bad is like this).
All in all it was a great experience. I think that they had good enough coaching and resources for a serious competitor to really improve, but still keep that overall chill feel that will welcome anyone and everyone. There is nothing intimidating about their style, and there is a lot to be said for having that personality in a community that gets a lot of flack for being "scary". I really hope I can get out to their other locations at some point in the near future, that would be great!
Tomorrow, bright and early, I am out to CrossFit San Ramon!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
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