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Learning to Breathe Fire: The Rise of CrossFit and the Primal Future of Fitness Hardcover – June 3, 2014
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More of a life philosophy than an exercise regime, CrossFit has skyrocketed in popularity over the last decade. Herz takes readers on a journey through CrossFit history, beginning with founder and gymnast gone feral Greg Glassman’s idea of a highly intense, functional fitness regime that is measurable, observable, and repeatable. Today, CrossFit has thousands of affiliates and an international competition that is televised on ESPN. Herz intertwines the narrative with passionate descriptions of workouts that push participants to the brink of exhaustion, highlighting men and women who have reached the pinnacle of CrossFit competition. Ironically, some of the greatest personal achievements don’t involve winning but simply completing the workout and using every bit of emotional and physical effort. CrossFit’s workouts of the day are described throughout as well as the fiercely loyal subculture that has evolved from shared moments of agony and triumph. Although this book will appeal to the CrossFit faithful, general readers will find interest in Glassman’s libertarian views on franchising and his scathing opinions of globo-gyms and machine-based fitness. --Craig Clark
"Herz takes readers on a journey through CrossFit history…[she] intertwines the narrative with passionate descriptions of workouts that push participants to the brink of exhaustion…” - Booklist
"“Herz explores this exhilarating, addictive activity…[and] adds a dramatic flair to her prose, igniting excitement and an uptick in interest…A vigorously written must-read for exercise enthusiasts primed for the ultimate fitness challenge.” - Kirkus
"“Much like the workout it documents, [Learning to Breathe Fire] is a relentless, breathless march through CrossFit’s history, the science behind its regimen, and the men and women who live by it.” - The Daily Beast
“Learning to Breathe Fire is a must-read for every Crossfitter and fitness enthusiast, beginner or elite.” - Dormiviglia.com
"“A terrific new book that tells the CrossFit story better than anything I have read.” - The Blaze
“Learning to Breathe Fire is one of those books that come along every generation or so that brings to life a sub-culture so vividly, so deliciously that it makes you want to run out now and become a part of it! Written with great verve, comprehensive research and a novelist’s knack for deft characterizations, this is CrossFit’s War and Peace.”
--Charles Gaines, New York Times bestselling coauthor of Pumping Iron
“A beautifully written mix of evocative vignettes and lucid explanations that shows us what we’re capable of when we train hard and connect with our instinctive nature. This is a book about digging deep, about kindling a spirit that allows us to push past our wildest expectations. Whether your fitness habit involves going it alone or tunneling through an extreme workout as part of a group, you’ll find this CrossFit journey thoroughly immersive.”
--Marshall Ulrich, Badwater-146 Record Holder and author of Running on Empty
“CrossFit is a phenomenon, both as a radical way to confer fitness and as a virally successful business. Herz tells both stories with exceptional insight---plus the inside lore of a dedicated CrossFitter.”
--Stewart Brand, creator of the Whole Earth Catalog (and CrossFitter at age 75)
“The remarkable rise of the CrossFit movement is grounded and propelled by a great moral truth. Effort alone is all we may bring to life. Everything else -- our genes, our talents, and our teachers -- are gifts. J.C. Herz has written a compelling book around this truth as embodied in the CrossFit culture. As a society, we forget that we are evolved to realize our greatest strength when we are truly tested. The originators of CrossFit have rediscovered that, and proved it by becoming the fittest humans on the planet. In the view of CrossFit athletes ‘the only possible sin is slacking off.’ Herz writes with sweep and depth about great characters, often racked with doubt, finding their limits and surpassing them. This is the ultimate chronicle of how they created a training method, a championship, a corporation and a loving community devoted to the sacred tenant of effort.”
--Kenny Moore, award-winning writer for Sports Illustrated, former American record holder in the marathon, author of Bowerman and the Men of Oregon, and co-screenwriter of “Without Limits”
“J.C. Herz expertly debunks many longstanding fitness beliefs and shows how high-intensity exercise can yield the greatest return on your workout investment. Her Learning to Breathe Fire chronicles the rise of CrossFit, showing – in a way that is always interesting and insightful -- how ordinary people have achieved extraordinary results following this program. A must read for anyone looking to maximize his or her potential.”
--Dean Karnazes, ultra-endurance star, New York Times bestselling author, and one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People”
“I couldn’t put this book down. J.C. spares no detail in helping us see into into the heart and soul of a CrossFitter. Her description of what CrossFit athletes overcome is truly unbelievable. She captures the essence of the sport and what it represents, most especially the ability to push through barriers, whether physical or mental. This is about the gut-busting journey to the last rep, but it’s also about life. Whether you’ve tried CrossFit or just thought about trying it, Learning to Breathe Fire is a must read.”
--Chrisanna Northrup, New York Times bestselling author, CrossFit Level 1 Coach, and former CrossFit Box owner
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I was actually relatively satisfied with it until I got to the acknowledgements, where Dave Castro is described as being, "open and eager to talk about points of controversy and contention in an even-handed way." Now that sounds interesting. And it sounds like the story-telling could have had more dimension. What are these points of controversy? Does CrossFit really create a new and improved world for everyone?
Exploring some of these things could have added a lot more depth to a book that now, honestly, just seems like a big circle jerk.
I took issue with the second chapter. The author went pretty far beyond her scope as she tackled, "The Science of Maximum Effort". I skipped through most of it, but then saw in the notes section that the vast majority of the references were from The CrossFit Journal, obviously a non peer-reviewed and heavily biased source. I have a feeling the chapter was an editorial demand.
Overall, I enjoyed reading it. The action sequences were fantastic, and she did a great job humanizing all of the characters. Broadening the story-line would have added much more depth, and I wish she would've stuck with the journalism and let go of Ch. 2.
JC Herz also did an excellent job combining the history of the sport of fitness with the physiology that underlies elite fitness. It is often a challenge as a scientist or non-scientist to accurately capture the complex physiology and anatomy that underlies athletic performance. JC Herz succeeded beautifully. As a final point, I really appreciated JC Herz’s focus on the heroes of the sport versus its champions. Some of my most emotional moments competing in Regionals and the Crossfit Games are from cheering on those individuals who are obviously struggle get those last few reps. This is the beauty of our sport and the reason why it is so attractive to military and first-responders: no man (or woman) is left behind. This is another focus of the book that is paid attention to. Warning: you may shed a tear or two. To conclude, whether you are interested in the history, science, or ethos of Crossfit, “Learning to Breathe Fire” is a must-read for every Crossfitter, beginner or elite.
Most recent customer reviews
I wanted to read on this matter and this book is a nice review of this discipline