Monday, September 30, 2013

CrossFit's Dirty Little Secret?

There has been a huge fuss lately about the downfalls of CrossFit.  The biggest of these is that CrossFit can literally kill you by giving you rhabdomyolysis.  This article has been circulating the blogs and Facebook and has been scaring the crap out of anyone who reads it - especially those who aren't familiar with rhabdo and CrossFit in general.  There was even a piece on the news about the dangers of rhabdo and CrossFit - I literally got phone calls after that asking me if I should really be doing this stuff.    

Yes.  I should be doing this stuff.  This stuff has saved my life.  

So... what is rhabdomyolysis?  Well... according to WebMD:
Rhabdomyolysis is a serious syndrome due to a direct or indirect muscle injury. It results from a breakdown of muscle fibers and release of their contents into the bloodstream. This can lead to complications such as kidney (renal) failure. This occurs when the kidneys cannot remove waste and concentrated urine. In rare cases, rhabdomyolysis can even cause death. 
 Basically... broken down muscles releasing potassium into your blood stream = bad.  

This is a legitimate thing to be concerned about.  Rhabdo is scary and can be incredibly dangerous - even deadly.  But here's the deal - most people can do CrossFit for their entire lives and never come close to contracting rhabdo.  I know I'm not a doctor (although one of my favorite people is a medical student and I feel much smarter just by looking at her fancy books) - and I'm definitely not trying to give medical advice.  Not in the least.  I'm not qualified for that. But I am qualified as a CrossFit coach.

Here's the deal.  Rhabdo is bad.  As coaches, it is our responsibility to let you know about the dangers of it.  When I first started CrossFit, I remember complaining about not being able to get out of bed because I hurt so badly.  My trainer told me to make sure that I didn't pee coke color - and that if I did to take myself immediately to the hospital.  Not going to lie... this was alarming as a CrossFit baby.  But she explained what rhabdo was and we very quickly and easily deduced that I didn't have rhabdo, but that I was just sore- you know, from lifting heavy weights and being active like I hadn't been in years.  CrossFit will make you sore.  Sometimes incredibly sore.  But just because your abs hurt for days after doing Barbara (not that I would know anything about that!) - doesn't mean you have rhabdo.  

As coaches, we do our best to make sure that you don't jump into a workout with 150% intensity until you are ready.  We make sure that you aren't forcing yourself to lift heavier than you are ready to.  We will scale workouts to your appropriate level.  We encourage you to push yourself but to only go as far as you can safely go.  We do what we can to keep you safe and healthy at the gym.  But we also need your help - we don't know what it feels like for you.  We can tell when you look fatigued, but we have no idea when you hit the point that something hurts (unless you make that awful 'I'm in pain' face).  Tell us.  Tell us what is going on with you and what hurts.  Help us to keep you safe and healthy at the gym.  We will do everything that we can to help you avoid injuries and rhabdo (we actually like seeing your sweaty selves at the gym and want you to come back!) but you've got to put the ego aside sometimes and ask for help.  I know it's tough - I'm a CrossFitter too.  It's tough for me to say 'I'm done - this hurts and it's not the normal hurt'.  

Try not to worry about rhabdo. It definitely happens, but it's rare.  Be smart.  Don't push yourself so ridiculously hard - you aren't Rich Froning.  Drink lots of water.  Eat healthy.  Listen to your coaches.  And if you are really concerned about rhabdo - educate yourself.  The CrossFit Journal has some great articles on it and can be a great resource.  It's one of the places that I go when I'm in need of more information.  They also have great links to outside articles and additional resources. 

CrossFit can be a huge benefit in your life.  It is for me.  It's kept me sane when my life was out of control. It's taught me how to have a healthy lifestyle.  It's been my therapy.  I've made great friends at the gym.  I've gotten more involved with my gym than I could possibly have imagined.  It's made me strong, it's made my body change and it's made me happier.  For me, the benefits FAR outweigh any of the perceived downfalls.  

Be smart.  Be safe.  CrossFit on. 

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