Kiana Alvarez thought the pain she was in was brought on after CrossFit. But when it worsened to the point of excruciating, she knew it was something more.
Kiana Alvarez thought the pain she was in was brought on after CrossFit. But when it worsened to the point of excruciating, she knew it was something more.

How an ‘intense’ workout almost killed young woman

Forget "no pain, no gain" - training too hard at the gym left a 23-year-old make-up artist desperately sick in hospital. Kiana Alvarez found herself in this nightmare two days after an intense 90-minute workout.

She remembers doing a "heavy session", including abdominal work, but nothing to cause the excruciating pain across her stomach and back that kept her hunched over and unable to take a full breath.

Ms Alvarez went to her GP and was eventually diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a potentially life-threatening syn­drome caused by muscle cells breaking down and bursting, leaking contents into the bloodstream.

Often called "Rhabdo", the rare syndrome causes kidney failure and heart damage, and is known to ­affect athletes who do high-intensity or extreme endurance workouts.

 

Ms Alvarez said she is far from an extreme athlete but someone who cares about staying fit and healthy, so if she can get so sick from ­exercise, then anyone can.

"I'd had cosmetic surgery 10 weeks earlier and once I got the all clear to train I probably got into it a bit too hard," Ms Alvarez told The Saturday Telegraph.

"I did a massive workout with a personal trainer, I guess an hour-and-a-half of CrossFit, then two days later I started feeling intense workout pain.

"It was in my core region and it was super-intense. I couldn't move, couldn't breathe, couldn't stand up straight and I knew something was wrong."

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Ms Alvarez had heard of "Rhabdo" only once before - her idol Dana Linn Bailey, a professional US bodybuilder and CrossFitter, had shared her battle with the condition on social media.

"I can be a bit dramatic but I thought: 'Oh my God, imagine if I have that'," Ms Alvarez said.

"I hassled the doctors to test me for it when they didn't know what else could be wrong."

Kiana Alvarez was treated at hospital after she was diagnosed with “Rhabdo”.
Kiana Alvarez was treated at hospital after she was diagnosed with “Rhabdo”.

Diagnosis is based on the levels of an enzyme called creatine kinase (CK) in the blood, which is released when cells are damaged.

She convinced the sceptical doctors to test her and was soon admitted to hospital in a frantic attempt to get her CK levels down from almost 40 times the normal level.

"My levels were dangerously high, CK was around 10,000 instead of 200, and all they could do was pump me with IV fluids," she said.

"Looking back, I wasn't drinking enough water, I ­always trained before eating in the morning and I was ­really dehydrated, so my body was feeding off my muscles. They started to die. That's what happens; it kills your muscles slowly and the fluid leaks into your kidneys and liver.

"It was pretty severe, they did blood tests after blood tests and gave me heaps of fluids and slowly my levels came back down and I got the all-clear."

Ms Alvarez is now nervous about training but knows she needs to get back into the gym for her overall wellbeing.

She wants to warn others of the dangers of over-training.

"Honestly it can happen to anyone, not just bodybuilders and CrossFitters," she said.

"I'm just out here trying to work out, anyone can get it. I didn't even know over-training was a real thing."

Originally published as How an 'intense' workout almost killed young woman


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