Burning Runner: Inside The CrossFit Culture

A new partnership with Reebok, combined with a strong sense of community and competitive environments, will keep momentum going.

Chris Spealler is the owner of CrossFit Park City in Utah where he also coaches. He’s competed in every CrossFit Games since its inception and picked up three top-five finishes.

It’s just killing Kelly Starrett. He shakes his head slowly, eyes fixed on the fault, a profound hurt registering in eyes. It’s bright and warm, late on a Saturday afternoon, day 2 of 3 at the Reebok Crossfit Games at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. He’s watching a young woman perform a set of seven front squats with 155 pounds, and in her drive to complete the movement her butt sticks out as she overextends her lower back.

Over-extension: Starrett agonizes when he sees it—an athlete sacrificing the physics power that midline stability and mechanics are begging to serve up. The break in posture opens the athlete to potential injury and, as Starrett puts it, “leaves performance on the table,” laying there like a pile of gold coins. Starrett, a physical therapist and owner of CrossFit San Francisco with his wife, Juliet (who competed in the Games last year), has logged tens of thousands of hours coaching athletes, watching them move and obsessively coaxing them into better mechanics. Obsession is the right word: Problems of movement simmer in his thinking despite the busiest of days, his working solutions being posted daily, for almost a year now, in videos on mobilitywod.com.

“Crossfit is the perfect tool to expose holes in our movement,” he says. “A Crossfit gym is a lab: it’s a safe place to press boundaries, experiment, test and re-test, see what works and what doesn’t work, and become better athletes.” Starrett’s out to make the case that increasing performance is not limited to how much we can train or how hard we can train, but peak genetic performance becomes achievable only when posture, mechanics and movement are developed like skills, freeing up more power and becoming more efficient. When another athlete allows her knees to buckle inward as she thrusts the weight from a deep-knee bend to a standing position, Starrett slowly shakes his head again. “She’s so broken,” he says. Starrett knows he could help her if he just had the chance. This is how he’s hardwired and why most everyone in the stadium knows his name.

CrossFit is not just about becoming the athlete of the future, he’ll tell you. It’s about becoming a better human being. It’s about self-actualization. It’s about creative thinking, it’s about not being OK with imagined limitations, it’s about maximum effort. It’s about living your life hard and well and with joy.

Welcome to CrossFit.

Photo Gallery: 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games

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