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Tuesday, May 30, 2023


Quick result exercise programs a danger to beginners

High-intensity metabolic workouts like Insanity, P90X and CrossFit have been under much scrutiny, particularly since Regis University assistant professor of physical therapy Eric Robertson wrote an article exposing what he calls the “unofficial and disturbing mascot (of CrossFit), ‘Uncle Rhabdo.’”

Before going into who this “Uncle Rhabdo” is, it is necessary to understand what a metabolic workout consists of. According to, a metabolic workout is “completing structural and compound exercises with little rest in between exercises in an effort to maximize calorie burn and increase metabolic rate during and after the workout.” In other words, it is a high-intensity workout with fast results.

However, whether these results are positive or negative depends on who is asked. And cue in Uncle Rhabdo, an overly muscular cartoon clown and CrossFit addict who is hooked up to a dialysis machine.

The cartoon is used to depict a rare and potentially fatal condition called rhabdomyolysis. WebMD defines rhabdomyolysis as “a serious syndrome due to a direct or indirect muscle injury (which) results from a breakdown of muscle fibers and release of their contents into the bloodstream.” In some cases, this results in kidney failure.

Causes of rhabdomyolysis include “extreme muscle strain, especially in someone who is an untrained athlete. This can happen in elite athletes too, however.” Additionally, although it is said to be a rare condition, it is not so rare in CrossFit and other high-intensity workouts, according to Robertson.

In his article, Robertson makes it seem as though the lone cause of this condition is the exercise itself. What he fails to take into account is that Uncle Rhabdo status is only achievable through exertion of the muscle, which is ultimately controlled by its possessor. That is, it is the person performing the exercise who is at fault rather than the exercise program itself.

“The most important thing with any metabolic workout is to always listen to your body and work at your own pace,” said Melanee Wood, Campus Wellness and Recreation Center assistant director in charge of group workouts. “The group fitness instructors will tell you that they may be directing the class, but it’s your workout and your body. You need to listen to it.”

Hotel and restaurant management freshman Sam Wells is a CrossFit enthusiast, with nearly three years of experience in the sport.

“CrossFit is addicting,” Wells said. “I can’t exactly remember how I felt (the first time I did it), but I’m sure it kicked my butt. There have been a few specific workouts that have really pushed me to the edge, but I’ve never overdone a workout. CrossFit workouts are always pretty intense, but they scale the workout according to ability by person. I love it.”

In his article, Robertson also points to the dangers of the competitiveness that arises from intense group workouts. He says that it is this competitiveness that pushes people to exert themselves. While a P90x or Insanity video may not cause the same “I need to keep up” mindset, they are also a problem because they are unsupervised.

“If you chose to participate in a metabolic conditioning program, it’s (very) important to do it where there is someone trained and qualified there to watch you, as opposed to (a) video, (such as how) Insanity and P90x started,” Wood said. “They are fitness programs that get results very quickly, but if you are new to exercising and don’t have someone there to monitor your form, they can be absolutely dangerous.”

According to Wood, group instructors at the University — such as those who teach Tabata, another form of metabolic conditioning — are taught to watch out for signs of fatigue and will encourage a student to take a break if needed.

It should be noted, however, that a person’s health is exactly that — theirs. Therefore, anything a person willingly does to or with their body, and the consequences of such actions, whether good or bad, are ultimately their responsibility.

Opinion columnist Monica Rojas is a print journalism sophomore and may be reached at [email protected]

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