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)
Apologies for this post taking so long to go up!
I would say I just had the ideal Friday night for a guy like me! Besides the long drive, my visit to CrossFit Petaluma left me feeling like I had just engaged in an awesome party. But rather than a bar, or buddy’s house, it was in a warehouse gym, with crazy unconventional equipment, and a ton of smiling, out of breathe, stronger-than-before people!
Another “classic” CrossFit box, CrossFit Petaluma is located just off the 101, just north of, in my opinion, one of the coolest towns in America. You pull off right at a massive (and I mean MASSIVE) globo-gym, with restaurants and shops all around it. Then just down the street, in typical CrossFit fashion, you’ll see a little sign leading you around a row of warehouses. That’s where you’ll see the only roll-up door up, music blaring out, and equipment spilling into the drive.
The set up is a little different than most though. The pull up rig is directly in front of the roll up doors, leaving the rest of the space completely open. My visit however, saw the pommel horse and huge tumbling mat taking up most of the center space. This was going to be a fun night, I could tell! I got there a little early and chatted with Dan, the owner, for a bit before people started to swarm in. For a Friday night at 6pm, I was surprised at how many people actually showed up! And, as we got into our active warm up, I could tell people were as excited as me to get a great workout in.
An obstacle course!
100 meter row
Hurdle 3 plyo boxes with a sand bag
5 push ups
10ish meter DB bear crawl
5 jumping ring dips
Scale a wall with rope
Navigate the hanging cargo net
Drop to the ground using the bar
Lift keg overhead
Hurdle the pommel house
Shoot a 20# ball into a tire (if you miss you must attempt both the 12# and 10# balls)
Load a bar to 95# and do 5 push presses
Two hammer strikes (with a crazy heavy hammer)
5 wall balls
10ish meter handstand wall lateral walk
10ish meter sled pull
Oh man this was so much fun! We had people going every minute or so and we each got two attempts. And while people were going, everyone else was moving around the room, replacing the equipment to their starting positions and cheering on the athletes. The gym was buzzing with incredible energy as everyone gave it their all with a max burst. I ended up going almost last because I was running around getting cool angle video shots of everyone. Honestly, I was having so much fun just running around cheering people on that I almost forgot that I had to give it a try! I got rolling at a good pace and didn’t slow down at all until I got to the cargo net. There I took a second to make sure I didn’t lose a foot through one of the holes. Then I chose to back hand the bar and do a summersault over it to get down, I think that was the most efficient way to go about it. The rest of the course was just a test of staying smooth and under control. I got the first attempt in 1:55, then was able to get a hair smoother the second round for a 1:53 finish. I felt pretty gassed by the end of each attempt, but in the end I know it was about two things: body coordination and having fun.
Dan and I talked a bunch about the benefits of training with obstacle courses, and I think it’s something that is neglected quite a bit in adult training. CrossFit Kids advocates it a ton, and I completely understand the benefits. But, adults can share in the same gains by doing this sort of thing! I recalled the crazy fun I put my athletes through in the woods in Maryland last summer; scaling bridges and creeks, manipulating sandbags and chopping wood. These guys were mostly high school athletes and 9-5ers, but all of them benefited so much from getting out of their element and struggling through a massive collection of challenges. I have to give huge props to Dan and CrossFit Petaluma for utilizing this sort of thing on a regular basis.
As I mentioned above, Petaluma is a classic CrossFit affiliate. This means it’s a decent sized warehouse, filed with all the essential equipment, coached by a down to earth, welcoming, good coach, and attended by energetic, friendly, passionate athletes. Everyone met everyone, everyone supported each other, everyone worked their tails off, and everyone clearly respected and looked up to their coach in a “you’re the boss, but we still feel like peers” way. As I mentioned with my visit to Palo Alto, and similarly to Moxie and so many other affiliates I’ve been to, CrossFitters like this is what will keep CrossFit going strong.
I was supposed to check out Dan’s other affiliate (CrossFit Sonoma County) today, but scheduling got a little messed up and I was not able to make it. If I can make it back out to check out his “bigger” space, I sure will. I will assume it’s much the same though. If he’s in charge, I can see nothing but good things happening there!
I now have a couple days off while Lindsey and I explore Wine Country, I’ll be sure to share my thoughts on this experience, as I am confident it will be a good one!
Back into it full swing on Tuesday!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
Get Discounts Below!