Greg Glassman on CrossFit’s New Direction 

Glassman

Reactions to the new CrossFit.com website were mixed when the world woke up to it on January 1, 2019.

But, what’s crystal clear is the specific audience Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, Inc., has in mind for the new look.

“I’m going to just tell you something I don’t think anyone else has picked up on yet, but I’ll tell you exactly who the targets are for the website: it’s the 10-year plus Affiliate,” he shared. “The 10-year old Affiliate is a very special person.”

He went on to share why: The 10-year Affiliate has been through nearly a dozen years of life while owning a gym. They have sent off kids to school; they might have buried a grandparent. And amidst all of that, they have probably seen someone lose 100 pounds, or have their diabetes reversed. “They know the most important thing that happens in the gym is happening in the space of prevention, is happening in the space of relationships that are formed,” said Glassman. “It’s all on the health front, lubricated wonderfully by a crazy social interaction.”

Furthering the focus on the 10-year Affiliate, in September 2019 CrossFit will put on a 10-year Affiliate gathering, location to be determined. There are currently about 450 Affiliates at the 10-year mark; within 30 months, Glassman estimates there will be 3,000 to 4,000. The event will be a chance for these Box owners to come together and share their stories. They will also be able to enjoy adventures and maybe even some barbeque.

Ultimately, it’s to these Affiliates, the ones who have been around 10 years and will probably be around 10 more, that Glassman wants the website to cater to and the focus to be on. For those who have yet to reach 10 years, his hope is that they do. Affiliates are lifeboats in a world of shipwrecks, solutions in a world full of chronic disease. And they have known all along what CrossFit is about — and that hasn’t been the Games.

Not About the Games

In fact, it’s been the 10-year old Box owners that have told Glassman at each Games that it’s not about the festival. “I don’t want to hear that anymore,” said Glassman, who has known all along CrossFit’s mission isn’t focused on the sport. 

However, there was a struggle internally for the culture of CrossFit, shared Glassman. They had become Games-oriented in a company that’s significant work and revenue is derived from non-Games activities.

“It was as though the cotton candy machine and clown you put in the parking lot to entertain kids at the car dealership had turned into 10,000 clowns and you couldn’t see the cars,” he explained. “I love a festival and I like tacos. I like people and I like the crowds. All that part is fun; and I love training people, but I don’t know if I like watching people exercise. It is what it is; it was my idea. I did this; I love it. But I love what happens more when you unlock the door and people come through the door. That’s much more than the Games. The Games is a summer festival; life isn’t a summer festival.”

All in all, it was time for a change. So, the Games have taken a back seat. The fight against chronic disease is at the forefront. And the website is now a committed resource to the 10-year Affiliate. 

In fact, the website is being built into one Glassman himself would have found indispensable when he first had his Box. He envisions it being used to educate members, from the older generation – as demonstrated by the living room videos, to which one Affiliate’s mother responded she would go to a CrossFit gym after seeing that – to the doctors in the Box.

Hello, Doc!

The medical realm is something CrossFit has dove into more recently, especially with its CrossFit MDL1s – Level 1 seminars for the medical professional. “A CrossFit physician knows something other doctors don’t know, and they are acutely in-tune with the fact there is something desperately wrong in the mainstream medical message,” said Glassman.

This focus all began with a four-hour conversation Glassman had with Axel Pflueger.

Pflueger came onto Glassman’s radar out of the blue, telling the founder of CrossFit he had a proposition Glassman wouldn’t be able to resist. The thing that caught Glassman’s eye was the MD title lingering after Pflueger’s name. Their discussion has led to CrossFit’s focus of being poised to fight the battle of chronic disease.

“CrossFit sits in a unique possession of an elegant solution – and I mean elegant in the mathematician sense of marked by simplicity and efficacy,” said Glassman. “So elegant it may be optimal to the world’s greatest problem, and that’s chronic disease.”

It was this conversation that sent Glassman down the road CrossFit is walking today: fighting chronic disease, which is taking 80 percent of lives and about 86 percent of the medical spend, shared Glassman.

Fighting for the Mantle

But that hasn’t come without resistance from various organizations and entities. To that point, Glassman said he will go down on the cross to protect his 15,000 Affiliates. That has meant fighting Big Soda and organizations like ACSM and NSCA. He made it clear these battles are all for the Affiliate.

“In the crudest and most direct sense, I would hope my Affiliates would understand we have spent millions and millions of dollars in counter assault to the very assholes, soda and ACSM and NSCA and ICREP, and all of them that have done their very best to stop what CrossFitters are doing,” he said.

And what CrossFit owners are doing is simple: providing sensible nutrition and teaching people functional exercise at some intensity that’s a match for your condition and temperament. It’s that which Glassman wants to protect.

Because ultimately, there is something beautiful about owning a Box, about being a steward of this natural resource. Glassman’s fight against these entities allows for the Affiliate owner to go in every morning and unlock their doors. “That’s really where the greatness is,” he said. “My job and my staff’s job is to not fuck that up, to keep the assholes off of it, to keep the rent as small as possible. We’re faithful servants to this system.”

While Glassman is the one yelling out of the microphone at the moment, he noted he can’t do it alone. The industry is in this fight together — a fight against the tsunami of chronic disease. His desire is for Affiliates to be aware of how they are uniquely poised to do something that no one else can do. “You do sit in a unique possession of an elegant solution, so elegant it may be optimal to the world’s greatest problem,” he said. “And it’s fun, and people are getting fit, and it provides unprecedented purpose, and you’re making an income that’s worthy of the effort.”

Authentic to the Core

So, whatever changes take place next in this industry, Glassman will forever be focused on his mission, which is, in the broadest sense, positively impacting the world. And that’s because he, and CrossFit, are simply staying true to themselves, true to their Affiliates and true to the mission.

“We’re as authentic as it gets,” said Glassman. “A real cowboy doesn’t put on his spurs and chaps and cowboy shirt and then go stand in front of a full-length mirror and look at the back and look at the front to see if he’s looking like a cowboy. The cowboy knows he’s a cowboy and looks like a cowboy and he doesn’t care.”

Heather Hartmann
Heather is the editor for Box Pro Magazine. Contact her at heather@peakemedia.com.

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