All the wonderful varieties of CrossFit

Differences between gyms

There is something so refreshing about CrossFit that each gym you go to is a new, unique and enriching experience to behold.  So, perhaps overly flowery words for just a place where people sweat, but as a box owner, these distinctions (and their accompanying popularity despite all lack of consistency) makes CrossFit truly special, in my humble opinion.

I’ve come across a number of gyms and they all boast their unique flavor.  If you are looking to find a new home, consider the following things to look for:

Wellness Gym

If you want to mix in some yoga, massage, eating seminars and child care into your routine, this might be the place for you.  You won’t find many games competitors here, but you will find many of the conveniences and supplementary practices that other gyms will lack.

Member Requirements: May have to tolerate an off-center focus on CrossFit and a slightly higher dues (or be treated to lower dues depending on their model) because of the additional services offered.  Expect things to be moderately paced, the energy level to be brisk but subdued and the members to be friendly and not overly competitive.

“Globo Gym”

This is used in the negative context more often than not, but there is a distinct upside.  Large CrossFit boxes will have more members, more classes, more open gym times and often lower dues as per how many choices you have in return.  There will likely be a few elite athletes to which you can benchmark yourself to as well as a healthy balance of men, women, highly fit, new entrant and everything in between.  This is also a great place for autonomy as there is guaranteed to be plentiful open gym times.

Member Requirements: you won’t know everyone, you may feel isolated in the community, may experience some cliques, but you will most definitely get the most bang for your buck in terms of access, amenities (showers, lockers etc.) variety of offerings.

Beast Mode gym

Caution to the wind, lift heavy things, no flowery anything, blood, dirt, sweat and tears.  The members and coaches alike will relentlessly push you, progress in CrossFit is priority #1 and you will get shredded – that’s a promise.

Member requirements: must be resilient to injury, live and breathe CrossFit, be tolerant of brisk instruction and don’t give one goddamn about anything besides your WOD.  The desire to compete is essential.

Hobby gym

A general neighbor hood, not-too-big, not-too-small, middle of the road kind of gym where general enthusiasts of fitness congregate to make some general improvements in their life.  There will be a few big dogs that can make the WODs look silly, but most of the folks will be former athletes, moms and dads, desk jockeys and other folks just trying to keep the fat off, keep up some muscle tone and have fun doing it.

Member Requirements: you can’t take CrossFit all too seriously or mind a smaller gym with a limit of classes and variety.  You’ll get good coaching and instruction, but don’t expect to be pushed to your absolute limit and turn beast mode any time soon.

Convenient Gym

As it sounds, this will be the closest gym.  Sometimes this can be just as attractive as any other spot.  Think about it, you can travel all the way across town, pay a slightly higher rate, get the best coaching and unleash the inner beast…on Monday at 6am, Tuesday at noon and Saturday at 11:15 OR you can hit up the “lesser” gym 5 days a week and get some solid results anyway.  The point is, you have to do what makes sense and sometimes that is what makes the best use of your time.  If the gym is decent, go for it!

Member Requirements: Basically can’t be picky, gotta take what is there and love it!

Technical gym

A “walk before you can run” “better safe than sorry” kind of place where elements is comprehensive and instruction is constant and thorough.  You may get impatient with the reluctance to kip your pull-ups, take a heavy load over head or otherwise care “too much” about your form and so on, but you will

Member Requirements: Patience and persistence.  If you show them you can do it, they will hopefully push you to where you can go.

Mega combo gym

Some gyms just have it all and have a flavor to cater to all folks.  Usually, this will be your larger, more established gym that has had a chance to expand, add showers, add massage centers, have retail shops and basically combine everything that has been previously mentioned.  There is a pretty good chance that new and veteran members alike will be present, that there will be classes with the skill level predetermined (level II, for instance) and classes at any time or date.  There might be an adjoining Ju-Jitsu gym and probably seminars that will come through frequently.

Member Requirements: Much like the globo gym, there will be some anonymity in the member base, but the perks are probably great to make up for it and the prices will probably remain fairly low considering what you get.

Now here is the reality, no one gym embodies these categories to the fullest.  They should more be considered elements of a gym that are represented in various strength.  Anyone who is going to make it to the games, also has to be very technical.  Anyone that offers a host of amenities, must also offer variety to offset more expensive dues and a games athlete can come from just about anywhere.  As my brother and co-owner at CrossFit Walnut Creek says, “If the WOD was easy, you weren’t pushing yourself.”  That being said, the programming and coaching can only get you as far as you are willing to go.  Perhaps rather than the type of gym one should seek, one should first identify what type of “CrossFitter” you are first – it should all logical flow from there.  Happy hunting!


Douchebags of CrossFit

Douchebags of CrossFit

In the sake of sexual fairness, douchebags will be used interchangeably between men and women.  Now that that’s out of the way…

In order to be very realistic about the business one operates, the fitness one pursues and the culture one is a part of, one must reluctantly swallow their pride and traverse into the territory of the hater.  CrossFit has many haters.  I rarely meet a hardcore detractor in person, but the internet is replete with all kinds of bold message board warriors and cut throat bloggers.  But that is ok, I do not take issue with them.  In fact, they have helped me identify something very important.

