If nothing at all, what I’d like you to get out of this post is the following:
- Be smart when you exercise. Introduce new exercises slowly and give the body time to adapt between workout sessions.
- Hydrate Often. This is especially important if you are active.
- Listen to your body and take rests when needed.
- Don’t be stupid. <– For example, if you have not exercised for an extended period of time, don’t go run a marathon or participate in an Ironman event.
- Rhabdomyolysis is rare, but it’s real. So, if you experience extreme pain, weakness, and/or swelling of the muscles please see a doctor immediately (go to the ER!)
If you do all of these things, you shouldn’t have to worry about anything like rhabdomyolysis. Honestly, as much as I hate how this article bashes Crossfit, in a way it is a blessing because my hope is that the article will reach a large population and, if nothing else, educate!
As you probably already know, I Crossfit.
(iphone versus professional photo)
Therefore, you should have guessed that I do not appreciate the way the article by Physical Therapy Professor Eric Robertson called Crossfit’s “Dirty Little Secret” points fingers solely at Crossfit. What can I say, I love what I do and I want to defend the sport!
I’m not even going to link the article in my post because I think it gives the wrong impression. It can be easily found on the internet. It was also discussed in a segment on Good Morning America this morning.
Instead of posting the article, I’ll post a YouTube video by Layne Norton. Below the video, I’ll write an overview of his key points in case you are unable to watch. Then, I’ll provide some more information based on my own research.
Keep in mind that Layne Norton isn’t a fan of crossfit himself, but defends the sport in this video.
The main point the article makes is that you can die from crossfit. A little harsh, don’t you think?
Well, you can actually die from ANY workout, not just crossfit. Basically, the article is meant to be a “scare tactic.”
- What is Exercise-Induced Rhabdomyolysis?
- Completing a hard workout can cause muscle breakdown. Muscle breakdown causes muscle tissue damage. Some of those damaged cell products can spill into the bloodstream. If too many cell products spill into the bloodstream it can shut down your kidneys. This is Rhabdomyolysis (or “Rhabdo”).
- As the kidneys stop working, there are alterations in electrolytes which can cause heart rhythm abnormalities and heart attacks.
- Rhabdo is extremely rare and only happens in very specific circumstances. It will (most likely) only happen when you take someone who is very untrained and throw them into an extremely intense workout. It rarely happens with a regular workout or with a trained person who is doing a hard workout.
- The first time you ever trained, you probably got very sore, because of muscle breakdown. As you trained more frequently, you got less sore. This is because your muscles began to adapt to the training or muscle stimulus.
- As you train, it gets harder to damage the muscles. This is meant to protect you.
- Who can get it?
- Yes, there are cases where individuals who crossfit have gotten Rhabdo. However, the problem either lays in the trainer or the individual, trying to jump into something when they are not ready to do so. Again, just be smart about your workouts and you will be fine!
*If you are new to exercise in general, introduce yourself slow. Don’t take every set to failure. Build up your training stimulus and then start going harder.
Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong impression. Rhabdo is a serious health condition and we should all be aware of its symptoms and especially how to prevent it.
Remember, this condition most likely occurs in exercises that are unaccustomed; however, low intensity exercise can also cause Rhabdo. Some are more susceptible to getting it that others.
Rhabdo Signs and Symptoms:
- Heart Attack
- Kidney Failure
- Severe muscle pain/swelling/weakness
- Dark color urine – think dark brown “coke-a-cola color”
The pain of rhabdomyolysis happens fast – immediately after exercise, up to 24 hours later. This pain happens more rapidly than delayed muscle soreness (“DOMS”) which typically happens 24-72 hours after exercise. Also, the muscle pain hurts when people are not moving. Remembering this sign – as well as dark urine color – can help you identify Rhabdo.
Some people take pain killers – like aspirin or Advil (Ibuprofen) to alleviate muscle soreness but people need to understand that because these pain killers can affect how the kidneys work, using pain killers may increase the chances of rhabdomyolysis occurring.
‘Rhabdomyolysis is an acute syndrome determined by a direct or indirect muscle injury. It results from skeletal muscle breakdown and massive release of the intracellular content into blood circulation, which can lead to potentially fatal events, such as acute renal failure, hyperkalemia, and other metabolic complications. The etiology of rhabdomyolysis is broad and includes inherited diseases, drugs, toxins, muscle compression, overexertion, and infections. Regardless of the mechanism, these muscle injuries ultimately lead to a leakage of Ca2+ ions into the intracellular space, and the excess of Ca2+ ions gives rise to a persistent muscle contraction that ends in energy depletion and cell death. Rhabdomyolysis syndrome may also occur as a result of a strenuous or not strenuous physical exercise (exertional rhabdomyolysis or ER) often in hot and humid climates. Although anyone may develop ER under extreme physical and environmental conditions, some individuals seem to be more predisposed than others, suggesting a genetic link.
I understand the need for more educated trainers and less of the “broscience” approach to exercise and lifting. I also understand that there are thousands of crossfit gyms being run by untrained individuals and some have never even heard of Rhabdo. BUT, this is also true for commercial gyms, online trainers, group exercise instructors, etc. It is not a problem that lies solely in Crossfit athletes. My only issue with the article is the way they single out Crossfit athletes. Other than that, I think it makes a great point and I hope that everyone learns to exercise safe and listen to their body. When your body needs rest, REST!
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