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CrossFit Event Evokes Comparisons to Religion

By Sruthi L. Muluk, Contributing Writer

In a discussion at Harvard Divinity School on Thursday night, Greg Glassman, the co-founder of CrossFit, spoke of the intangible, mental, and social benefits that he says his fitness company delivers to customers.

Moderators at Thursday’s event likened the communal environment at CrossFit to the type of community that Americans have historically received from church. They asked Glassman to address the similarities between his fitness company and these religious communities.

Moderator Casper ter Kuile recalled an interview in which Glassman said, “We keep being asked, ‘Are you a cult?’ and after a while I realized, maybe we are.”

Moderator Angela Thurston said CrossFit members enjoy a sense of community that parallels what church provides to regulars. She said the first thing CrossFit regulars do when they move is find a new “box,” or CrossFit gym.

Glassman echoed Thurston’s comments, calling the CrossFit community “tight.” According to Glassman, people often begin CrossFit simply to join a group that will motivate them to work out; ultimately, many find something much deeper and transformative.

“The fitness is the glue that holds everyone together,” Glassman said, “but there’s something even more cohesive, even a stronger glue than the fitness.”

He recounted a story in which a CrossFit member was involved in a serious car crash. Fellow members of her gym then picked her son up from school, according to Glassman, and went to the hospital to support her.

Implicit comparisons to religion continued to pervade the discussion, as Glassman emphasized the mental strength and resilience that CrossFit membership can build.

“The people looking for shortcuts are gone,” Glassman said.

Multiple CrossFit members were in the audience.

Drew Hunter, a two-year CrossFit member who just moved to Boston, was one of the people who sought out a new “box” during the transition. He said he “absolutely” felt a sense of community in his new “box.”

Caren Hunter said she has also enjoyed her experience as a member of CrossFit.

“It was surprising,” she said, adding that CrossFitters are “the most friendly people I’ve met here in Boston.”

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