(An amusing bit of trivia, I drafted most of this post in July of 2014, since I read the book during the 2014 CrossFit Games.)
I just finished reading J.C. Herz’s book, &linkId=NCOENLP5YDUXIWRM”>Learning to Breathe Fire: The Rise of CrossFit and the Primal Future of Fitness
I liked it so much, I’m going to make it possible for you to get a free copy.
But first, let me tell you about the book.
J.C. starts at the very beginning, discussing this fitness malcontent named Greg Glassman, who managed to get himself banned from every fitness establishment in the Santa Cruz area. Talk about a Lunk Alarm.
The book opens in the early days as Glassman was striving to unlock a method that would blend the best elements of several athletic and strength disciplines to yield a systematized approach to fitness.
The book is written as a chronological timeline, describing the evolution of what we recognize as CrossFit today. It describes the organic growth of the sport from borrowed space in Santa Cruz dojos, to the first Games at Dave Castro’s dad’s ranch in Aromas. It describes how the Games unexpectedly grew beyond anyone’s imagination, into the spectacle in which we are reveling in July 2015.
There were several things that struck me and which gave me a new-found respect for those who have brought us CrossFit, as we now know it.
I am a CrossFitter and I like most things about it. But, I will admit, I have often viewed CrossFit HQ as a strange lot. That is being polite. As I have read about the evolution of this organization, the affiliates, the games, the owners and the athletes, I admit I am amazed by it all.
This did not begin with a business plan to grow an empire, in fact it was only when Glassman was asked about opening an East Coast affiliate, that he even gave it any thought. And it was for $500 and a handshake. As the annual price for affiliation has risen to $3,000, early adopters are still grandfathered at their old rates.
Glassman’s political ideology tends to be libertarian, and his “hands-off” governance mindset is a key element of the CrossFit corporate culture. You get certified, you buy an annual affiliate license and you open your own CrossFit business. You don’t have to buy any products or licensed stuff from HQ. You own your business and run it as you please. You fail or you succeed on your own. Period. As I read this book, I develop an understanding of Greg Glassman that I did not have before.
Dave Castro is another person I grew to appreciate. Those who know me will be shocked to hear this, because every March, when the Opens WODs are announced, I curse Dave Castro as if he were some demon, intent upon killing me. What I learned was quite the opposite.
The Games are the “Flagship Product” of CrossFit. All activity seems to lead up to this monumental sporting and publicity event, that we all love. It still amazes me, that as box members, we all have the opportunity to participate in this game of attrition, by signing up for the Open every year. Unlike other sports, we personally know the elite among us, who make it to the Regionals.
Then, like an annual pilgrimage, many of us flock to the Regionals to cheer on our local heroes. Then we follow the Best of the Best to Carson, California. Office productivity suffers around the globe, as fans consume employer bandwidth, to watch the athletes of various divisions lay it all down for a chance to stand on the podium.
This is the genius of Dave Castro. Dave first kicked off the games as a fun local party at his dad’s ranch in California. As it evolved into Woodstock with Barbells, they needed to formalize things. Venues, Qualifications, Scoring, Web and Database Design, Media Teams, etc. This is Castro’s contribution to the company, and to the culture.
The Reebok deal was also a fluke. A former NFL player, who was an executive at Reebok, adopted it as his workout regimen. Before you know it, a bunch of his staff were doing it. Then the synergy of a major supplier of athletic apparel and an emerging sport began to grow.
For those who think my opinion of Castro was shaped by this book alone, I offer this. When I was at the Northeast Regionals in May, 2014 Dave was there. As he moved about the Reebok campus, he willingly engaged with anyone who wanted to speak with him or pose with him for a photo. He asked people if they were enjoying themselves. Did they like the event? How could it be better?
He proved to be a very gracious and approachable person. This was almost disappointing for me, as I wanted somebody to scorn as every Open WOD is announced next year. I guess I’ll just have to deal with my own ineptness in a more honest fashion next year.
The book doesn’t just focus on the organization. It looks into the rise of our unique generation of sports heroes. Approachable guys and gals, who we all relate to. People like Rich Froning, Jason Khalipa, Christmas Abbott, Chris Spealler, Greg Amundson, and Jerry Hall, just to name a few.
J.C. Herz has a winner here. It is a very comprehensive look at a pastime we are all passionate about. The book is about 350 pages, but it is a fun read and each chapter can stand on it’s own as a taste of CrossFit candy. It’s especially fun to read while you are still high on the Games.
As I’m finalizing this copy, the 2015 Masters CrossFit Games have just ended and the Individuals are a day into it.
The Book Giveaway
At the beginning of this post, I told you that I’d like to make it possible for you to get a free copy of the book. To qualify for the Defiant Wellness “Learn to Breathe Fire” Giveaway, simply subscribe to the Defiant Wellness website.
For desktop readers, the form is in the upper right-hand corner of the home page, beneath the text “Join the Defiant Wellness Tribe”. Just enter your e-mail address, and hit Go! Then you will receive a confirmation e-mail. Click the link in the Confirmation message, and you are in. For Mobile Users, it’s usually at the bottom, below the post.
So everyone who is a Defiant Wellness subscriber will be eligible to win the book. But only One of you will win. Will it be you?
You must be registered no later than Saturday, August 1, 2015, 11:59 PM Eastern time. The drawing will take place on Sunday, August 2nd. The winner will be contacted by e-mail, for shipping information. After I have contacted the lucky Defiant One, the winner will be announced on a Defiant Wellness blog post and FaceBook.
The winner has been selected, and notified on August 2, 2015. Better luck next month. The winner was Sheila Heller. Congrats!