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10 Things You Didn't Know About CrossFit


"It’s not just physical training. It’s also mental."

Class participants toss medicine balls during a CrossFit workout at Ross Valley CrossFit on March 14, 2014 in San Anselmo, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Note: J.C. Herz, auther of "Learning to Breathe Fire: The Rise of CrossFit and the Primal Future of Fitness," joined us for the full hour on Thursday's live BlazeCast with Editor-in-Chief Scott Baker:

There are a couple of camps when it comes to talking about CrossFit.

People who can't get enough of it.

People who feel like they have already heard too much about it.

CrossFit fans do tend to talk about it. A lot.

Or maybe you are in the third camp -- a little curious about CrossFit and open to some new information.

TheBlaze has done a good number of stories about CrossFit over the years (and not just because I'm a serious CrossFitter). You can find background and our prior stories here.  And there is voluminous material of course at

But now there is a terrific new book that tells the CrossFit story better than anything I have read: "Learning to Breathe Fire: The Rise of CrossFit and the Primal Future of Fitness".  Author J.C. Herz comes at this with the eye of a journalist. She was a columnist at the New York Times and a writer for Wired and Rolling Stone.


This week Herz compiled, with some help from the community on her Facebook page, a list of "10 Things You Didn’t Know about CrossFit." Below is a taste.

I often tell people there is no need to be intimidated by the workouts they may see described on the main CrossFit website:

1) You don’t have to already be in great shape to start doing it. “I want to try CrossFit but I have to get in shape first” is a common refrain among the CrossFit-curious. Six months go by, and then they realize that the “getting in shape first” thing isn’t happening. They screw up their courage and dive in, only to find that they’re not allowed to use heavy weight until they’ve mastered the movements. A year later, they slap themselves for giving up half a year of progress, waiting to start.

And as a 50-year-old father of five who has been doing CrossFit for almost five years, I can't think of anything better for people over 50:

2) Age is not a barrier. Fifty- and sixty-somethings, generally wiser and more cautious than their twenty-something counterparts, can make dramatic gains in fitness. For them, the benefits of stronger bones, more muscle mass and less fat around the middle are about health, quality of life and functional independence. As one trainer says of his senior citizen athletes, “Everyone needs to squat – that’s how you get up and down from the toilet.”

Herz's fifth point is vital:

5) It’s not just physical training. It’s also mental. The ritual of CrossFit’s Workouts of the Day (WODs) is about groups of people just getting through it. Pushing yourself is physically uncomfortable. Doing this repeatedly, week-in-week-out, is like allergy shots for stress. You learn that physical discomfort won’t kill you – that there’s a difference between a true physical limit and aaah-this-just-sucks. If you practice, you can learn to ignore the voice in your head that says aaah-this-just-sucks. Knowing you’re tough enough to do that – especially when none of your friends or co-workers suspects your secret streak of Die Hard badass – is gratifying.

To read the entire here!

The book would be a great Father's Day gift.  But let's be clear that this is not something just for guys -- a point made by William O'Conner at The Daily Beast who notes Herz pegging CrossFit participation at a ration of 60-40 male to female:

The female segment of the CrossFit community is somewhat surprising.

“You have barbells, you have intensity, and you have the exercise and expression of physical power, which is what makes you think it’s a male thing,” explains Herz. “There’s not a lot out there in fitness-land for women that involves physical power, and in fact it's almost taboo.”

CrossFit is in some ways more transformative for women than men.

“If you go to most gyms, there are mirrors everywhere. Most women’s fitness goals have to do with how they look in the mirror. And it makes people neurotic, to fixate on how their thighs look,” she reasons.

Instead, with CrossFit, the fitness is about function.

“It changes how you think about yourself. It’s really rewarding to get a pull-up. When you can pull your own body up, it’s empowering,” remarks Herz. “I can lift things, and I don’t have to ask for help when I need to move something heavy from point A to point B. The separation of physical goals from the cosmetic is embraced wholeheartedly by the women who do CrossFit.

“The attention goes away from looking at myself in the mirror. Looking at other women in the mirror. Comparing myself to other women. Knowing that they’re comparing themselves to me, to OK, can I deadlift my body weight?”

Read the rest of O'Conner's review here.

And I tend to tweet about CrossFit @bakerlink!

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