The obsession with fitness and body shape that saw the creation of the exercise regime called CrossFit is now proving to be risky and can even cause debilitating injury if done in excess. On January 12, Kevin Ogar a highly proficient CrossFit athlete and trainer was doing a routine snatch at a fitness competition. A snatch is among the most difficult things to do in CrossFit. An athlete has to lift a weighted bar that is in the vicinity of 200 pounds, straight off the ground and hold it over the head. This has to be done in a swift movement in which the weight travels a great distance from the ground to over the person’s head. Kevin Ogar got the bar over his head and then inexplicably let go of it and fell down. The bar fell behind him but in a cruel twist it hit some weights that were lying behind him and rolled backward, hitting him in the lower back. Matt Hathcock, Ogar’s friend, training partner and boss said that when the rod hit Ogar he jumped as if he had been shot. Ogar was told by doctors that he will not walk again and has since then been shifted to a training facility in Colorado.
Although the excessive intensity and focus on speed in CrossFit can make it a risky and injury prone proposition, the fitness benefits are remarkable. Started in 2000 in Santa Cruz California, the fitness program focuses on building strength and speed. According to the regime’s philosophy, specializing in any sport or aspect of fitness ultimately only weakens the body. Sports stars can rarely win a marathon and runners cannot climb, swim, box etc. at a professional level. The specialty of CrossFit lies in not specializing. According to Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, it is not a specialized program but an attempt to achieve competence in the 10 key fitness domains. These recognized domains are: flexibility, stamina, strength, cardiovascular strength, respiratory endurance, accuracy, power, balance, coordination, speed and agility.
CrossFit today is worth billions of dollars and has seen extraordinary growth. The program which is an intense cocktail of aerobics, weight lifting and gymnastics has become a successful brand that allows more than 7000 gyms across the world to officially use their brand license. In addition to this it has spawned a range of related businesses such as CrossFit clothing and shoe lines released by brands like Reebok and Lululemon, and even meal delivery services that provide the specialized Paleo Diet that the athletes prefer. An important highlight is the Annual CrossFit Games that crown the Fittest Man and Woman on Earth.
However, there is a flip side to the success of the CrossFit program – that of pushing endurance into the realm of excess and risk and the injuries that follow. Many athletes speak of it as an addiction that makes them want to do more at every session. Added to this is the danger of freak accidents such as what has left Kevin Ogar paralyzed. Since late last year many chiropractors and therapists have reported that CrossFit has proved very lucrative for them as the body is subjected to considerable wear and tear which takes its toll in due course. The fitness course has also been linked to rhabdomyolysis, a kidney condition caused by excessive exercise that can even prove to be fatal. CrossFit founder Gress Glassman had this to say about the Workouts of the Day, “[WODs] are designed to exceed the capacities of the world’s fittest athletes.” He goes on to say, “If you find the notion of falling off the rings and breaking your neck so foreign to you, then we don’t want you in our ranks. [CrossFit] can kill you. I’ve always been completely honest about that.”
By Grace Stephen