Patient after patient would stream into her clinic with diabetes, weight problems, and heart disease. Rockett followed the medical guidelines, recommending healthier diets and more exercise. But despite her best efforts — even texting and emailing motivational follow-ups — many failed to change at all, either because they didn’t want to or didn’t have the means.
In 2013, eager to try something new, Rockett decided to quit medicine and close up her practice. What she did next, she says, is the most meaningful contribution to health care she’s made to date. She opened a CrossFit gym.
CrossFit is a high-intensity interval training and resistance exercise routine known for instilling a cult-like devotion among followers and promoting the low-carb diet. By the time Rockett opened a gym, she was already a devotee. Now age 51, she can do 32 pullups and deadlift 240 pounds. She attributes her fitness and lowered cholesterol to the program. And she believes she can help people make more substantive changes in their lives through CrossFit than she ever could practicing medicine.
“It’s exciting that I can treat and cure medical problems in the gym,” she said. “Just in the last week alone, I’ve gotten three different texts from people saying, ‘I don’t think you understand how much this has changed my life.’” Though she had 2,000 regular patients at her clinic and now works with just 70 regulars at her gym, she’s convinced she’s having more impact on each individual. Plus, she said, “This is more fulfilling.”
That CrossFit could be a substitute for, or an extension of, health care in America may seem like a stretch. But this is precisely the vision of CrossFit’s charismatic, contrarian, and often combative founder and CEO, Greg Glassman. These days, Glassman is on a quest to disrupt health care and solve the growing crisis of chronic disease related to diet and inactivity. And he wants to do this one CrossFitting doctor at a time.
A couple of years ago, Glassman discovered that at least 20,000 US doctors regularly went to CrossFit gyms. He also learned that many of them felt like Rockett — disappointed by their inability to prevent chronic disease and help patients change their behavior.
“Medicine is supposed to be about helping you through the accidents — the misfortune of a genetic disease, the misfortune of a trauma, the misfortune of some pathogen,” Glassman said. “Nobody went to medical school to babysit someone through a life of self-inflicted misery because of two deadly habits: sedentarism and excessive consumption of refined carbohydrates.”
CrossFit, meanwhile, is a radical intervention, the “elegant solution” to the chronic diseases of obesity and diabetes ailing so many people, he said.
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