Pushed too far? - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Pushed too far?

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

You're trying to lose weight, or maybe just tone up, but are you doing more harm than good?

There are benefits to pushing yourself in the gym, but do they outweigh the risk?

Dehydration, overexertion, kidney failure. It is happening around the country.

It's one of the most extreme workouts, Crossfit, a military style exercise that pushes bodies to the brink, but is it safe? Chances are you've probably never heard of rhabdomyolysis.

"If there is injury to the muscle cell, whether from trauma or overexertion their muscle cells can burst and with the release of amino acids and protein it can cause kidney damage," said Susanne Leathers.

In about 15 percent of cases it can progress into kidney failure. Leathers, a nurse who is also a certified Crossfit instructor and owner of Crossfit Savannah explained what to look for.

"You will start seeing dark urine or almost no urine, as your kidneys get damaged by the excess amino acids and protein in bloodstream," said Leathers..

Crossfit has been linked to rhabdo in recent months in mainstream media, but the truth is, you can get it from a variety of sources; car accidents, heat stroke, certain medications, and alcoholism.

When it comes to overexertion, Crossfit is not the only culprit.

"It can happen with any sport and will happen when people are dehydrated or trying to do too much too fast. The problem with Crossfit is, there are some trainers with little education that get into the sport," said Leathers. "You have to look into backgrounds of trainer, as well as their medical background."

If you think you're safe because you're sticking to the elliptical or treadmill, beware.

"I had a patient who developed rhabdo over the summer," said Dr. Renee Mason. "She went on vacation, had extra time, she was working out on the treadmill by herself. After 3 days of working out on the treadmill, just really didn't feel well and spent the rest of her vacation in the hospital getting hydrated."

If you seek medical attention early enough, you can likely avoid some of the more serious consequences, including surgery to reduce muscle swelling, and kidney failure. How do you know when you should see a doctor?

"Whatever muscle group it is, besides being a little bit sore, it starts becoming excruciating," said Leathers. "You are not feeling well. It is almost like flu symptoms. The muscle of that area will swell."

Rhabdo happens when people are thrown into the fire, too much, too far, too soon. Really the best way to avoid it is to do a progressive training program.

A lot of Crossfit gyms offer a few private sessions to get you up to speed before you join the class, but whatever workout you're doing, it's also critical you listen to your body.

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