“CrossFit’s Dirty Little Secret”

Journalistic Sensationalism At Its Best

“CrossFit’s Dirty Little Secret” – Journalistic Sensationalism At Its BestBy Rich Froning Jr.

I know you don’t typically take time off from training, but I am curious if that applies even to right after the CrossFit Games. I would imagine that those three days are so incredibly taxing on your body and mind that you must have at least a little break from training to recover, like a week or two.

Physically you are beat up after the Games, but the mental beating is even worse. Obviously the pressure is intense when you are literally competing with the very best CF athletes alive today for the honor of being called “The Fittest Man on Earth!” Some have suggested I am dominating or even unbeatable, but that’s far from true. I do my best and I’m very good at what I do, but all you need to do is watch the Games to see that men like Jason Khalipa and Ben Smith are incredible competitors and if I don’t give 100 percent, they could take me out! As far as off time, I like to move the next day or as soon as I can after the Games, but I do dial the intensity back for sure. I don’t believe it makes sense for a very active athlete to suddenly become totally inactive. Unless you’re injured, you’re better off doing much more moderate workouts that will keep the blood flowing and the heart pumping.

Someone had told me you had shoulder surgery a few years ago. They thought it was for a torn labrum. Is that true? If so, how did you injure it, what was the recovery from the surgery like, and how were you able to rehab it to the point where it didn’t impede your performance? Many guys I have spoken with who had shoulder surgery claim it was just never the same again. Clearly that isn’t your problem!

I played baseball through high school and some football until I dislocated my shoulder a few times. Eventually I tore my labrum and fractured the head of my humerus and had to have surgery. I rehabbed like my doctor told me and haven’t really had any problems since, but it has definitely gotten stronger and feels better since doing CrossFit. With any shoulder injury, rehab is key after surgery. Many times, the people who tell you their shoulder was never the same again skipped out on their physical therapy sessions that are always part of the post-op treatment, and didn’t stay diligent with rotator cuff exercises and stretching. The body is an amazing piece of machinery, but you still have to repair any “damage” that might occur and do your best to keep it maintained and running smoothly. I will add that in my case, having the injury and surgery so young was an advantage compared to going through the same issues at age 30 or 35. We all heal faster and bounce back quicker in our youth!

“CrossFit’s Dirty Little Secret” – Journalistic Sensationalism At Its BestRich, there has been an article being spread all over the Internet called “CrossFit’s Dirty Little Secret.” It claims that CF training puts one at high risk of rhabdomyolysis, a serious and potentially fatal condition in which the catastrophic breakdown of muscle cells can lead to kidney failure. Have you read this? Do you think it’s anything to be concerned about, or is this another case of journalistic sensationalism, like when a TV commercial for the evening news says, “10 things in your refrigerator that could kill you right now— story at 11?”

That’s definitely journalistic sensationalism! Find a good CrossFit affiliate with good coaches, start out slowly, and listen to your body. You’ll be just fine. No certified CF instructors I’ve ever met would start a beginner off doing more than they could handle. There is always a break-in period lasting several weeks where you learn technique on various exercises and gradually increase your intensity until they feel you are ready to take classes with everyone else. These are called on-ramp or introduction classes. And even when you join the main classes, workouts are scaled for different strength and endurance levels. Nobody is being pushed past their breaking point and especially not to the point where “catastrophic breakdown of muscle cells” will occur. That’s not to say that you won’t work very hard, because you will. But it’s always done with safety in mind.

Firstly, congrats on the third title. Well earned. In the recent Q&A article, you emphasized doing rotator cuff strengthening and shoulder stretches. Can you provide any direction, videos and such? After just a few months of starting and really enjoying CrossFit here in AZ, my left shoulder has become completely shot. I’m unable to perform any type of press, so thrusters, snatches, HS push-ups and the like are extremely painful.

Of course, all these strengthening exercises and stretches are far easier to show you than to describe in words, so video tutorials are definitely the way to go. If you go to YouTube, there’s a guy named Kelly Starrett with a channel of the same name where he’s uploaded over 500 highly informative and helpful videos. Most of the ones you would find useful for your situation can be found by typing in “mobility WOD” in the search browser on YouTube. I hear a lot of good things about people regaining lost range of motion, strength and flexibility after watching those and applying the exercises and stretches. The key thing here is to actually follow through and consistently do them. Injuries can be overcome, but it will take hard work and dedication. Don’t expect full relief after one day! Just like with CrossFit and the workouts, it will take time to see significant improvements. So get on it, feel better, and get back to killing those WODs!

Rich Froning Jr., a BSN athlete, is the only three-time CrossFit Games Champion, and the owner of his own CrossFit “box,” CrossFit Mayhem, in Cookeville, Tennessee. If you have a question for Rich, e-mail it to editor@fitnessrxmag.com.

Photos: CrossFit, Inc.