The Cult Following & Tribalism of CrossFit

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Lita Collins does a deadlift during a CrossFit workout at Ross Valley CrossFit on March 14, 2014 in San Anselmo, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty)

Promoted as both a physical exercise philosophy and a competitive fitness sport, CrossFit workouts incorporate high-intensity interval training, olympic weightlifting, plyometrics, powerlifting, gymnastics, girevoy sport, calisthenics, strongman, and other exercises.

In many ways, the tribes of CrossFit drink in pain like nectar. Their goal? Extreme physical and mental fitness—a trend that thousands have been flocking to. In 2005, there were only 13 CrossFit gyms across the country. Today, there are more than 9,000. But CrossFit is not just a fitness trend, it’s a philosophy too.

We spoke with J. C. Herz, author of "Learning to Breathe Fire: The Rise of CrossFit and the Primal Future of Fitness" about what's behind this fitness craze. We also heard from Angie and Chris Mundt, who run CrossFit Unshackled in Rochester, Minnesota.


J. C. Herz, Angie Mundt and Chris Mundt

Produced by:

Allie Ferguson


T.J. Raphael

Comments [8]

Jason DuBose from Lubbock, TX

It seems that many people miss the point of CrossFit. The idea is that we can build functional fitness, not through building a cult but through learning how to work hard AND smart in the gym ( aka box.) Sure, challenging yourself physically may produce sore muscles, but it's not about pain; it's about actually being able to say to yourself that you really did put all of your effort into doing the excesize correctly, and with all the intensity you could muster.

When you put out that kind of effort you are left with sense of accomplishment. When you accomplish difficult tasks with a group, the group bonds. That bonded group gets close. This bond builds a safe place to try and fail , and a reinforcement to keep trying.

Don't listen to the horror stories, go meet a CrossFit affiliate, talk about how the workouts are scaled for athletes that are just starting CrossFit. Meet the regulars at a class, you will be presently surprized, and defiantly inspired by the stories of change through hard work that you will hear.

Jun. 16 2014 06:11 PM
Reis from New York, NY

In three years of doing Crossfit I've lost and kept off over 50 pounds of fat, gained over 20 pounds of muscle and went from an immobile obese person barely capable of going up and down a flight of stairs to a completely functional, energetic and strong human being. Focus on the drama and social aspects all you want. Crossfit works, and in my case it saved my life.

Jun. 16 2014 11:57 AM
Michalle from India

Cross fit workout has become a fad, How far people are happy with that is still a big question.

Jun. 14 2014 11:17 PM
john Q from Wash DC

the book sounds interesting:

Learning to Breathe Fire: The Rise of CrossFit and the Primal Future of Fitness
by J.C. Herz

Jun. 13 2014 10:01 AM
Richard from Charleston, SC

American's will believe anything if it's marketed properly.

Jun. 12 2014 02:55 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

I like to stretch a couple of minutes a day with my cup of coffee

Jun. 12 2014 02:33 PM
Michelangelo from Miami FL

You can't herniate an inter-vertebral disk your way out of low self-esteem. Become a hipster instead! Same cultural isolation with none of the arthritis.

Jun. 12 2014 10:51 AM
art525 from Park Slope

Wow these people are trying so desperately hard to be cool. How incredibly pretentious. Uncool people trying desperately hard to be cool- in short a perfect fit with John Hockenberry.

Jun. 12 2014 09:58 AM

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