What is CrossFit? And why we're not an affiliate | Part 1

By Blake Barnes

Tags: broken arrow | crossfit | gym All Posts


If you're reading this I'm sure that you've heard of CrossFit. But do you know what CrossFit actually is? I think CrossFit has done amazing things for people all across the world. It has inspired and motivated people to get in the gym and get healthy. My favorite thing about CrossFit: it's spread the popularity of Olympic Weightlifting! But… what is it? According to CrossFit, it is “constantly varied, functional movements at high intensity across broad time and modal domains.” Blah blah blah, right? Basically what that's saying is these workouts build one's work capacity by doing different random exercises at a fast pace for an extended amount of time.

Now before we move forward on this, let’s back up. CrossFit was founded in 2000. Let’s think of what your mainstream fitness goers were doing in 2000 for physical fitness. It was mostly people jogging on the treadmill, your typical meathead at Gold’s Gym trying to be the next Arnold Schwarzenegger or maybe even your unitard-wearing-stay-at-home-mom-VHS-tape workouts. There were few who had their garage gyms that were doing their own creative workouts because they were bored of the same ol’ same ol’. Strength & Conditioning coaches had been incorporating both strength training and cardiovascular training for 30 years. But that wasn’t mainstream. Enter Greg Glassman. Among Glassman were other individuals who were there at the beginning but Glassman was the "leader of the pack" so to speak. He wanted to create a style of training that “prepared” anyone for anything and everything and he wanted to make it measurable by time, distance and/or intensity (weight). Like any business man he wanted his product to stand out.

So he sold people on the idea that this style of training will prepare you for life in any and all cases, even the ones you can’t think of yet…”the unknown and unknowable.” Long story short, people (understandably) bought into it. CrossFit started to sell itself. It was fun and different than what they had been doing and it was something that was able to be measured (scored). Not only are the workout formats different, there is the added camaraderie with the others who are going through the same thing you are. I get it; it’s very addicting.

I see CrossFit training as incorporating several different aspects of fitness, skill movements and sports into one type of training. Olympic Weightlifting, Gymnastics, Powerlifting, Rowing, plyometrics, kettlebell sport, strongman and calisthenics. Glassman was pitched an idea to create and gym affiliation system since the popularity of this “new” training was a big hit. He didn’t want anyone to say the word CrossFit without him getting something out of it. So he was smart and jumped on this gym affiliation system where anyone who wants to have a gym with the word CrossFit in it has to pay him a certain amount of money each year. It started out at $500/year and now it’s grown to $3000/year. According to the internet, there are about 13,000 affiliate gyms out there...do the math on that and you get $39 million/year. You’re not even allowed to publicly say that your gym has CrossFit classes without being an affiliate. You have to call it something else like “fitness classes” or “strength and conditioning classes.” And yes, they are on the internet right now checking on this.

The revenue channels don’t stop there either. Every weekend there are level 1 or level 2 certification courses. Each of which are $1000 dollars. This weekend (11/3-11/4) there are 16 locations worldwide just for Level 1 certification courses. I don’t know what the participant cap is but at mine, there were approximately 40 people. So 40x16 = 640, then 640x1000 = 640,000. So just from Level 1 courses in one weekend CrossFit is making $640,000 (if the courses are at full capacity). Congratulations, Glassman.

It looks like Glassman quickly caught onto this easy-money certification thing so he decided to make "specialty courses." Twenty to be exact. These courses range from $249-$645. Some courses include movement-specific things like Weightlifting, Gymnastics, Aerobic Capacity, Nutrition, Flexibility, Jump Rope, Kids, Football, Law Enforcement, and so on. You can see them here. To sum this up, CrossFit isn't necessarily a style of training. I see it as two separate parts: the business model and the community. I am a huge fan of the community it has developed but I am not a fan of the people who are running the business. But it's been working. Can our gym make you better at crossfit even if it doesn’t have that word in it? Absolutely! We do almost all of the same movements and more considering the amount of athletic performance background we have running it. I've realized how long this has become and I'm going to split this into 2 parts. The next article will get into CrossFit's foundational movements and why we are not an affiliate.