As a Regionals and Games competitor since the time that Crossfit started to earn the respect of a worldwide athletic company (Reebok) and television network (ESPN), it was enjoyable to re-live the experience through a talented journalist, JC Herz. I will admit that I am not an avid reader of history albeit political, social, or sports-related. I prefer to read popular science as a form of relaxation from my day job as a neuroscientist which is filled with reading highly technical scholarly works saturated with jargon that is rarely found in the OED. That being said, JC Herz has made me re-consider my selections of non-fiction. The level of detail coupled with the writing style of choice made me feel as if I was a spectator or even a fellow athlete during the early years of the Crossfit Games. JC Herz’s literary journey of the 2011 Crossfit Games accurately matched my first-hand experiences of seeing Iceland Annie and “The Champ” (Rich Froning) win their first titles.
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 struggling 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. The active role that Crossfit plays in the military is another focus of the book and one that may make you 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 and fitness enthusiast, beginner or elite.

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