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)
Sorry if words are stuck together (liekthis), for some reason when I save to a live post that us just happening)
After waking up in just about as much pain and soreness as I have ever been, I took the drive down the Peninsula to visit CrossFit MountainView. This affiliate is a very new addition to the Bay Area and is run by a real cool coach Alex Rollin. It is actually the second gym owned by Jason Khalipa, who I visited a few days before at his base gym CrossFit Santa Clara. Basically, click on the Mountain View website and you end up at the Santa Clara one. But head to one or the other and you will see two totally different boxes.
Mountain View looks a little bare bones but you could tellthe second you walk in there that what it lacks in equipment, it makes up for 100% in coaching, programming and hard working athletes. Located just a turn or two off the 101, it’s the last warehouse in a string of them. Head to the back and you see the pull up bar across the large roll-up doorway. Walk in and you are met with a pretty barren gym floor, a great pull up rig with rings and such along the back wall, bumpers, KB’s, bars, racks, GHD’s and rowers along the right side wall and a few plyo boxes scattered bout. And that’s about it. I came in for the noon class and was just going to hang out and watch them and then get a workout in with Alex afterward. The intensity thatthe class had got the blood pumping instantly in me and I was stating to lose the doubts I had had earlier in being able to actually workout.
Alex ran the decently sized group through some Oly lifting progressions and they all got themselves set up for their workout. This place seemed to take their fitness very seriously. But what stood out to me was the fact that everyone approached the workout at the highest level of intensity they could handle. What I mean by this is that each athlete clearly had the understanding that no matter what weights and modifications they might need to utilize, they would still go at 100%. This led to a hugely intense and fun class to watch. Some went for the ring dips, pullups, squats and run unbroken, others just prescribed weight, and others used modified exercises. It was clear that from the top down here, people knew what was going on and things ran smoothly and efficiently. More mental notes were taken on my part for my space!
After the class got after it, and after we all hung for a bit chatting and talking fitness, Alex, his friend “handsome” Dan and myself slowly got prepped for out little workout. Dan was a little hung over, I was feeling like I had been hit by a truck, then backed over by an even bigger truck, and I’m sure our enthusiasm for a workout was bringing Alex down a little. But, we put our heads together for a little burner and wrote it out.
3 rounds for time of:
50 air squats
40 total walking lunges w/ 45#
30 KB swings 1.5 pood
20 toes to bar
10 meters burpee broad jumps
This seemed like an alright workout on the white board, but right around the middle of the second round things just came crashing down on all three of us it seemed. Yeah, this one crushed me like crazy. The squats were fine enough all the way though, the lunges…good lord did they burn, and for me, my back just tightened up like crazy on them. By the third round I could only get 5-8 steps before standing for a little rest. The KB swings were fine until the back tightened, and on the final set I couldn’t even get 10 unbroken. The toes to bar is where I actually made up my time. I chose to use a staggered grip and this helped me to be able t get at least 5 reps per effort. The first round I got unbroken. In the end I rolled in with a time of 18:09, a little less than a minute behind Alex, and I was ready to just curl up in a ball and go to sleep.
We all hung for a bit and chatted and I really enjoyed that. Alex is a cool, down to earth guy. And with his background in baseball, we had all kinds of stories to share with each other (for those ofyou who don’t know, I did play a few years of independent Minor League ball). I would easily put Alex’s spot in that “classic” category, and even more bare bones than the ones I have already put in there. Yet another perfectexample of good coaching and programming leading to a well-attended gym,despite the lack of equipment and fanciness.
I know for a fact I’ll be hanging out with Alex in the very near future. If I were to surround myself with people I have met in California so far with the energy that motivates me perfectly, Alex would be in that group with no hesitation. I think there is nowhere but UP for him and his gym. And with the help and guidanceof Jason Khalipa right there with him along the way, it is pretty much guaranteed that his spot will grow fast.
CrossFit Mountain View
1280 La Avenida Drive,
Mountain View, CA 94043
Back on my own programming now and feeling pretty weak. I am excited to feel the gains though with the programming I am designing. I’ll post up in a few days what the program is all about. Two more posts coming shortly!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
The excitement for this one started well before I actually showed up. I have briefly been in CrossFit Santa Clara a few months back when my girl Lindsey went to her level 1 certification there, and it was an awesome place! So I was very excited to get back there and sweat a little with the crew.