It’s not CrossFit: its CrossFitters.  There seems to be rare attacks against the methodology, but the rants against those participating in this methodology are almost the sole subject of this fitness industry melodrama.

When you boil it down, CrossFit, and the version of fitness it espouses, is a fairly simple and elegant program “Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports.”

There is nothing about pukie or paleo (specifically) or kipping pullups, high socks or bad tattoos.  Just hard work and discipline.

This is where the path diverges.

The culture of CrossFit has garnered a tremendous amount of attention from the calls to bad form, the cultishness of participation, the clothing options and so on and so on…

I think this is essentially where the whole discussion can die.  We are not talking about CrossFit anymore, we are talking about fanboys, groupies and those that get excessively wrapped up into culture more than what is useful to participate or that which detracts from the sport/event/activity itself.

Are we not equally annoyed by “lunks” who grunt and pump in front of the mirror at regular old muscle gyms?  Are we not just a little uncomfortable with the folks at work who start little chest puffing matches in regards to their particular sports teams?  TEAMS THEY ARE NOT EVEN ON!  Isn’t it just a little annoying to be stuck in traffic behind someone who has taken the opportunity to adorn their vehicle with every imaginable inflammatory political statement and cringe-worthy one liner?  Is it not just a little sad to see angry adults yelling at little league umpires during what should otherwise be pleasant afternoon?

Ladies and gentlemen – its people.  Let’s face it, no matter what it is you do, there are always douchebags that drag the whole thing down.  The inability to operate within social norms, to be excessively aggressive, to actively pursue the primal in-group/out-group activity that lies at the root of all human conflict is the very crux of some unfortunate people’s character.  I believe at the core of this is insecurity.  I have never met someone who was fully satisfied with their life, fully committed to their sport/craft/activity that is also an active participant of this sort of strident, attention whoring nonsense.  You will probably not meet a nicer, more humble person than a CrossFit Games athlete – one who will likely not care about the distinction of CrossFitters as athletes or not, who don’t particularly care if you do CrossFit or not.  I suspect there is a take it or leave it attitude, likely because they are too busy trying to be winners to get wrapped up into being a complete douche.  But, where mediocrity of skill is found, mediocrity of character is likely to be more present – ESPECIALLY in the peculiar fan/athlete hybrid culture that is CrossFit.  We all get to feel like big strong winners when we participate in the Open Games.  Even if we are the “10,000th fittest person on the planet,” we can leer at those sitting at home and take pride that we are doing something great and meaningful.  Embracing and incorporating that mentality as part of thing that keeps you going in a sport of any kind is likely to make you a raging douchebag.

I love all our clients at CFWC and I love CrossFit.  I love that it gets people off the couch and LOVING fitness.  But, there is a percentage of the population that will inevitably make everyone in their respective fields look silly and awful, whether you are an engineer, a dancer, a hobbist painter or an amateur restaurateur.  I guess the only option is to tolerate the jabs, continue to do what we do and wait for people to get bored bashing CrossFit.  If it’s any consolation to anyone out there, we are all talking about the same folks…”they” are making a spectacle of themselves and we kind of wish they would stop.




Threats to CrossFit

Threats to CrossFit

As a box owner, I cannot help but consider what might be a threat to the boom of CrossFit.  Of course, nothing will prevent an individual from partaking in CrossFit or CrossFit style exercise in the long run – this is a given.  However, there are potential market factors that could disrupt the success and ongoing spread of CrossFit programming as seen within brick and mortar establishments grown and run by fitness entrepreneurs.

Here are some thoughts on threats, some small some large, perceived, real and otherwise worthwhile to consider.

The Popularity of CrossFit

One might call this the fad-factor.  Will CrossFit die because people lose interest?  I would say this is the least of our concerns.  The results, community and all around fun of the program lend itself to longevity.  The fact that an individual can participate for YEARS and still have goals on the horizon is testament to a sustainable practice.  We have members who have made great gains in our first year.  However, NOW is when the fun really begins for them…they see what is possible and they are hungry for more.  If one year is the starting point for “true” CrossFit…then the shelf life is not something I worry about.  The fact that there is incredible longevity in the sport itself (with participants ranging from early 20’s all the way to 60+ on a broad competitive level) suggests that interest will not fade.

This is not to say that the current infectiousness will continue.  At some point, there will be fewer entrants to the sport and those with a lackluster attitude towards it to begin with will burn out.  But, a hardcore base will remain – stable and waiting to take on new initiates.  If CrossFit does not become as industry prevalent as Yoga, I would be very surprised.


The Rhabdo Boogey-Man

Everywhere you go, those naïve to the program will often either refrain from participating or high-mindedly resolve to traditional exercise in the same of safety.  “Isn’t that dangerous? I heard that A LOT of people get hurt.”  Essentially, could there be an industry backlash that quells the demand by branding CrossFit as dangerous?

