Review: First by Rich Froening

CrossFit is still a new and growing sport which is misunderstood by many to be a place only for the elite. Rich Froning brakes down the barriers between the most elite tier of the sport and the most casual reader as he lays out his life and worldview in an amazingly fast and engaging read. His book has three main themes constantly woven together in an interesting narrative: (1) explaining CrossFit, (2) telling us about his life and (3) sharing with us insights about his faith and philosophy.

It is rare to find such an honest and optimistic account from someone with so much fame and talent. While his readership will most strongly come from CrossFit fans, he packs some great lessons for all of us that have broad application well beyond CrossFit. Like his fitness training regimen, he doesn’t hold back or shy away from the key principles that guide his actions and frame his world. All this results in an intimate portrait of his strengths, weaknesses and casual thoughts. Part of what makes this narrative so engaging is the casual style he engages you with as he takes you through the CrossFit victories and defeats that define his nascent career. You have to keep reminding yourself that he is winning first place (consistently now) among roughly 100,000 athletes. While he takes you into the action, you are motivated by the thought that you too could compete at his level if you just were willing to work hard and get your mental house in order. Unfortunately, reality reminds you that Rich has something very rare that remains incredible from a fitness perspective. You are aware of the power of context in his life — he gives due credit to his friends and family for providing rare and outstanding counsel, love and wisdom.

Out of the roughly 30 books I’ve read this year, I have to say I’ve really enjoyed reading this one the most — both my wife and I read it in about a day as we fought for the book. Most modern biography seems to make the subject more inaccessible as details of their life unfold. Here, Rich has done the opposite, by the end of the book you know that you would be instantly comfortable around him and are inspired to make your life look a little more like his.

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