WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Doctors inside emergency rooms are sounding the alarm about a fitness craze that’s landing otherwise healthy young people in the hospital.
"This is no laughing matter,” says Dr. Ron Goldin, a practicing nephrologist in Florida. “I did have a patient who ended up on dialysis and never came off."
The intense workouts are all the rage and exploding in popularity. The fast-moving cross training sessions have people lining up to build a fat-burning body.
"You get into the hype of it,” said Amanda Edwards. “You want to complete it and finish it."
But doctors are warning that the rigorous workouts that include kettle bell lifts, weight bearing squats and other gymnasium-style exercises should be approached with care.
"Rhabdomyolysis is the breakdown of the muscle and release of the contents of that muscle into the blood system," said Dr. Goldin who has treated 10 patients in 12 months for the serious kidney condition.
The increase in local rhabdo cases, according to Goldin, comes from people overdoing it, pushing too hard, too fast in their workouts.
That’s what happened to Amanda Edwards. She had been part of a local boot-camp training class for 10 months when one workout changed everything.
"My last workout felt awesome. I went through it. I finished it. I had so much energy afterward,” Edwards said. "The next thing I know, I had a headache, muscle fatigue, excruciating swollen joints. I couldn't bend my fingers. I couldn't even hold my cellphone."
Amanda’s urine also took on a disturbing color. "It was probably a dark tea color," said Edwards.
The busy mother of two was in bed, in pain for 7 days.
"I've had two babies...and I'd have 5 more before I ever had to go through this again,” said Edwards.
It’s the reason trainer and ‘Gardens Crossfit’ owner Miki Carey keeps a close eye on new clients. She introduces them slowly to her fat-burning, muscle-building workouts.
“We call our introductory class ‘Foundations.' It’s a two week time period so there are four sessions spread out over two weeks.” Carey said. “These ‘Foundations’ sessions are spread out over time with breaks in between so the body has time to recover.”
Carey’s facility was recently named one of the top 15 crossfit gyms in the country.
In all of her years of training, she has never had a client experience rhabdomyolysis, but she has heard about the cases locally.
"Those cases probably occur because there are gyms that don't do any sort of screening.” Carey said. “They don't do any beginners classes, they don't do a trial to see where athletes stand or what their capabilities are.”
At ‘Gardens Crossfit’ walk-ins are not allowed.
"No one just walks in and says 'hey, I want to try this!' " said Carey. “We try to be as detailed as possible with their background before they step foot in the class."
Fitness coach Erica Stryner is the regional director for an outdoor boot camp called ‘Camp Gladiator.’ She believes the local cases of rhabdomyolysis shouldn’t overshadow the good results that come from responsible cross training.
"Functional training is something that's been around for years and it's effective because it allows you to move in different planes doing different exercises together," said Stryner. "The most important thing is you move at your own pace."
That seems to be the prescription Dr. Goldin is now writing for his patients.
"The Idea is to take it slow, make sure you're at a reputable place with a trainer who knows what they're doing,” Goldin said. “If you haven't worked out for a while, don't jump into it, trying to keep up with the rest of the class and don’t try to do the hardest workout you've ever done."