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.

9 Comments

  1. John Wash

    March 10, 2019 at 3:06 am

    Thank yoo CrossFit for helping me become healthier in mind, body, and spirit! Mr. Glassman you are truly amazing on your commitment to overall fitness.

  2. Katherine Maurath (San Luis), MD

    March 10, 2019 at 4:57 pm

    I am a physician and have been doing CrossFit for 5 years. I like this new focus. I am just now hearing about the MDL1, how can I find out more? I am in Brunswick, Georgia. I see lots of chronic disease in my practice, especially obesity and chronic low back pain.

  3. Tonya Read

    March 11, 2019 at 12:39 am

    I like this idea but I also hope the games stay around!! My daughter and I would have never known about CrossFit if it wasn’t for the games!! I think the games and other competitions are great for the ones who like to compete and it gives a chance for people who do CrossFit to watch others! it also motivates myself to push harder!! Plus, it gives all ages from young to masters something to work towards, if they choose to compete!! I am 45, did not grow up doing sports but it has motivated me to work hard and given me a goal to try and make it to the games…I might be 60 but I’m going to try!! Watching these amazing Master crossfitter have given me hope that I can try & do things that I never thought would be possible at an older age!!

  4. Allison Muenkel

    March 11, 2019 at 6:11 am

    Fantastic write up. Our CF affiliate will be celebrating its 9th year in business this July, but we started training people in the sport for over a year before we affiliated, so you can say we are in with those 10 year affiliates. I 100% agree with everything in this article and believe in CrossFit’s mission as it is the same mission we have.

    We have served thousands of clients and still to this day we are fine with being the affiliate who has “average” athletes in terms of competitive games athletes at our gym and just normal people in general. We do also have high level athletes, but the majority of our client base are normal people who need to improve their overall Heath and fitness,.

    It is just like staying true to virtuously in movement, it may not be the fun thing to do when all the cool kids are flailing on the bar and making movement look shiny and magical. No, it’s simple, it takes work, it is what is really going to get you actually strong. Brilliance in the basics is the key to becoming great in CF and in most things in life.

    It applies to our mission of doing the most good in our community. Provide clients a way to prevent chronic disease, improve their movement, get them making friends and having a good time while adding years to their life. It’s not a race to get butterfly pull-ups or a cardboard cutout with their name on it so I can hang it on our wall.

    Wr just want to get people healthy and provide a nurturing and fun environment while we do just that.

  5. Christian Perez Aviles

    March 12, 2019 at 9:19 pm

    Dear Greg Glassman,

    I really appreciate your vision and ideas. But I really think you’re closing and directing your eyes just to those you have near. Biggest countries, with huge per capita incomes may understand what you’re saying in this article, and follow your point of view.

    But smaller countries, with no contact with CrossFit HQ, those who live CrossFit by their sole coach vision, had Games Athletes, Regional Athletes, CrossFit Media, as some kind of connection with this sport,

    Now, we’re blind. We don’t know what is going on. Yes, we still have our coaches and what happens inside the box is the same as before. In those fields, nothing has changed. But if we talk about motivation to become better, role models, and even information to keep in contact with the rest of the CrossFit World, we don’t have enough.

    For example: I’m sure that nobody in my Ecuadorian box know anything about your Soda fight. I don’t know what is that… But now I don’t know neither who are winning those Sanctional Events you’re having around the world, because those have none to inefficient coverage. There are some of those that, if I’d like to watch, I have to pay… regionals were free to watch, very inspiring, very entertaining and a great motivation for everybody to keep Training and living healthy.

    The United States of America, Europe, Australia, are not the whole world. I know that this words may not be read by you, and I sincerely think that, if you read these, you won’t care. You seem like a stubborn person, who think that only your surroundings are the reality. But, if you can: open your eyes. Congratulations on your 10 years affiliate. Mine is 9 years old, but I don’t know if we could get more years, in a country with growing numbers of clandestine gyms and less affiliates, because people are not able to learn what CrossFit is.

    • DJ

      March 13, 2019 at 12:01 pm

      Perezaviles, Ecuador is in the midst of massive increases in diabetes, hypertension, stroke, ischemic heart disease, obesity 29.9% of school age children, 25% of adolescents, 62.8% of adults are overweight or obese.
      25.3% of children under 5 are anemic. It would seem we all share the same health issues. Your (and others) annoyance with a perceived focus on American and European health concerns shows your lack of focus in your own back yard. You and many others are riding the success of CrossFit the Games brand and not looking at CrossFit as a health solution. The only thing well said is that your mission is different, perhaps, then CrossFits, and many others seem to feel the same. It is perhaps easier and sexier to teach fitness to the young, fit, and competition minded and this is your perception of what something should be, as opposed to the intent.

  6. David Caccamo

    March 12, 2019 at 11:13 pm

    Heather,
    Great chatting with you at lunch Sunday at the MDL1/DDC. Super article.

  7. Helen

    March 13, 2019 at 10:03 am

    There are many documentaries around that point the finger at the governments encouraging unhealthy lifestyle choices in order to keep the pharmaceutical, agricultural industries thriving. To me it seems GG is now encouraging the idea that people should be unhealthy so that CF can fix them. Prevention is better than cure and to encourage a lifestyle of fitness, health and mobility along with the mental health benefits of exercising is as important as helping people return to health. If you’re doing your job right GG, people shouldn’t have to return to health. People have played amateur sports for years while following teams or individuals and huge sporting events – Amateur crossfit and the Crossfit games isn’t any different. Seeing professional athletes perform at such a high standard is inspiring and encouraging and I hope that this doesn’t change.

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