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)
My visit today took me back across the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin Country and Tamalpais CrossFit. First things first, I have a hard time pronouncing Tamalpais, it's just one of those words that I cannot figure out for some really weird reason. That aside, I had an absolutely great visit to this place. Welcoming coaches, tons of high-energy, very positive athletes and a tough workout was exactly what I needed to get my day started and I got just that!
The place is right off the highway, just a little more then ten miles outside the City, once off the highway, it's a little hidden, but that sure hasn't held them back from bringing in the members by the boat loads. At exactly a year in existence, they have brought in well over 100 members, and they are expecting that growth to continue on. Two of the three coaches were in when I entered, Michael was teaching the 8am class, and Meshelle was working out along side the rest of the athletes. Then, for the 9am, (the one I joined) Meshelle coached and Michael joined the rest of us. They both were so down to earth and chill, and the members so approachable and kind, it felt like I was walking in to a Saturday morning home BBQ rather then about to lift crazy weights. But then, to add that extra appeal, their gyms set-up motivated nothing but hard work.
Walking in, you instantly feel like there is organization here. It's not huge, but has more than enough space, and has all the equipment to comfortably take care of their larger classes (they've been getting around 18 on a regular basis). Everything is home-built, the pull up bars, bar racks, plate holders, plyo boxes, and while I would normally expect that to make things a bit grungy and "dirty", they keep it pristine and organized. Their focus to these details is something that I feel sets them apart, they use their resources to supply their members with the best equipment and, coaching and information they can, and they keep things simple by figuring out ways to do all of this while as efficiently as possible. I very quickly remembered these guys from a video posted on the CrossFit Journal during their grand opening, pretty cool.
People started rolling in and class began. We all went out and got a quick 400 meters in, then, lined up in two lines and went though an active warm up reminiscent of pre sports game: high knees, butt kicks, squat jumps and more. This ended up boositng my energy like crazy, to be able t run around the gym with such a large group of people. After about 5 minutes of that, we all gathered around to go over the workout.
21 deadlifts 225#
7 rounds of:
7 front squats 155#
7 box jumps 24"
21 deadlifts 225#
Youch. While I was feeling fresh coming in, this one had muscle tissue break-sown written all over it. Bars and plates were collected and we took plenty of time working the different moves to make sure everyone was feeling comfortable. I really respected how much time they took to focus on this in fact. I feel as though with big classes, many coaches may feel like it's wasting time to go over the details of each move. But not here, and despite the inevitability of form failure with this workout, it was great to see how they made sure everyone knew exactly what was going on. And, thanks to that, plenty of people were able to scale their weights accordingly. Once we were all set up, it was 3-2-1 go time!
I was able to bang out the deadlifts unbroken, then used the time it took to strip off the 35# from each side to recover a little. The first round of front squats and box jumps made me realize very fast that this was going to tear me up quick. And sure enough, by round 5 was was flat out dying. My front squats were pretty messy, and I could feel the strain on my low back. The tightness was causing a lack of mobility in my lumbar spine and getting my butt down deep was tougher and tighter each rep. The load on my quads (and the additional strain thanks to me utilizing my front side too much under the fatigue) made the box jumps crazy hard. The first rep each round felt like I was jumping from sand to a 40" box. But I battled through, focusing on not rushing or allowing my form to completely break down, and was able to get everything unbroken up to the final 21 deadlifts. I got those in 4 sets and finished with a time of 8:47, a time I am very comfortable with; I gave that one everything I had!
After about 10 minutes of chilling out and allowing my back to stretch out a bit, I was feeling right enough to rack up my weights and chat a little more with all the athletes. Yet another gym where, still 30 minutes after class is over most of the members are still there catching up, talking about the workout and others, and just being friendly. I love that! There was not one person in the gym slacking off during that workout, we all gave it 100%, we were all drenched, breathing heavy and feeling good; and then, a bit of socializing, meeting and telling stories, and back on with our days. Nothing better!
Tamalpais CrossFit epitomizes the promotion of a fitness community. They host seminars, run challenges, have gatherings on a regular basis, and continuously expand their following by offering a welcoming and friendly environment. Their community is broad and inclusive, and, judging by the class I joined, a great mixture of all levels of athlete.
They welcomed me back any time, and I am sure I'll be taking them up n the offer in the coming months, not only to get a little better understanding on how to put together a clean, efficient and effective affiliate, but to hang with some really cool people!
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