For those who don’t know me or what I do, here is a brief summary (to hopefully provide some validity to what I am about to say!). I’ve been an athlete all my life, studied human kinetics in college, been a trainer for almost 15 years, have a gym and a team of about 5o teammates who help make us one of the top performing gyms, anywhere. We have performed well over a 100,000 training sessions, worked with olympic gold medalists and the fancy and famous. The majority of our business comes from private services (training, physio, nutrition, chiro, massage…) We also offer all kinds of classes, including CrossFit.
We introduced CrossFit several years ago (2009). Because we were considered a private training gym, our peers asked us: “why the heck are you doing that?!?!?”
I’ve been involved in International forum groups on both the private training and CrossFit sides. These sides are typically mortal enemies. The CrossFit side calls the trainer side: soft, non-functional, not results-based…. the trainer side waves the “it’s dangerous!” flag: loud and proud. Here is my response to that question (“why the heck are you doing that?!?!”), and why I strongly believe that the fitness industry should thank CrossFit regardless of whether they agree with CrossFit or not! (BTW – a future post is: What CrossFit Owners Can Learn from the Globo-Gym)
1-It’s convinced consumers to pay way more for fitness
CrossFit has created a strong enough physical and emotional experience to have consumers re-think what exercise is worth. Before CrossFit, it was a race to the bottom, with clubs trying to gain market share by offering more for less and less. This created a no-win situation for gym owners because people thought a month of exercise was worth $20. Because of CrossFit: thousands of gyms are now $200 a month – not $20. Even traditional gyms are now in a better place to charge $80 a month just for treadmills and weights.
2-It’s saving good trainers
CrossFit, thankfully, has given some dignity back to the trainers. The private training world is often sleazy and cheesy, and leaves trainers feeling like one-part therapist and one-part “the help”. This is often demonstrated by private training clients: texting in the middle of the workout, or showing up with a list of the exercises they want to do. …the list goes on. There is often a general sense that the client is doing the trainer a favour. CrossFit has changed the paradigm and has allowed trainers to feel like a professional; one-part coach – one-part movement specialist. In this new relationship, the coach is in charge and the clients appreciate the fact the coach is there to help them.
3 – It’s about real stuff, real exercise
For a while, fitness training was looking more like Circus school than what would actually help our people get in shape. The industry was all about bags of tricks and fancier machines. Companies and trainers would baby consumers because we didn’t have the guts to have tough conversations. We would give customers that needed to loose 50 lb. side leg lifts and bicep curls because they liked the way it “burned”. We always knew having them run around the block was better but many were scared to do it. Thanks to CrossFit: Big Box gyms everywhere are putting in suspension rigs, buying push sleds, getting bumper plates, getting more rowers and even the die-hard “anti-CrossFit” trainers are now doing burpees instead of biceps.
4 – It’s about “what you can do” not “what you look like”
If you train for function, you’ll get it and you’ll also get aesthetics as a nice side-effect (see any pro-athlete). If you train for aesthetics, you may get it but you won’t get function (see body-builder). In college we had a great saying “look like Tarzan, play like Jane” and in the Globo-Gym culture you never knew who just looked good and who was actually in shape. Well, thank goodness, we are now telling our clients/members that the person who can “do” more is deemed healthier, the Clydesdale not the “show-pony”. CrossFit has helped us understand we need to be good at lots of things to enjoy life, not be specialists in one thing. CrossFit is also helping thousands of people look better than they ever have: by focusing on performance not aesthetics.
5 – It’s forcing trainers to learn and evolve and keep up.
I heard a great quote that applies to most trainers over the last 20 years: “he doesn’t have 10 years experience, he has one year experience he has repeated 10 times”. CrossFit is forcing trainers to try, and learn new stuff! CrossFit has also made quality education more accessible than ever. Shoot, I was a trainer for 10 years and realized I couldn’t really teach a perfect squat. Clients like cool stuff and want to do cool stuff and I saw this demonstrated as 5 trainers + clients gathered around a TV at Equinox to watch the CrossFit Games. Trainers inherently are “people-pleasers”, so they want to teach their clients the cool stuff. So, in order to teach the clients, the trainers are now being forced to learn it themselves. It’s funny to see how many “CrossFit haters” secretly join a box or watch Carl Paoli videos late at night LOL. I know we have at least 15 mega-gym trainers who are members at our box.
CrossFit is still young, raw, and unbridled – but it has changed the fitness paradigm. As a result, people are apprehensive, especially the ones that spent their whole lives learning to do it a different way. I love CrossFit and have seen its principles applied catastrophically but over the last 15 years, I’ve also seen far more mistakes made by traditional trainers in traditional gyms. Consumers LOVE CrossFit, because its nucleus is magical; people, hard work, progress and reaching past what is comfortable. CrossFit allows people to test their “quit”: because in this day and age of being politically correct, not rocking the boat and participation ribbons – we don’t get a chance to find out what we are really made of.
I believe CrossFit still has a long way to go but it sure is onto something…..