Fierce and Fit

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Those who are into fitness and even people who are not have probably heard of CrossFit, the fitness craze that has taken over the nation in the past few years.

The exercises are constantly varied with functional movements at a high intensity.

"Things you do in your day-to-day life, like picking up your grocery bags or pulling up on something, pushing something away," said Amber Leonard, co-owner of Geaux CrossFit. "They're things that you do every day."

"It whooped my butt," said Brandon Dixon. "I like the feeling."

CrossFit started in California in the early 2000s and within the last few years, it has gained popularity in other parts of the country, including Baton Rouge. Leonard started CrossFitting three years ago.

"It's something different. We're taking all the aspects of every single sport and we're combining it into one. So, there's something for the runner, there's something for the football player. There's something for everybody," Leonard explained.

"I got out of high school and I really missed team sports. I missed being a part of something and it almost felt like a little bit of a depression, like something was missing. Then, my friend told me about CrossFit, so I joined and the community and everything just really made me want to work hard," she added.

But just like any new craze, there is a negative side. For CrossFit, it's the threat of a condition called rhabdomyolysis.

"The muscle fibers break down and they release a protein into the blood stream called myoglobin that is not meant to be in the bloodstream," said Angela Page, a physical therapist. "So then, what happens is the kidneys try to pick it up. The ultimate side effect if it gets to that point is that it can cause kidney failure because it plugs up the kidney."

Page added symptoms include excessive muscle soreness, abdominal pain, nausea and confusion - things you may normally feel after working out - but the difference is if they persist for hours they could indicate bigger problems. Page also said the heavy lifting and resistance training of CrossFit workouts make CrossFitters more likely to experience rhabdomylosis than a long distance runner or biker.

"When you're training to do a marathon, you're not doing that. You're pushing yourself but incrementally increasing it, so it's a safer increase. I have never seen anybody that had rhabdo as a result of a running program," Page explained.

Jackie Blount, a 3-year CrossFitter, said their trainers are big on educating new members on the risk of rhabdo and other dangers of the workouts. She also said they keep close watch on everyone to make sure they stay safe during each session.

"You have a responsibility, too, that you don't take on too much, but they're always here," said Blount. "But, you have to know your limitations. I can't necessarily keep up with a 20-year-old. I can try, but I have to know my limitations."

It's an age-old mantra that there is no gain without pain, but Blount said it's important to make sure that you don't sacrifice your health as you try to improve it.

Leonard said trainers also stress the importance of staying hydrated throughout the day. They recommend their clients drink half their body weight in ounces of water each day. She also said many CrossFit instructors are ensuring safety in their gyms by continuing their educations. She said she and other trainers attend CrossFit workshops and seminars annually.

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