Burning Runner: Inside The CrossFit Culture

Questions & Answers

THE QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS about the relationship between Reebok and Crossfit are just starting to unfold. For example, is CrossFit big enough, or will it get big enough, to fulfill Reebok’s global interests, branding issues and financial goals? And will the qualities that have fueled CrossFit’s popularity—a grassroots revolution against the typical corporate franchising system–remain intact? And is CrossFit going to be able to retain quality control of coaching at the affiliate level if it continues to grow as fast as it is?

"It’s not just that CrossFit is a hard workout—it is for sure—but it makes hard training fun.”

I know one thing: The quality of CrossFit’s growth depends on the box owners and coaches like Steve Serrano, owner of Crossfit Marina. In the morning before I joined Kelly Starrett in the stands at the Home Depot Center to watch the Saturday events, I drove down to Huntington Beach to drop into a CrossFit Marina class. I’d never met Steve and he had no idea who I was or that I was coming. Yet when I walked up to the open garage door to the gym he greeted me like I was a best friend of his brother. It was the 9:30 am workout and he personally coached me through basic thruster technique–a front squat that explodes into an overhead press. Using a PVC pipe he taught me the footwork and the movements. I then moved up to using a barbell and eventually some weight on both ends. He carefully reinforced the points that would allow me to do the work safely. Then I joined him and two of his gym members in a met-con. The entire time he cheered me on. CrossFit was many things, I thought, but the level of passion and teaching Serrano brought into his box was what made it all go. It was why, without a doubt, box communities are so loyal to their owners.

A few days after watching the 2011 Games I went to Crossfit.com and watched the archived 2009 Games videos. Near the end of the footage Serrano appeared. He was medical director and was being interviewed after the final women’s event. Emotion rose in his eyes and voice as he spoke about the efforts that he had witnessed:

“To see people go at things to such an extreme level, they exert themselves so intensely, they get this level where they drop off. It takes its toll. It hammers the shit out of them hormonally. The body gets so drained nutritionally, they get emotional decomposition. If we can support them through that–that’s the best part of this job; that’s the fun part. All their friends in the crowd–you see how that fires it up. How we support each other. It’s all part of this community. It’s what makes this method so different than everything else. It’s so cool to be a part of.”

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