CrossFit is an exercise program that has garnered a cult-like following and is now considered a fitness subculture. It was founded by Greg Glassman in 2000 as a fitness company, and promoted as a exercise philosophy and a competitive sport. Now a decade later it has sprung into thousands of affiliate gyms worldwide, with CrossFit HQ training CrossFit certified coaches and collecting affiliation fees. The exercises in this program are a combination of cardio, calisthenics, Olympic weightlifting, strongman and track exercises, all thrown into different Workouts of the Day (WOD), and most of the time the goal is to complete the workouts as fast as possible, or as many repetitions as possible within a set time.
As a result, proper form and safe movements are sacrificed for speed and volume, causing multiple injuries for participants—usually those who are inexperienced or lack proper coaching. CrossFit enthusiasts are also criticized for being cavalier about the injuries they sustain, including torn hands, chronic soreness, pulled muscles and even some separated shoulders (Cooperman, 2005).
On the other hand, there are more responsible and sensible CrossFitters who strongly advocate safe training, proper coaching and scaling the intensity and load of the workouts. These people also strongly care about the CrossFit community that they train with, making sure that everyone achieves more—safely, and together. Being highly community-based, people from all walks of life train together in CrossFit gyms they call ‘Boxes’. There is no sense of discrimination among each other, and they forge strong friendships and camaraderie through training together. There are those who advance in their fitness levels beyond average, and go on to compete professionally at the annual Reebok CrossFit Games—a search for the ‘World’s Fittest Man/Woman’.
The literature review for this final book project involved exploring this contrast in mindsets of two camps within the CrossFit subculture. Most research was based on articles by CrossFit coaches and atheletes who are active practitioners in the CrossFit industry, their views on both the unhealthy and healthy sides of CrossFit—be it the culture, community or fitness benefits. Other literature included journals by governing sports and fitness bodies like the NCSA on the nature of CrossFit related injuries.
About the Books
My response to the CrossFit subculture was to create a set of publications that explored this disparity within it. The result was a set of two ‘2-in-1’ books titled Two Sides of the CrossFit Coin: Heads & Tails. On each book, the good aspects of CrossFit were documented on one side, and the bad aspects on the other half—both joined together by the back cover (or rather, center). By looking at these books, one can deduce that there are two different sides to CrossFit, much like the two sides of a coin—different faces but the same object.
The first book is a collection of articles written by CrossFitters and coaches, and also reports by other members of the public. The second book is an illustrated instructional of ‘how to CrossFit’—the good side showing an illustrated character doing the workouts without problems, a result of controlled reps and weight, while the bad side shows what happens as a result of over-training and losing control of weights.
The aim of putting both views of CrossFit together was to allow a non-biased collection of ideas, giving readers a neutral look at CrossFit, and allowing them to decide for themselves whether CrossFit is beneficial or not.
These books were made with the consideration of the readers’ experience while holding the book. The double-sided form will urge readers to peruse the book as an interactive object, beyond being pages containing information collated together. The idea was to use the form of the book itself to communicate the idea of CrossFit having two different sides to it, and how this information and story can be unravelled to the readers in this manner.
Bulky newsprint paper was the selected paper stock for the book pages, as this stock gives a sense of warmth to the touch, similar to the experience of holding a paperback novel or storybook. Considering that the book has two spines on each side of the book, which in most cases would cause the book to be difficult to flip through, the flexibility and thinness of newsprint paper compensates for this, allowing the books to be flipped through fairly easily.
For the book covers, a cost-cutting approach was taken—instead of printing the covers in colour, a brightly-coloured fluorescent stock was chosen, and the printing was just in black. One colour was chosen for each side of the book to represent the different aspects of CrossFit.
After choosing the appropriate paper stocks, the content was printed using printers in uni, significantly reducing the production cost of the books. The pages were then cut to size manually, and taken to a print shop for thermal binding and to have the edges trimmed.
CrossFit HQ claims there is a loosely-formed data collection functionality in place that involves monitoring the injury forums, communicating with major affiliates, and collecting data from various military, police, and other units. However, this data has not been published nor has it been referenced in any way. At the same time, there does not appear to be a public relations effort to address injury prevention other than to vociferously defend CrossFit’s safety record (McCarty, 2013).
While there have been numerous articles and a few research journals about CrossFit, published books are not as widespread. After researching, as far as known there are three published books about CrossFit—Dr Sean Wells’ Double Crossed: CrossFit’s Dirty Secrets—A Scientific Analysis of CrossFit and It’s Dangers, J.C. Herz’s Learning To Breathe Fire: The Rise of Crossfit and the Primal Future of Fitness, and Dr Alisson Belger’s The Power of Community: CrossFit and the Force of Human Connection.
These books were created in an effort to understand the CrossFit culture better—both its benefits and dangers. The aim was to hopefully encourage conversation and public discussion about CrossFit, and adding to the accessibility of knowledge about CrossFit even to non-enthusiasts.