An article detailing the dangers of over-exertion through exercise, specifically targeting CrossFit, has been circulating throughout social media in recent weeks, and I included it in a Drop Bag digest yesterday.
The piece written by Eric Robertson, a professor of physical therapy at Regis University, detailed how extremely intense workouts can cause muscle damage that releases toxins into the blood-stream. Rhabdomyolosis can impair muscle function for months and cause kidney damage. It has been discussed within the framework of CrossFit, almost since the exercise program launched in 2000.
The blog post drew this response from a local CrossFit enthusiast:
“This has been floating around the internet and is so off base. I’ve never seen the cartoon or even heard of it before this article began being reposted and never EVER felt like I have been pushed to that point in a workout. Good professional trainers DON’T let this happen. Our trainers are vocal about scaling Wods to your ability, taking breaks, and being careful.
Has it happened a few times somewhere in the country…yes but its also happened in P90x, ultramarathoners, and last week after an Olympic Tri. Please don’t let internet sensationalism blind you. Crossfit is about functional fitness that anyone can do. Its NOT about pushing to injury or worse a medical condition that leads to death. I have traveled and been to other gyms besides my own and this is not the crossfit culture that exist in most gyms in America. I feel safe in my gym and have built a huge supportive community of friends who want me to do my best and reach my goals. I want others to feel like they can try CrossFit without risking injury and death.”
While the dangers certainly exist, and have been acknowledged by CrossFit founder Glen Glassman, it appears that most people find the routines safe, according to the polling results tied to this pro vs. con article. More than 90% of the respondents voted ‘yes’ on the question of whether CrossFit is safe.
Today’s Fitness Trainer takes an objective approach in this analysis, focusing on the specific causes of Rhabdomyolosis and how to prevent it.
And this piece from LiveStrong.com provides a balanced review of CrossFit: “This much is certain: When done correctly, CrossFit is not inherently bad or ineffective. Like other training methodologies before it, CrossFit is a form of high intensity exercise, an efficient model of exercise that has helped many people lose weight while improving strength and endurance. But due to its extensive popularity, many CrossFit gyms have diluted the system. Just as some first-time CrossFit athletes rush into overdoing exercises in a fatigued state and, thus, falter in form, CrossFit coaches and affiliates are rushing into setting up CrossFit gyms and are, thus, faltering in form.”
I’ve done various forms of strength training, but nothing that seems to approach the intensity of CrossFit, in terms of resistance and repetitions. Perhaps the closest thing would be the strength training sessions that John Burns organizes for cross-country skiers. In that, we worked at an exercise, various forms of pull-ups and push-ups for two minutes, what I considered a long work block in a training session. But the overall approach was encouraging and I never felt forced to push beyond the pain.
Even a two-hour Spartan workout didn’t seem to match what I’ve been reading about CrossFit.
I hope to check out a session or two soon. In the meantime, I welcome any observations you want to share.