More and more fitness-crazed San Diegans are becoming familiar with Crossfit, an intense strength and conditioning program sure to test your muscles and endurance.
Martin Lukowski, a 35-year-old husband and father of two young children signed up in June for a beginner class.
“Squats for an hour, squats with a kettle bell, squats with a military press, just straight squats” said Martin when remembering his workout.
By the next day he could barely walk. His thighs swelled and no amount of Advil eased the pain.
“At 2 a.m., I woke up to use the restroom and noticed my urine was the color of Coca Cola and that’s when I knew something was wrong” said Martin.
Martin spent the next 7 days in the hospital getting pumped with 34 liters of saline to flush out the toxic contents of broken down muscle cells.
It’s a condition called Rhabdomyolysis, or Rhabdo for short, which can be brought on by any really hard work out. Local doctors have even treated marines from Camp Pendleton.
“More instances in the last 2 years than they’d seen in the last decade, mostly from Crossfit” said Martin while referencing a conversation with his physician.
Dr. Dylan Steer (who didn’t treat Martin) says Rhabdo overwhelms the kidneys and can be fatal if people don’t seek medical help. “Severe strenuous exercise, particularly if someone is dehydrated, can predispose someone to develop Rhabdo” said Steer.
Crossfit claims their number of cases are proportionate to the marathon/endurance community, but if you Google “Rhabdomyolysis”, Crossfit pops up as one of the top related searches.
Crossfit has taken proactive steps in recent years requiring educational training on Rhabdo before you can become an affiliate. Cogen Nelson, a Crossfit affiliate owner (who wasn’t involved with Martin’s case), says trainers are on the lookout.
“Sometimes athletes might get a little overzealous with their weights and reps and you just gotta bring em back down” said Nelson.
“There’s nothing glamorous about Rhabdo and ‘no pain, no gain’ is really not a way to train” said Dr. Steer. Martin isn’t giving Crossfit a 2nd chance and says he learned a valuable lesson.
“Even when my body was saying ‘hey, I can’t do this anymore’, I was still telling it to and I had someone next to me saying ‘go, push it out, do everything you can’, and I’ve kinda learned that I need to listen to myself more than someone who is supposedly trained” said Martin.
Doctors advise the best way to avoid Rhabdo is to stay hydrated, work up to an exercise intensity, and take a break when your body is telling you “enough”.