The bodybuilder shared that she experienced liver failure after doing an advanced version of sit-ups.

By Renee Cherry
April 11, 2019
Photo: Icon Sport Wire/Getty Images

Chances are, the possibility of getting rhabdomyolysis (rhabdo) isn't keeping you up at night. But the condition *can* happen, and it landed physique competitor Dana Linn Bailey in the hospital after an intense CrossFit workout. Following her injury, she posted a reminder to Instagram that overtraining can have serious consequences.

First, a brief on rhabdo: The syndrome is often caused by muscle damage from strenuous exercise (though other common causes can include trauma, infection, viruses, and drug use). As the muscles break down, they leak an enzyme called creatine kinase, as well as a protein called myoglobin, into the bloodstream, which can result in kidney failure, acute compartment syndrome (a painful condition resulting from pressure buildup within muscles), and electrolyte abnormalities. Symptoms can include muscle pain and weakness and dark-colored urine, which can all easily fly under the radar and make it hard to realize you're experiencing rhabdo. (See: Everything You Need to Know About Rhabdomyolysis)

If rhabdo sounds serious, that's because it is. But it's also rare, and despite being someone who trains hard, Linn Bailey didn't see it coming. In her Instagram post, the former Women's Physique Olympia shared her experience as a word of warning that rhabdo can happen to just about anyone, "whether you are new to lifting or have been training for 15+ years." She added, "If you are competitive like me, this can happen to you!!" (Once, it happened to Paralympic snowboarder Amy Purdy.)

Linn Bailey realized something was off a few days after a tough CrossFit workout, which had called for 3 rounds of 2-minute AMRAP stations. One of the stations was GHD sit-ups, which are sit-ups performed on a glute-ham developer and allow for a longer range of motion than floor sit-ups. Even though she'd done them before, Linn Bailey said she believes that trying to crank out as many GHD sit-ups as she could during the interval led to her rhabdo diagnosis. (This woman had rhabdo after pushing herself to do a lot of pull-ups.)

"To me it just felt like a really good cardio workout," she explained. "I think I even trained legs after that workout, and I also trained the rest of the week. I thought I was just really sore and had really bad DOMS which made me like the workout even more because I'm a psycho." But after about three days, Linn Bailey shared, she noticed her stomach was swollen, and once she reached the fifth day of continued soreness and unexplained swelling, she went to the doctor, who ran both urine and blood tests. "Kidneys seemed to bring [sic] functioning okay, however my liver was not functioning," she wrote, adding that she immediately checked into the ER for treatment at her doctor's recommendation.

The good news is that Linn Bailey said she's making a full recovery from her rhabdo, as she "luckily got treated in time," she wrote. "Lots of fluids and sad part yes... no weight training till all levels get back to normal...AND they are!!" she continued. "Just couple more days of fluid and rest." (Related: 7 Signs You Seriously Need a Rest Day)

Whether you're into CrossFit or you prefer a more low-key workout session, anyone can benefit from Linn Bailey's takeaway: It's important to stay mindful of your body's limits, no matter your fitness level.