Well, I think this has been tried and essentially gathered zero traction.  CrossFit, and Greg Glassman to the extent which it applies, has already answered to the Rhabdo boogey-man which seems to be the last remaining blight on the efficacy of CrossFit.  This is often blown out of proportion (the bonafide cases of CrossFit induced rhabdo remain very low) and the recognition and education of this risk will certainly prove to be instrumental in its decline. 

The rest of the stuff, knee, shoulder, wrist and back injuries are simply a consequence of physical activity as I personally know more people who have completely fucked themselves up being a weekend warrior on the basketball courts or biting off more black-diamond than they can chew then people who have been sidelined exclusively as a result of their participation in CrossFit.  Those who juggle physical risks will ultimately reap some reward (in some cases pure fun and enjoyment, in this case great physical fitness).  Some will get hurt, but most will not. 


Low Barriers to Entry

The barriers to opening your own box are very low.  Get a cert, apply and pay.  This goes little to demonstrate how effective you will be as a coach, but there is no market factor precluding one from giving it a shot.  On the same note, the current market saturation indicates that you would be equally foolish entering the “management consulting” field with nothing but a weekend cert on performance management and a few bucks to open an office.  There are some very big dogs in the CrossFit market and the geographic distance between boxes narrows by the day. 

Now, the consequence I was getting to was that crappy, poorly trained coaches essentially open the flood gates to the previous two threats mentioned – mundane and ill-informed coaching lead to quick boredom and risky participation.  However, this is self-defeating as each box is independent and probably rarely gain any attention on a city wide, much less county wide, state wide or nationwide, level.  Unless someone managed to open a “chain” of boxes (currently not a possibility under the current governance of CrossFit) and, in doing so, opened the most jacked up, irresponsible and reckless set of programming – injuring every client that came in the door –  this is so remote its barely worth discussion.


CrossFitter Arrogance

It’s hard to be in this damn good of shape and not subconsciously shake your head in pity when someone talks about all of their wonderful 5ks and how they would like to train for this marathon or that half iron man.  When the folks in question still look they can barely roll out of bed without busting a gut, the tongue biting can itself puts one at risk for compartment syndrome.

But, most of us happily support our brothers and sisters in fitness, because, at the end of the day, hey – it’s whatever floats your boat.  CrossFitters are the new kids on the block and we may as well accept that the “fittest athletes ever” to adorn this amazing list and that top 10 countdown are, by and large, distance athletes.  And, good for them, most of those folks on those lists ARE indeed extremely fit.  However, this template for the common Joe is a recipe for being just fit enough to shuffle around for a few hours.

There is a certain swagger that accompanies most CrossFitters who understand what it means and what it can do for you.  I have met very few who are outspoken, rude, arrogant and condescending of other fitness endeavors…but that low barrier to entry and influx of folks who haven’t been down in the trenches for years might just bring out the worst.  A few outspoken fools can certainly put the rest of us in a bad light.


CrossFit Affiliate Carelessness

CrossFit is an odd business model: find a warehouse, set up equipment and run with it.  There are no health and safety codes. Decorations are irrelevant.  We often find ourselves in auto districts.  There is no supply chain, no inventory, no network servers, no food handling…basically, there isn’t much to it.

As a result, a naïve business person (like myself) can carelessly sign a lease and get into all sorts of trouble when the city finds out you haven’t done a goddamn thing that you are supposed to when occupying a building.  A hard financial lesson learned, but, the question remains…how many more are there?

Restaurants are a known risk and rather formulaic…cities like that.  Retail shops are low risk, high rent and generous tax revenues for the city.  Cities like that.  CrossFit gyms are new, odd and independent.  The status quo is certainly disrupted when a group of folks runs around the block 2 or 3 times during an hour and 4 or 5 times a day.  What ARE those people doing

Could there at some point be a “nuisance” of CrossFit gyms so they are relegated to the outskirts like strip clubs and muffler shops?  I suppose it is simply incumbent upon us to self-regulate and ensure our continued livelihoods. 


Dangers from Above

There was a point where CrossFit faced a terrible dilemma in that a controlling share of it was proposed to be sold to a 3rd party.  Thankfully, Greg Glassman is a ferocious protector of the brand and the name.  So long as he experiences no change of heart…I think we are safe in that regard.  This is probably the most serious threat, as dilution of the brand makes the barriers to entry functionally non-existent.  Once everything becomes “CrossFit” then, unfortunately, nothing is CrossFit.  Nothing will ever prevent an individual from creating whatever crazy workout they choose and calling it by whatever name they choose (up to and including a “ban” on CrossFit where people still “do” it but without the official facility, sanction or atmosphere) but the establishment and maintenance of a central concept of CrossFit is rather crucial to the current industry.


At the end of the day, the risks appear to be in check.  Aside from “the next CrossFit” breaking out and completely undermining what is coming to be known as the gold standard in fitness, there appears to be little threat to the industry.  The catastrophes awaiting companies like Facebook (constantly changing or die), energy companies (increased pressure for clean energy) or manufacturing and customer support industries (outsourcing) seem far from affecting our little neck of the woods.  As far as I am concerned, CrossFit is a solid bet into the future and I will be continuing to bank on its success.

But, that’s just my view…what else might there be?