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)
Late Thursday afternoon Lindsey and I jumped in the car andzipped down to visit one of the longest running affiliates: CrossFit SanJose. I was already a bit bummed outbecause waking up in the morning I was more sore than I can remember. It felt like I had pitched 15 innings withboth arms with a weighted baseball and there was no way in a million years Iwould be able to get a workout in. Itwas all for the better anyway because the workout was insane volume on theshoulders! I apologies to CrossFit SanJose as this was the only visit in all my visits that I did not workout;but, it lead to me being able to get some pretty great footage of all the greatathletes!
I was welcomed with smiles not only from the couple coacheswho were there at the time, but by the TONS of athletes who were there aswell. Let me try to put this inperspective for everyone: The gym isactually pretty small in comparison to most CrossFit boxes. I would instantly place it in the “classic”category if I had walked in there during a down time. But they pack in the athletes in expertfashion. I counted a good 15 or sopeople in the class when I walked in, and there were a solid 12+ in the classwhile I was there, and another massive group prepping for class after that, impressive!
The place jumps out at you right off the bat with theirincredible pull up rig just inside the roll-up doorway. The thing is an absolute tank and has allthese different heights, even high enough to get a couple sets of rings hangingwith plenty of headroom! They have somuch equipment stuffed in there its incredible that they have so much openspace. There is a home-made med ballstand hidden behind the pull up rig, stacks of plates, bars, squat racks andmore along the right wall. Then thereare tumbling mats, rowers along the back wall. Man, the more I think about it the more I am amazed at how well theyutilized the space. And they really hadeverything and more! They also hadropes, climbing ladders, KB’s, DB’s, yeah, shoot, they had it all!
The class was run very efficiently. They did a handful of agility ladderexercises which I really liked, then went through some progressions for boththe clean and the jerk, working slowly up to some decently weighted attempts. Then they all got themselves ready for theworkout.
Ground to overhead anyhow for time
This basically meant you have to pick a weight and get itover your head enough to equal that total number, pretty cool! I am not even about to attempt to write outwhat the weights and reps would be here, but if you have a calculator, you canfigure it out. But I am not going tolie, it looked tough as all hell! Theyhad a 17 minute cap on this one just to make sure the next class could getstarted on time, and a lot of the athletes were not able to make it under thattime. But it was an all out effort ofhoisting heavy weight for an extended amount of time. I am so going to have to try that one at somepoint!
After the athletes caught their breath I was able to talk toa few of them, as well as a couple of the coaches. It was pretty clear from all of them thatCrossFit San Jose was a pretty tight community. They are the self-prescribed “Bad News Bears” of the San Jose areaCrossFit’s. What that means for all younon-film-watchers out there is that they are a group of people you would notnecessarily expect to be super dedicated fitness buffs, but they certainlyare. And that really shone true as Iwatched them all in there. There weredefinitely a handful of beasts, or “fiebreathers”, but for the most part, itwas just a bunch of average Joe’s working their asses off. I have to admit, it is really motivatingwatching a group of people who are NOT muscle-bound beasts workout like crazy!
Another interesting thing about CrossFit San Jose is theownership. It is co-owned by 5 differentpeople, all who have jobs outside of the gym as well. Crazy. Personally, I cannot imagine how that works out, but it seems to begoing pretty damn well. All in all, thisparticular affiliate clearly has a following that has been growing for a longwhile up to this point; and they clearly have no intention of slowingdown. It was incredible to hear how somany people had an intense loyalty to their program and that is something thatI find is a going theme with CrossFit. It breeds connectivity amongst athletes, coaches and friends andfamily. It makes working out fun!
Again, I really wish I could have joined the group for aworkout, I guess I’ll have to head back there in the near future to see whatthat is like! All the same, it was ablast to hang out with everyone, and inspiring to see the hard work and thehuge-family-like feel of the place!
CrossFit San Jose
1190 Dell Ave., Unit C
Campbell, CA 95008
Two more posts to come soon for my visits! After a few more visits in the Sacramentoarea, I’ll be back to my regular posts. Be sure to check out the updates to the Courage Games 2011!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
Get Discounts Below!