NYT Story, Keystone Habits and the Power of CrossFit


Definitely an interesting story in this morning’s New York Times: “We’re One Big Team, So Run Those Stairs.” 


Essentially, the story discusses how some companies, like ESPN, Datalogix and others have been implementing CrossfFit programs and even CrossFit boxes (like CrossFit One at Reebok) for obvious benefits like decreasing health care costs and building morale.

It also mentions some of the less discussed potential benefits a CrossFit program might have, like bringing together various departments of a company:

There are other, less quantifiable benefits. Karin Eisenmenger, 46, Datalogix’s director of order management and the woman running up the stairs past her panting colleague, says the classes unite people from different departments who might otherwise never meet. “If you can sweat and groan and moan with your co-workers,” she said, “you’ll have no problem working with them in a meeting.”

The idea of larger companies developing CrossFit programs connected with something I recently read in the book, “The Power of Habit,” by Charles Duhigg. Duhigg is a business reporter for the NYT (although he did not write this morning’s story). In his book, he reports on the working research and understanding of how we build and change habits. It’s a great book. One particular concept he talks about early in the book is what is known as a “keystone habit,” a particularly potent new habit cycle that has the power to change an entire life. He uses the example of a woman who was out of shape, a smoker and had a life that was falling a part, and how a new keystone habit–which involved taking up jogging–set off a sequence of positive new habits that essentially overhauled her life in a positive way, including her health, her career and her romantic life.

This is why CrossFit is–as was reported in the NYT this morning–has attracted more than 10 million people. Because it’s a particularly high-dose form of physical exercise, and because the structure of it involves a community or team-like atmosphere.

Exercise is nothing new–but it’s this potency and the support built into the program serve up a success rate that one has to assume is much higher than the success rate of those trying to make a habit loop change with either less potent exercise and/or just going it alone.

If I ran a large company, I would be interested in a CrossFit program for the following reasons: 1) a healthier workforce 2) morale 3) and the belief that such a program could help workers spark extremely positive changes throughout their entire lives–which would include their confidence, leadership, quality of work, creativity and career growth.

In Inside the Box, veteran journalist and marathoner T.J. Murphy goes all in to expose the gritty, high-intensity sport of CrossFit®. From staggering newcomer to evangelist, Murphy finds out how it feels, why it’s so popular, and whether CrossFit can fix his broken body.