Gym's High-Intensity Workout Left Me Disabled, Man Testifies

By Jonathan Mummolo and Christian Davenport
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Virginia man says a controversial workout regimen embraced by many in the military, law enforcement and the general public has left him permanently disabled, and he is suing the Manassas gym and those who administered the exercise program.

Makimba Mimms of Bristow, a former Navy information systems technician first class, testified in a Prince William County courtroom yesterday that he underwent a workout that was part of the CrossFit program at the gym three years ago. The workout in which his quadriceps were repeatedly taxed without rest caused him to urinate blood and his legs to swell, he said.

Mimms, 29, was hospitalized for about a week, and his ability to stand for long periods, run and play sports is now limited, his attorneys said.

Mimms is suing Manassas World Gym, where he did the workout; Ruthless Training Concepts, a CrossFit affiliate at the time; and one of Ruthless's employees, who administered the workout. CrossFit is not named as a defendant.

Defense attorneys said Mimms was merely given an "orientation workout," which the former owner of Ruthless Training, Ashley Weakley, testified differs from a CrossFit one in that it allows for breaks.

But Mimms's attorneys said that the workout was identical to one in the CrossFit regimen and that Mimms was not told to stop at any point.

CrossFit has garnered national attention as a potentially harmful workout method. It involves timed, high-intensity strength training with little or no rest or water between sets and is done competitively.

On its Web site, CrossFit bills itself as an "elite fitness" routine and "is the principal strength and conditioning program for many police academies and tactical operations teams, military special operations units, champion martial artists, and hundreds of other elite and professional athletes worldwide."

The workouts have been linked to rhabdomyolysis -- or "rhabdo" -- a medical disorder in which muscle fibers break down and release myoglobin into the bloodstream, which can cause kidney damage. Mimms testified that rhabdo was diagnosed after his 2005 workout, which consisted of 90 repetitions of lower-body exercises. He said he was never told to rest, stop for water or slow down by Javier Lopez, a Ruthless employee who oversaw the routine but was not a certified trainer, during his workout.

"Makimba Mimms was seriously, severely and permanently injured and almost died," one of his attorneys, Mark M. Kodama, said in his opening statement to the Circuit Court jury.

Brian A. Scotti, attorney for the gym, said the case is all about "personal accountability. Did he stop? No. He made a conscious decision to keep going."

The popularity and dangers of the workouts have led at least one military official to warn of their potential effects. Capt. Jonathan Picker, commander of the Navy's Center for Personal and Professional Development, warned the Navy's top leadership in a recent e-mail, "Granted, anyone can develop a program that's very intense, but there's a safer way of doing this for our sailors."

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