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 visit found me at CrossFit San Ramon in, yup, you guessed it, San Ramon! This was a bright and early visit, and getting from my house in San Mateo/Burlingame to way out there by 6:30am was a mental challenge in and of itself. But, it was SO worth it. I was getting frustrated right off the bat because the fog driving up to the place was so dense I couldn't see any buildings, and there was no sign around. Finally, after driving back and forth a couple times, I spotted a person running towards the side of a building and sure enough, there it was! The smiles started quickly though, and I had an awesome time all around. Coach Dusty, who chatted with me for a couple minutes until we were interrupted by someone calling my name, welcomed me. Who the hell would know me here?! It turned out Heather, an old friend I had met, and actually trained a little bit back in DC worked out here! And (forgive me guys if I get this wrong...) her cousin (?) Leigh! So pumped to see both of them and it made me feel that much more at home. I quickly met the owner Tim, and as people shuffled in I was introduced to all of them.
CrossFit San Ramon reminds me a lot of CrossFit Southwest. It's in a cavernous warehouse; pull up bars along the back wall, and the rest of the equipment surrounding the open floor space. There was a grungy feel about it that inspired hard work, yet the coach’s attitudes, and the large group of athletes gearing up for the workout gave it that friendly, personal, almost warming touch. It was a pretty cool combo. There was nothing overly aggressive or passive about them, and Tim touched on how he promotes a much broader, general personality to the gym. I think it's one of those places that anyone would feel comfortable going to (except for the freezing cold temperatures that had us all really ready to get moving!).
Dusty took us through a great warm up that included some ball rolling over the feet and calves, and then some partner med ball work. We then set up for the workout:
5 rounds of max reps ring rows
50 box jumps 24”
1000 meter hill run
50 thrusters 45#
I teamed up with a couple guys and we took turns on the rows while talking about fitness. Everyone I talked to was really nice, very open and positive, and that just helped to make me feel that much better about being in a new place for the first time. I got 16, 15, 12, 10 and 8 on the rows (I think…), then helped as everyone set up for the metcon. The box jumps felt so much better than last time I did them (I just had no energy then it turned out, so strange) and I got them all unbroken, headed out into the run ahead of the group. A beast of an athlete breezed past me about halfway up the steep incline and to be honest, I actually enjoyed having someone right in front of me; it gave me something to push towards. Something else to add here: with each person I passed as I ran the 1000 meters back down I was able to share a “great job” or, “looking good” and all of them returned the motivation, it was great! I grabbed the bar for the final 50 reps and was feeling surprisingly fresh. I banged them all out unbroken and finished in 6:10. Felt very good with that time.
After the workout people hung around for a while, yet another thing I love about Crossfit, everyone just likes to hang out in the gym! I was able to chat a few more people up before heading out with Tim for a personal POSE Running session.
This. Was. Awesome! Tim is one of like 7 level-3 POSE coaches in the country, AND a CrossFit Endurance coach and did an amazing job at explaining what POSE is all about. It all made such perfect sense. Using gravity and the most efficient ranges of motion and mechanics of the body, you end up just effortlessly moving through space. And it feels so smooth no matter what; up hills, down hills, backwards, it’s crazy. The basic concept is shorter stride, mid-foot strike over heel strike, pulling your feet and knees up rather than slamming your feet down and pushing off the ground. Then there’s the lean. Basically, your speed is controlled by how much your lean. And this is an angle created by your entire body, not just from your waist up. I highly recommend looking into this more (I supplied a few links at the bottom, but if you are in the Bay Area, go check out Tim!).
All in all I had yet another great experience. Tim and Dusty run an awesome show out of San Ramon, and people in the area clearly take a liking to what they have going on. With Tim’s running and endurance expertise, and Dusty on the programming, they are a great representation of what generalized physical preparedness, the mantra of CrossFit, is all about.
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