Does anyone else see a problem here?

By Alki X Gym trainer, Aaron Wagar

 Many of you may have heard of CrossFit’s mascot Uncle Pukey. You may have even seen T-shirts depicting him. But I wonder how many of you have heard of CrossFit’s Uncle Rhabdo? Personally, I was shocked when I heard of him.

uncleRhabdoUncle Rhabdo is a clown. In the classic CrossFit-style cartoon, Uncle Rhabdo is standing in a pool of his own blood (pictured left). He is hooked up to a dialysis machine, his kidney has fallen out along with part of his bowel, and he is visibly exhausted. Uncle Rhabdo is suffering from Rhabdomyolysis.

This is a serious condition in which muscle cells breakdown and overwhelm the kidneys – body’s blood filtering system. This not a tiny bit of muscle damage, this is a catastrophic breakdown which always results in kidney damage and even potential kidney failure. Yes, Rhabdomyolysis can kill you.

I first heard of Rhabdomyolysis a few weeks back when a fellow exercise scientist shared a blog post with me. The blog post detailed how a young, fit physical therapist developed Rhabdomyolysis as a consequence of a CrossFit workout. The workout consisted of partnering up with a fellow Crossfitter, and doing as many sets as possible of pushups and overhead presses. The partners would trade off every 10 reps. This young woman did “hundreds of repetitions of each.” She explained that she did not want to “not match my partner.” Normally she probably would have rested a little, “but the partner workout kept me going.”

On the way home from CrossFit, her arms felt like Jell-O. Her triceps were in agony. She wasn’t sure why her arms felt so weak, but as an experienced exerciser and physical therapist, she iced and hydrated when she got home. The next morning she realized something was wrong when she couldn’t bend her arms–even to brush her teeth! CrossFit’s deplete, endure, repeat culture still had a grip on her, so she pressed on to work ignoring the blaring alarms that something was horribly wrong. Remember, this woman is a physical therapist. She is trained to see, identify, and deal with signs of normal vs abnormal responses to exercise. Everyday, she consults with individuals about what pain is appropriate and normal. And it didn’t take long for her to realize that besides not being able to bend her elbows, her arms had no strength. By the end of the day, her arms continued to swell, she could not threat her patients, and she was coming to the realizatlion that this was not a normal response to exercise.

Incredibly, it took another 24hrs before she broke through the CrossFit culture and sought out medical help. She was diagnosed with acute Rhabdomyolysis and had her creatine kinase (CPK) levels tested. A normal CPK level is about 100, hers were at 45,000, indicating kidney damage. She spent over a week at the hospital recovering.

At one point while at the hospital, she called her CrossFit trainer to explain that she was in the hospital and wanted to cancel her membership. “Is it Rhabdo?” He promptly asked. And there it is, CrossFits’ worst secret. The trainer was intimately familiar with what is supposed to be a very rare condition. In fact, this serious, potentially fatal condition is so rare that studies have indicated annual incidences of only 0.06%. Yet, the CrossFit trainer not only new of the disorder, it was his first guess.

What is wrong with this picture? It turns out that too many CrossFit enthusiasts have met Uncle Rhabdo– and Uncle Rhabdo can kill. Of course, according to CrossFit, it was her fault for not stopping, not resting enough during the workout and not knowing when to call it a day. Yet, the CrossFit culture does not let you stop– you are expected to push through, to push past the pain.


In fact, Greg Glasman, Crossfit founder and corporate owner (pictured right, giving a nutrition and exercise lecture), makes sure customers and trainers know right off the bat that if you participate in CrossFit, injury is not only possible, it is probable and even likely. Glasman claims that the fastest growing section in his company is the legal department. When people try to sue him or their local CrossFit however, they quickly find that they have no basis because they were informed ahead of time that injury was likely. Heck, their mascot Rhabdo is a clown suffering from life-threatening injuries, so CrossFit has a built in legal protection mechanism from lots of different directions.

Thankfully, there is another option for high intensity training that is completely safe and even more effective than CrossFit or other traditional high-intensity programs and it’s called X Gym. Thankfully, there are trainers at the X Gym who understand human physiology and when to instruct an individual to stop and take a break at the right time instead of pushing to the point of injury. Thankfully, the X Gym trainers also understand the need for recovery, and that “deplete, endure, repeat” is not the only option.

Is it just me, or does anyone else see a problem with CrossFit? Here’s what the New York Times thinks:

Source link for this post:

PJ’s additional comments:

So why is CrossFit so popular? Well, for one thing, it’s amazingly cheap to open a CrossFit because it is a license agreement instead of a franchise. Their technical term for it is “Affiliate” because it gives corporate more control than a license, but let’s them operate without the expenses of a franchise. As soon as a perspective CrossFit owner gets certified through CrossFit by taking their two-day certification course for $1000, they can buy the “Affiliate” agreement for another $3000 and open up shop anywhere they want. $4000 is amazingly cheap as far as startup costs go. Pretty much anyone can afford it.

And then most CrossFit gym owners find a super cheap location ranging from their own garage, to a storage facility or warehouse, so rent is dirt cheap as well. Since it’s an “Affiliate” license and not a franchise, the location owner can put whatever equipment they want in their space. Most typically call up friends and have them donate their exercise equipment they are using anymore in exchange for a certain amount of time on membership and presto – they have their own CrossFit location for peanuts yet are able to charge $100 or more per month per member, so the markup is pretty sweet.

Another reason that CrossFit is so popular is because they have really captured the tribal mentality well. Human beings are pack animals and love to be part of a tribe. Since the CrossFit tribe is known for being tough and hard-core, people like to be affiliated with that. They also enjoy getting together and sharing this as a community at their local CrossFit gym. It allows them to show off to each other and compete against one another to find out who is the toughest. This is why the age group of teens to mid 30’s likes it so well.

crosfit bulkSince CrossFit is essentially traditional strength training, it’s also really good at bulking people up, which is another reason why appeals to the age group of teens to mid 30s. Pictured left are two women battling it out in the finals of a CrossFit competition. This is the type of body CrossFit produces, and for women who want to look like this, it’s the perfect training style.

As for me, I prefer the toned, fit look over the bulky, powerful look. This is why I designed the X Gym protocols like I did, so clients would get toned and strong, but without the usual muscle bulk associated with traditional strength training like Gold’s Gym or CrossFit.

The kind of tone and shape women can strive for at the X Gym is more like the picture below of an X Gym client. Oh, and another thing: to achieve the abs of the women in the picture above, it will cost you at least 12 hours of intense exercise per week accompanied by CrossFit nutrition concepts. To get the abs of the woman pictured below, your investment will be less than one hour of exercise per week, complimented with correct and healthy nutrition habits which can be sustained for life.

Bev belly 2The X Gym methods do this very effectively while preserving safety so the risk of injury is minimize and therefore workouts can be continued without interruption from said pesky injuries. Because of the safety level of the X Gym methods, uncle Rhabdo we’ll never, EVER show his stupid clown face in any X Gym.