CrossFit is one of the hottest exercise trends and has been catching fire in terms of popularity lately. It is also catching some heat due to a debate about its safety. CrossFit was created in the early 2000s but has exploded in popularity since the first annual CrossFit Games in 2007. CrossFit gyms are popping up everywhere and have created a new exercise subculture of “CrossFitters.” Needless to say, unless you have been under a rock for the past couple of years, you know someone who does CrossFit, have seen a CrossFit gym or have at least heard of CrossFit.
A big debate about CrossFit started sometime in late 2012 and has continued. The big risk included in some articles that started the debate was that CrossFit could cause muscles to break down so much that the damaged muscles would release byproducts that actually caused more muscles to break down, which would then continue the cycle indefinitely. This deadly phenomenon is called Rhabdomylosis. There have been a few cases where CrossFitters suffered a case of Rhabdomylosis and had to be hospitalized and some even died. Sounds terrible, right?
However, in late 2013 and early 2014, CrossFit was proclaimed, through a few publications, as “safe during pregnancy.” Hundreds (if not thousands) of doctors have gone on record saying the same thing.
Are you thoroughly confused as to how a “dangerous” exercise regimen that can cause death can actually be safe during pregnancy? As a physical therapist, I often see all sorts of hysterical claims about miracle cures and how perfectly safe things are somehow dangerous.
Here is my take on CrossFit:
CrossFit, and any other physical activity, can cause Rhabdomylosis, only if you overdo it! Any exercise program should be gradually started to allow your entire body, not just your muscles, to adjust to the new demands you are placing on it. Once started, the intensity and duration of the exercise program can be gradually increased over time; usually this takes weeks and months. This is the basis of safely exercising. The cases where CrossFit caused Rhabdomylosis were almost always cases of a person getting started with very intense workouts or an experienced CrossFitter going way beyond their known limits. Too much too fast is bad with almost anything. In some extreme cases, drinking too much water in too short a time frame can actually kill you. Does that mean you should stop drinking water? Of course not! That would be silly!
With that in mind, exercise during pregnancy can be safe, if you are already exercising and have no other medical conditions interfering with your ability to exercise. This principle is true for running, lifting weights, yoga, CrossFit or most any other exercise routine. In all cases, the best thing to do before starting an exercise routine is checking with your doctor to make sure it’s safe to start exercising. If you are pregnant, check with your ObGyn. If you apply these principles to your workouts, even if they are CrossFit workouts, your chances of dying because of your workout routine will be greatly reduced. Isn’t that a great sigh of relief? Oh yeah, and drink plenty of water…but not too much.