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)
As the sun set over San Francisco, I drove on down to Potrero Hill to the most contradictory of CrossFit affiliates that I have visited, CrossFit Potrero Hill. Why is it a contradiction you ask? Well, the second you pull up, as a CrossFitter, you would know. In the re-done, well-manicured area that clearly used to be just massive warehouses, you see the huge neon “World Gym” sign shining through the night. Yep, CrossFit Potrero Hill is located INSIDE a “dreaded” globo gym.
So, I strolled through the front doors, signed in at the fancy front desk just past the food and drink bar and began to make my way through the gym. Sure, it’s you typical globo gym, but I definitely do have to give them a handful of credit, not just for the fact that they welcomed CrossFit into their space, but because for a globo gym, it was a pretty well equipped one. But I am not here to write about them, I’m here for the CrossFit! Head coach and owner Eric welcomed me into the cage and I instantly felt at home.
So, you walk down a hallway that the cardio equipment makes and you make your way towards a fenced in area in the back corner of the gym. Walk through the fence opening and you are instantly transported into CrossFit world. There’s a sweet pull up rig wrapped around the back curved wall, there are stacks of bumpers, kettlebells, bars, med balls, boxes and all the necessary gear. It’s not the biggest space, but it’s perfectly organized and somehow felt like it was one of the biggest boxes I had been in.
There was a pretty good sized class in for the evening, and each and every one of them seemed pretty pumped to get after it. It was a diverse group as well and I was really excited to sweat with them all, despite my complete fatigue from so many workouts to that point. With Eric leading, and coach Michael assisting, we all went through a great warm up while chatting amongst ourselves. We then prepared for the workout:
3 rounds of:
Tabata toe taps
20 ring push ups
100 double unders
This turned out to be a really cool workout. And actually it was the perfect burn out post crazy couple days of programming. The way this one was run was to do the toe taps (basically starting with one foot on a plyo box and then jumping up to switch feet. Each time your foot touches the box counts as one rep), then directly into the push ups and double unders. I swapped in wall balls instead of push ups as my shoulders were about broken in two. There was also about a minute or so break between rounds. Eric wanted us to attack this workout without counting reps or time, he just wanted us to get after it as hard as we could and see if we could handle the mental challenge of just pushing ourselves. I like this; I like the idea of not always working against a clock. We as CrossFitters get a bit over-involved sometimes in the classic “what’s your time”/”what’s your number” concept of training. I think that if you can every now and again turn the clock off and put your pen down and just get after a work out is a great test of where your fitness stands. Do you have the ability to work against yourself just as hard as you do against the clock? This is a key, not only for competitors, but also for any athlete out there. To make true gains in fitness, you need to be able to push yourself through self-motivation. Eric did a great job of getting all of us to understand this, and I was really impressed with the effort everyone put forth. Each person took it upon themselves to “get that number” on their tabata, and while I could not see the push up efforts because I was on the wall ball, I saw some pretty hardcore efforts with the jump ropes all around.
It was an interesting experience to be working so hard, with a group of people on ellipiticals watching us. It was the perfect example of being active for the hell of it, and being active for a reason. You can find endless articles and opinions from CrossFitters on globo gyms and none of them are in the least bit understanding and kind. Hell, I have been known to share my sarcastic and somewhat insulting words with people about the “benefits” of spending money at a gym like that. I don’t really want to get into that topic here at all, but I will say I still share mostly the same opinion I always have towards what those places will do for you. But having a CrossFit affiliate literally inside one, well that just bleeds contradiction like I have never seen. It shocks me that people can really sit at their leg extension machines watching a group of divers athletes banging out 3 rep max back squats and getting after prowler pushes without feeling bad about themselves or getting up and actually working hard themselves. The way I view it, Eric and his crew have stationed themselves in the best place you could possibly be to share with the world how great CrossFit actually is.
CrossFit began as a grass-roots fitness concept and has grown faster then, well hell, it’s like the Facebook of fitness! But most of these affiliates hide themselves; garages, warehouses, small locations in obscure spots. I love that about CrossFit of course, I love that if you are someone who wants to get fit, you have to find places that will help you do it. There’s no advertising or anything like that, just go find it. But CrossFit Potrero Hill plops themselves right smack dab in the middle of everything that is wrong with the fitness industry and just do their thing. I applaud them for allowing themselves to stand out. I applaud them for showing, rather than saying, how great CrossFit is. I WILL be back there for a workout or two in the coming months, it was quite an experience!
CrossFit Potrero Hill
290 De Haro Street
San Francisco, CA 94103-5124
As I finish this post I have one more visit in the Bay Area. I am so pumped to be able to get back on my own program after so much unknown this past month, but I will miss being able to train with all these different athletes! I know I’ll be getting back to a lot of them as I prepare for the CrossFit Games!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
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