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Meet “Uncle Rhabdo”


Meet “Uncle Rhabdo”

Rhabdomyolysis has become one of the negative associations with the sport of CrossFit.  While most CrossFitters have heard of rhabdo, odds are that most of us see it as another thing that we will never have to deal with on a personal level.  This is probably what Phil Vickery thought prior to his first bout of rhabdomyolysis.  Phil is a former coach and athlete of CrossFit Dover who is currently CrossFitting in Charleston, South Carolina.  In the interview below, he tells us a little bit about his experiences with rhabdo.


Can you tell us a little bit about your workout history and when you started to CrossFit?

I started CrossFit in 2007 at CrossFit Dover. When I met George I was 247lbs & in terrible physical shape. CrossFit and dietary change helped me lose over 50lbs in the course of a year.


How long had you been CrossFitting before you were diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis?

My success in weight loss and CF training led me to begin competing which unfortunately led to developing rhabdomyolysis the first of 3 times in 2012 [about five years after first starting CrossFit]. My family & I had moved from DE to SC, I deployed for 4 months and continued to workout as hard, if not harder in effort to maintain the level of fitness I had achieved. Simply put, I over trained, didn’t hydrate appropriately, & didn’t rest enough to recover.


At what point did you realize something was wrong?

I knew something was wrong when I couldn’t straighten my arms without external help, my urine was very dark, and I was overly tired.


Could you tell us what the workout of the day was and maybe the exercise that may have led up to it?

My first bout with Rhabdo was immediately post deployment; I had been home less than one week, completed a workout called Karen, then ran a full marathon the next day. I had failed to recover appropriately and didn’t consider the damage I was doing as a result. That time did not require hospitalization.

The 2nd time I developed Rhabdo was similar in that I had over trained for competition in end of summer heat, didn’t rehydrate appropriately or rest and developed Rhabdo which hospitalized me 3 days after a pull-up intensive workout. The last (and hopefully final) time I developed Rhabdo was after an extended break from working out while on vacation and did the workout Angie which includes 100 pull-ups. Same symptoms as the last time only this landed me in the hospital for 5 days and took more than a month to recover fully.


How has this affected your training since then?

I now take rest/hydration very seriously and monitor closely my work/rest cycle. Rhabdo is not worth the risk!

In answer to the last question, Rhabdo has affected my training in that I am now more susceptible to developing Rhabdo if I don’t recover/rest appropriately. I intentionally don’t train as hard but have recovered nearly 100%. I have hopefully learned my lesson; listen to my body, realize that proper hydration, recovery, and rest are just as important as training, and most importantly, have fun!