Setting The Record Straight

By now, many of you have seen or heard from someone about the article posted on Medium, “CrossFit’s Dirty Little Secret.”

Before I go any further, I am going to provide a quick disclaimer. This is coming from a gym owner whose livelihood is running a successful strength and conditioning program that uses CrossFit’s methodology. Am I biased? Probably. Do I have a better understanding of the risks and prevalence of rhabdomyolysis than Mr. Robertson, the author of the Medium article? Absolutely.

What’s important about writing some sort of response is that the article is not just an attack on CrossFit. It is an attack on every amazing coach out there that runs a successful and high quality gym. It is an attack on every member that has had their life changed for the better by a fitness program that is about so much more than a workout.

Do I need to stand up and defend CrossFit? No, the sheer success of the program and the continued growth of the brand proves its efficacy. This write-up stems from a desire to fight back against an article filled with broad generalities, out of context quotes, and anecdotal evidence.

Even though I contemplated it, I am not going to spend my time providing counter points to every ridiculous statement in the article. I like to use my valuable time on other things, like writing “Rhabdo” free programming and sending funny texts in group chats with friends from the gym.

Instead, I am going to provide some insight on risk analysis.

There are an average of 35,000 deaths from car accidents each year. An individual’s lifetime risk of dying in a motor vehicle is about 1 in 100. Assuming an individual occasionally texts and drives, the risk for an accident is increased by 20 times. Let’s now compare that to the annual incidence of rhabdomyolysis. A whopping .06% of patients. Also remember, this is total incidence. The most common patients that develop rhabdo are already sick with another illness such as cancer. Out of all rhabdomyolysis cases the mortality rate is less than 5%.

Point being? Everyone takes risks on a daily basis. We all knowingly enter a vehicle daily because of the convenience it offers. This author is literally telling you to avoid CrossFit because there is a very, very, insanely miniscule chance you might get a non-life threatening illness. Please note, I am not brushing this off as a silly illness. It is a very scary thing, and every trainer should take it seriously and know how to safely train his or her athletes. This illness is also completely avoidable. Step 1, do some research on the gyms in the area. Step 2, take responsibility for your own actions. There is absolutely no reason to go 110% at a workout during your first day, and no coach would ever force that upon you. If you’re wavering on trying CrossFit because of an article you read about it killing you, you should contemplate the fact that you are highly more likely to die on the way to said gym than find one with a coach that forces you to do 500 burpees, for example.

With risk usually comes some reward. It’s risky driving with so many people distracted on their phones, but we do it to get places faster. With any fitness program or sport there are risks involved. There are risks involved with CrossFit, but the upside far outweighs them. For instance, how about reducing the risk of cancer? Because you have a 1:7 lifetime risk of dying from cancer. Or maybe reducing the risk of heart disease? Because you have a 1:5 chance of dying from that. You could even lower your chance of dying from the flu, because at most CrossFit gyms we educate people on proper nutrition which increases your immune function. The lifetime risk of dying from the flu? 1:64. Then there are my personal favorites. Reducing the risk of being lazy, unmotivated, depressed, overweight, unhealthy, weak, self-conscious, or missing out on what CrossFit is truly about. We are a community of individuals seeking self improvement.

I really do feel genuinely sorry for every person that reads Mr. Robertson’s article and uses it as another excuse to avoid getting healthy. I feel sorry for every person that will miss out on the opportunity to feel what it is like to have a healthy functioning body. I know how hard it is to make that first step. I know how sensationalism and fear mongering can affect a person’s opinion. But guess what? We each have a miraculous brain, and we can all make informed decisions on our own. Come check us out. Come talk to our coaches and our members. Come experience our community. It won’t take long to realize just how wrong Mr. Roberston is.

- Eric Rosenstock, Head Coach and Owner of CrossFit Deep.