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)
After my visit to Lamorinda CrossFit, I fueled up and drove back to the Peninsula to San Carlos CrossFit. I had a heard some great things about this place from my good friend and now business partner (for a few months!) Brendon at CrossFit San Mateo, and from Jason at Mad Dawg Fitness (he is the brother of owner and coach Breanne!). Needless to say, I was pretty excited to check them out!
I got there for a noon class where I hung and watched (getting some good video footage). Then Breanne and co-owner and coach Branden hit a beast of a workout with me.
Walking into this place was like walking into a fitness nuts fantasy. It was, as I am finding to be the case with most affiliates, slightly challenging to find, but once I did find it I was rewarded with hanging out in one damn awesome gym. You stroll through the roll up doorway, past a stack of massive tires and are met with an incredibly well put together pull up rig along the side wall. There are multiple width bars, square bars, I-beams and more, and there is more than enough space to get a whole slew of people swinging around on it. Then you look to your right and your eyes are met with a massive gym floor. A hand-made front desk along the front, rings and ropes hanging down from the center, racks and weights along the far wall and enough space for a the class to run around and feel like kids (while throwing around tons of weight as well!).
I was instantly excited to hang there for a while, and I knew that I was going to have a great time. Breanne invited me in as her noon class shuffled in and got to work, and soon after Branden came in to hang out and chat with me while the class went on. I could tell right off the bat that these coaches took their job seriously. They were fun, they joked, they goofed around and all, but when it was time to work, their instruction was top-notch. Each athlete clearly worked their butts off, and I could see that they responded very well to the cues they received. The believability of the coaches was strong there. What I mean is that when one of them said something, you honesty listened because you KNEW they not only understood it, but practiced it a ton themselves. I felt it personally when we hit some squats to start off our workout. To hear Branden’s support through my reps was motivating. As a coach myself, I am very aware of the effects of another coach on me while I workout, and these two had a great effect!
I would most closely compare San Carlos CrossFit to CrossFit Pleasanton; it is a place you go if you want to have an awesome time but to get some very serious work at as well. They don’t mess around at all, but they have found that perfect balance of hard work and good times. On a personal level, this was the exact type of place I could see myself training on a regular basis. An additional aspect that made this gym pop to me was that it was organized so well. Because of the look, it seemed like they had the most elite of all equipment there, but, interestingly enough, most of the equipment and features there were hand made. Awesome! The plyo boxes, the bar holders, the pull up rig, the plate holders, the foam roller stand, the front desk and on and on. I love a place that can be like a DIY gym but still come across as a clean, organized workout space. Lets just say I learned a good bit for the future of my gym!
After watching the noon athletes take their beating (pause squats and a row/run, long metcon), I got to see what was in store for me:
3x3 pause squats
“The Courage 300”
100 meter keg sprint (I got the 100#...)
50 KB swings 44#
60 sec. rest
100 m keg sprint
50 double unders
60 sec. rest
100 m keg sprint
50 box jumps
60 sec. rest
100 m keg sprint
50 pull ups
60 sec. rest
100 m keg sprint
50 calories row
60 sec. rest
100 m keg sprint
50 tire flips (heavy as hell!)
Man oh man was I excited!! The pause squats were perfect to open up my now insanely tight low back, and I worked to an easy 275# to get loosened up. We then set up our stations and prepared to get after it. This was a very interestingly put together workout. The rests were perfect, enough to give you a little juice for each round, but not enough to allow you to go crazy, or to allow you to lose intensity. Each 50 rep-er took enough out of you to make the next one that much harder, and honestly; the row took it all out of me. I got the swings, double unders and box jumps all unbroken. Then, with the pull ups I had to drop from the bar at 25 and get 8’s and 5’s after that. I was able to pull away at the box jumps, but Breanne caught me at the tire flips and blew past. I tried my best to match her flips, but I just had nothing left at all. She came in at 23:17, about 2 flips ahead of me. And I came in at 23:30. Branden came in not to long after that and we all were good and toasted at that point.
Yeah, what a great time with a couple great people. I am certain that over the next handful of months I will be back down to visit and get some good workouts in. Their welcoming personalities, their great space, and the fact the Breanne and her brother Jason are both training for the same thing as me, the CrossFit Games, I am sure it would help all of us to workout together!
San Carlos CrossFit
551 Taylor Way Unit #4
San Carlos, CA 94070
One more week of crazy visits and I am expecting an amazing week! I should have the post from my all-day visit to CrossFit Marin up tomorrow!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
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