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CrossFit Confessions: “I reject the militaristic aspects of CrossFit”

"Hero" workouts ignite political disparages.
Andrew Cutraro

Hedge fund guys do CrossFit. So do cops. And construction workers, engineers, and professors. (Even rock stars, too!) Here are their stories.

Samir Chopra, 47, is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based philosophy professor

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I found CrossFit after many years of being disillusioned with the gym circuit. Some friends of mine recommended it. One  told me: “You should do it. But stay away from their frightening right-wing politics.”

I went to their website and some of the posts were links to vaguely libertarian, garden-variety rants against big government. Then there was the glorification of puking culture, the “work out till you drop” mentality. I felt alienated—like this wasn’t the scene for me. But it had been recommended by friends, after all, so I signed up for an introductory class. I met my coach, and it was good that he wasn’t a tall, white, skinhead-looking dude. He was great. He taught us the movements, told us to pace ourselves. Still, I injured myself almost instantaneously.

I got lower-back pain from doing deadlifts. It’s a classic injury for someone my age. The amazing thing was, these guys got me back in shape in just a few months. Doctors would tell me to rest, and I’d think: That’s bullshit. The CrossFit guys at my box stressed an active recovery, which appealed to my workout philosophy.

I’m a big fan of the workouts, but there is this militaristic aspect. The “hero” workouts, which honor fallen veterans, often from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, are especially hard. The idea is that you remember their sacrifice when you do them. This didn’t appeal to me. I think Iraq was an illegal war, and these men died implementing a foreign policy that was criminal. When people say the American military is extending liberty, I don’t take that rhetoric seriously.

Some of the other CrossFitters at my box know my political views, and some are actual veterans. There’s a guy who was a Special Forces operative. There’s also a guy who used to work at the FBI who challenges me on political issues—but none of it’s hostile.

When the Boston bombings happened, I wrote on my blog about the bravery of the people and children of Baghdad—they face bombings every day. One guy [who trains privately at  the box] fucking lost his shit. His anger  was shocking. But, in general, our box is pretty accepting.  You want to make the gym welcoming to both armed forces members and peaceniks. You can’t put a sign outside that reads: “If you’re a war monger, you can’t work out here.”  –As told to David Wescott

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