There has been a recent surge in internet articles on Rhabdomyolysis. Such as the following articles.
While these articles can make some good points. Keep in mind the media thrives on controversy. Hence the recent prevalence of these type of internet articles/buzz as “Crossfit” rises in popularity. As such I believe it is more important for everyone of you understand how rhabdo can be “contracted” and what you can do to avoid it. My soapbox rebuttal to these articles will be at the bottom.
Occurs when a muscle is damaged. A protein called myoglobin is released into the bloodstream. It is then filtered out of the body by the kidneys. Myoglobin breaks down into substances that can damage kidney cells. When your blood is filled with too much myoglobin and or your kidneys cannot filter it you can have symptoms of Rhabdo.
Causes (which actually apply to us):
Low phosphate levels – ie dehydration
Severe exertion, such as marathon running or calisthenics
High-rep workout using a single muscle group (Ie hundreds of pull-ups or push-ups)
So in the end:
The basics are that you have to be smart, you have to drink plenty of water and know what days you need to take it a little easy. This leads back to REST DAYS, which Jason and I have talked about before. Your body needs it and having an active rest day every now and again is a great thing. Though we program for every day of the week it does not mean you have to show up every day if you body needs the rest.
/steps on soapbox
I really love how the media thrives on controversy. Through this articles and internet buzz I believe enough has been shared about the likelihood of “contracting” rhabdo and it’s side effects. I believe the greater issue, which is not really being addressed in those posts is how the athlete and or coaches (as programmers) can take measures to avoid being the next gym who gets vilified by some irresponsible writer.
So let’s just address rhabdo being “Crossfit’s” secret first. In truth anyone can get rhabdo. According to the Sports Injury Bulletin, “Moderate cases of rhabdo are common after triathlons. For example, when 25 triathletes were studied during a triathlon which included 1.25 miles of swimming, 53.5 miles of biking, and 13.5 miles of running, it was found that most of the participants had unusually high levels of myoglobin in their blood immediately after the competition” Is rhabdo a big secret in triathlon then? No it is not. In addition, the bulletin explains that “other studies indicate that rowers and cross-country skiers are susceptible to rhabdo, and some reports have indicated that acute rhabdomyolysis can strike about one out of every 300 military recruits during their first week of training.” Is it a big secret in these sports as well? No again. It’s worth mentioning, then, that rhabdo is not a CrossFit disease. It’s condition of over training/exertion in general as it could occur in any sport.
As such it is important for people to keep in mind their own personal fitness goals, and not let the influence from the “Crossfit™ culture” dictate what you hope to accomplish. Even I am guilty of this sometimes. For example every time I do high rep sets in close succession of Deadlifts, my SI and lower back inflame terribly. This usually leaves me with terrible pain that lasts anywhere from a couple days to a week. It took me a while of this punishment for the sake of my own machismo before I finally quit doing high-rep deadlifts. Nobody was forcing me to do them, nobody gives a shit when I find a scaled substitute for them, and nobody thinks less of me for not doing them. In other words, this pressure was not from anyone in the gym, trainer or otherwise, it was simply a function of my own ego. I purposely harmed and injured myself because I was trying to be a strong, capable man, and as such I felt that I should do the workouts as prescribed.
All that said, I do believe it is very important to get outside of your comfort zone. I think it is important to try to lift a higher weight and fail. I think it is good to say to yourself that (if capable) you will do the workout as prescribed, even if that means extra time spent suffering through a slog of a WOD. We occasionally program high-rep WODs to put you outside this comfort zone. These type of workouts are not put back to back. And certain muscle movements are always skipped from day to day to help avoid the possibility of “contracting” rhabdo. Not to mention we always also put a time cap on these WODs and also tell people to modify down the weight, reps and or rounds as they need to get a good workout.
At the end of the day you should know your own body better than anyone else. You should listen to it and let your trainers know so we can help with modifications. Understand though, that you are often your own harshest critic. If you don’t aspire to be as strong, swift, or steady as others in the gym then don’t compare yourself to them. Use them as a source of motivation and focus on your individual accomplishments. The people you workout with are great examples of what humans are capable of, and that is too be admired. But if you’re just looking to lose a few pounds, sleep better, and be able to wrestle with your children, then try hard to keep it all in perspective and listen to your body.
/picks up soapbox and leaves
And as a further point of rebuttal here are a few other articles from review. Some of them use some adult language (you have been warned).