I ended up getting there for a late night open gym time, but showed up a little early to catch the tail end of a class so I could see what the fun was all about. Right off the bat you could tell things were serious here. The gym is separated into two parts, with a stairway taking up the center console allowing a good path on either side to get to the second half of the gym. The front half has some wonderfully fabricated squat racks fixed to the wall, and a sweet double-shelved plate rack along the right side. The left side has a few benches and a ton of bars as well. Straight ahead you’ll see a massive white board hiding behind a string of rowers. Walk through to the back and your eyes instantly turn to the massive graffiti logo across the back wall. Above that you see the complex pull up rig, and there are a bunch of additional pieces of equipment along the walls. Overall the space is sneaky big, and to add to it there’s a huge outdoor space out the side door, and a great upstairs.
When you get up to the top floor you’re met with a huge open space with a desk along the wall, a big TV with a couch and a few arcade games. Yep, arcade games, sweet. There’s another little workout space behind all that, then, move to the other side of the upstairs and there’s a whole separate room where a massive jiu-jitsu class was going on. My respect for this place raised a few notches with the knowledge that they house jiu-jitsu classes. If you have read back through my old blog at all, you’ll see I was crazy into that for about a year, and I miss it so much now!
As class winded down I was able to chat a few people up and I felt very comfortable with the style of people I was meeting there. It’s pretty clear they have an incredibly diverse demographic there, but the overriding feel is pretty competitive. People seemed to be moving at a pace and level that would make you assume everyone there was a serious, competitive CrossFitter, and for me, well, I like that!
After people shuffled out (and a large handful of athletes just stuck around, awesome!) I was able to meet the creator of this gym. For any of you who know anything about CrossFit, you’ll know the name Jason Khalipa. He’s the winner of the 2008 CrossFit Games and a regular staple around the mainsite videos and such. It was clear the second I began to talk with people that he is a pretty highly liked dude around there. And yeah, he is a pretty damn cool guy. I personally had to wait a few hours after my visit to fully appreciate him as he absolutely destroyed me on our workout. The last time I have beat like that was back when I thought I could hang on a bike ride with a group of professional riders. Basically, the second we took off I was lost behind them trying to figure out what happened! I’ll get into our workout in a second, so, yeah…
Clearly, and I have seen this countless times, the feel of the gym comes from the top. If a head coach hangs out in jeans and flip flops while he/she trains, the feel of the gym is most likely going to be pretty chill and super laid back. If the coach stand there without a smile and drill you like crazy, the place probably won’t feel all that fun. When a coach has the proof of upper level athleticism, yet still is completely approachable, goofy, and incredibly helpful, you’ll get a gym like CrossFit Santa Clara. I have seen a collection of places similar to this through the 30+ affiliates I’ve visited, and it’s a beautifully unique aspect that really stands out. Jason clearly knows what he’s doing, not just because he’s a good coach and knows how to get people motivated, but because everyone knows that what he asks of you, he can do it, and most likely do it a lot better. I have been around a large amount of people who have established a sort of celebrity in their specific fields (it’s the baseball background), and inevitably you end up finding a lot of these people responding to that by being a bit arrogant and so on. Jason does NOT have that one bit, and it adds an enormously welcoming feeling to his gym.
So, on to the workout. We started off by working the snatch. It being open gym we had people doing cleans, snatches, squats and deadlifts; just working on what they needed working on. I chose to work my weakest link with the barbell, and Khalipa concurred that that was his as well. We stayed pretty light (I worked a few reps at 155# to perfect the form) and I have literally never felt as good as I did. I felt fast and solid, two words I can honestly say I have never felt with the snatch. Sweet. Then came the metcon:
5 rounds of:
200 meter run
5 man makers 35# DB (push up, row, push p other arm row, push up jump forward squat clean and thruster. That’s one rep…)
10 front squats 135#
I hung not too far behind Jason for the first couple rounds, but it was round 3 he just took off. Or, I just crashed. Going into the last round I had broken up my front squats into 3 sets and I was feeling about as close to dead as I could. I heard him drop his bar just a bit before I entered back into the gym and all I could do at that point was finish. Those last reps were torture and I finished in 14:28 (assuming about 2 minutes behind Jason). That was everything I had for that workout. It made me realize the benefits of heavy strength training. Think about it, if 135# is an easy front squat, then a workout like this would be much easier. Same concept for Fran. If you have decent conditioning, but 95# is a slightly tough weight for you, you are going to have a much harder time than if that weight feels like a toothpick. Jason is strong (a 240# strict press if I remember correctly), and that helps him a ton on those weighted metcons. Another weakness revealed on my road to the Games!
Either way, I had an awesome time during my visit with Jason and CrossFit Santa Clara. I intend to get back there a handful of times over the coming months to get to workout with a harder core group of people. It will do nothing but push me and make me stronger. I felt at home there, honestly, and I am excited with the idea of returning and getting after it with Jason and the rest of the guys!
CrossFit Santa Clara
1731 N. 1st St.,
San Jose, CA 95112
So many visits and workouts for the rest of the week! Let’s see if I can get though it all without breaking!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
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