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Learning to Breathe Fire

The Rise of CrossFit and the Primal Future of Fitness

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


The absorbing, definitive account of CrossFit's origins, its explosive grassroots growth, and its emergence as a global phenomenon.
One of the most illuminating books ever on a sports subculture, Learning to Breathe Fire combines vivid sports writing with a thoughtful meditation on what it means to be human. In the book, veteran journalist J.C. Herz explains the science of maximum effort, why the modern gym fails an obese society, and the psychic rewards of ending up on the floor feeling as though you're about to die. 
The story traces CrossFit’s rise, from a single underground gym in Santa Cruz to its adoption as the workout of choice for elite special forces, firefighters and cops, to its popularity as the go-to fitness routine for regular Joes and Janes. Especially riveting is Herz’s description of The CrossFit Games, which begin as an informal throw-down on a California ranch and evolve into a televised global proving ground for the fittest men and women on Earth, as well as hundreds of thousands of lesser mortals. 
In her portrayal of the sport's star athletes, its passionate coaches and its “chief armorer,” Rogue Fitness, Herz powerfully evokes the uniqueness of a fitness culture that cultivates primal fierceness in average people. And in the shared ordeal of an all-consuming workout, she unearths the ritual intensity that's been with us since humans invented sports, showing us how, on a deep level, we're all tribal hunters and first responders, waiting for the signal to go all-out. 

From the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Apr 21, 2014 – New York Times columnist Herz presents a breathless, fervor-of-the-converted ode to the CrossFit empire. The "punk-rock hype" of the movement began in a Santa Cruz, Calif. gym frequently mainly by ex-Marines. The CrossFit routine focuses on short, intense workouts, based on a brutal Workout of the Day, usually named after women or soldiers killed in action, and clock in between three and 25 minutes. The idea is to attain true "functional" fitness, rather than machine-based fitness, which deprives practitioners of "the knowledge of what their bodies, as glorious machines, can do, and the competence and satisfaction of actually doing it." Herz covers the biology of the routines, the ideals of founder Greg Glassman, the austere meat-based diet, and the tight-knit, competitive community surrounding this practice. Herz's liveliest writing comes in passages depicting an achievement-oriented world in which women compete on the same level as men, often beating them. Herz's overwrought adoration of the phenomenon is the book's main shortcoming.

Customer Reviews

A Glimpse Into The Box

I was quite pleased with this book. It did a nice job of outlining the history of CrossFit and fitness in general and put forth wonderful stories. It also gave outsiders a glimpse into what goes on in the box and why athletes like us push so hard each day with our communities. HTFU!

Good read despite odd title

The title made me think this would be more of a Crossfit, how-to, but it turns out it is a fantastic story of the rise of a new path in fitness. Worth every penny.


If you're into crossfit or just mildly interested in learning how this phenomenon came about, you'll get a kick out of this book. Couldn't stop reading.

Learning to Breathe Fire
View in iTunes
  • $12.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Health & Fitness
  • Published: Jun 03, 2014
  • Publisher: Potter/TenSpeed/Harmony
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 368 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings