One of the things I’d heard repeatedly about CrossFit was the sense of community that was felt among participants – outsiders have often referred to it as a cult. People jokingly say they “drank the Kool-Aid” once they got fully immersed in the box. I was interested to see what the truth was, knowing that I had experience with exactly one box and that each one, by CrossFit Headquarters design, was different from all others.
A couple of months in and I have to say, the community is there, to the extent that you want it. There are still quieter folks that come in, do their workouts, and leave, with minimal interaction. Others clearly have relationships outside of the box as well. I’m cautiously finding my way as well. My natural inclination is that of a loner – for years now I’ve trained on my own, so interacting with others doesn’t come totally naturally.
Dr. Allison Wenglin Belger’s book The Power of Community: CrossFit and the Force of Human Connection (Las Vegas, NV: Victory Belt Publishing, 2012) is an interesting look into communities, using CrossFit as a loose framework. It reads like academic writing, with some detachment, plenty of research, and many examples from the world of fitness. Examples run the gamut from wounded veterans, support for illness or family tragedy, to the power to improve marginal communities.
When Reebok inserted itself into the CrossFit world, participants worried that it was the end of the loosely structured, more organic growth of the sport (similar to ultrarunning’s worry about Lifetime Fitness purchasing well-known ultramarathon races). Reading the chapter on what’s transpired so far was really interesting, especially how much the company has pushed its own employees to participate more fully in improving personal fitness. Though not mandatory, Reebok has pushed CrossFit specifically, because of the community aspect. “One of Reebok’s goals in creating a community of fitness was to foster the relationship between male and female coworkers.” While CrossFit isn’t alone in blending the sexes during workouts, it does so more than others I’ve seen. From other bloggers’ visit, the Reebok headquarters is an amazing place to visit, after reading this, I’m even more excited about one day visiting.
This book is “about the human drive to connect with others and the inspiring ways in which these connections can bring about change...[T]his is a story about human relationships, personal growth, and the power of community.” CrossFit is not the only community available – one has to look no further than the triathlon or running communities to see that there are plenty of other options. One of the things I most enjoy about CrossFit is how we all are pushing for the same goals during each workout, yet the training is scaled so every one can enjoy the same sense of success. And, while I’m never happy to be on the receiving end, it’s pretty inspiring to have the alphas cheering me on to the finish,
About the Author: Allison Wenglin Belger received a BA from Dartmouth College, a Master’s Degree from Northwestern University, and a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. Allison and her husband are co-owners of TJ’s Gym, a community of four CrossFit affiliates in Marin County, California, where they live with their two young daughters.
Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge, for review purposes. No other compensation was offered or received, and a positive review was not guaranteed. Some information was taken from the company website. All opinions are my own.
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