A doctor says that the same program that pushes limits can also reveal someone's limitations

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CLEVELAND -- CrossFit is an exercise program that pushes limits, both physically and mentally.

Dr. Rob Truax is a sports medicine doctor with University Hospitals Case Medical Center and one of the team doctors for the Cleveland Browns. He approves of CrossFit.

"It encourages what is fundamental to health, which is good exercise," Truax says.

But he adds that the same program that pushes limits can also reveal someone's limitations.

"Some people have heart conditions that can tolerate even mild exertion but when they get to extreme exertion that's when it reveals itself," Truax says.

Rhabdomyolysis is another health issue associated with CrossFit and extreme exercise.

It happens when a muscle group is traumatized. Tissues break down, releasing a toxin that can overload the kidneys leading to failure and potential death if not treated. It's a gradual onset over hours with symptoms that include muscle swelling and pain.

CrossFit trainers should be well educated about these issues, but Truax says beginners should take it very slow, perhaps six weeks or so to ramp up fitness, focusing on form of movements before adding weight.

He says it's time to stop and see a doctor if they see any of these warning signs: extreme fatigue, difficulty breathing, chest pain or muscle pain that worsens.

CrossFit is not for everyone, especially those with known heart conditions, but for those who are healthy, fit and seeking to improve performance, it may be an ideal program.

"CrossFit can get the image of being dangerous, but I wouldn't say CrossFit is fundamentally dangerous. It's trying to encourage something that's fundamentally healthy," Truax says.

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