How We can “Out-Soul” SoulCycle


How can you use CrossFit classes as a platform to launch your career in a way that both benefits your Box and yourself?

Lately it seems like CrossFit — and your coaching — is slipping into commodity status. You know the, “I can get a Starbucks latte from anywhere and it’s not great, but it’s not bad and I know what I’m getting” kind of commodity status.

For CrossFit as a whole, maybe this is a good thing. Virtually anywhere you go you can expect to swing a kettlebell with the same level of coaching and instruction and get virtually just as sore and sweaty at any Box.

Then again, remember the member that used to commute all the way across town to go to your classes? Well, a new CrossFit just opened up down the corner from their office. So they stopped coming. And not just one member either, but members — emphasis on the plural. In fact, any time a new Affiliate pops up in your city and neighborhood and happens to be closer, or cheaper, or has a shower, you stand to lose that person you worked so hard to get in the first place.

But Affiliates aren’t just competing with other Affiliates any more. At least in San Francisco, new workout experiences like SoulCycle, Orangetheory Fitness and Barry’s Bootcamp are hungry and delivering competitive workout experiences that are drawing both on new potential clientele and even your existing clientele, all by providing something different.

Now of course there will always be competition and turnover. And of course if this is your business attitude this cycle will only get worse. But it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, for many Boxes, it isn’t this way at all.

Put another way: What if that member kept driving across the city? What if they continued past multiple Affiliates to get to yours? What if they willingly turned new competing gym offers down to continue to train with you? What would it take?

Other than your gym’s ability to market effectively and stay competitive reaching out to new members, your other biggest asset lies in your coaching staff. If you think about it, Coaches are not only the cornerstone of your Affiliate, but they are the soul of CrossFit itself. Crappy Coaches and CrossFit becomes a “fad” that will fade away. Good Coaches and these communities will continue to thrive and grow, fostering even better Coaches capable of carrying on the torch to even more satisfied members.

So what then makes a good Coach? Simply put, one that keeps your members driving across the city, past the closer Boxes and cheaper commercial options and new fitness distractions.

Notice I’m not saying it’s the best moving, most technical Coach you have. Nor the loudest, “shoutiest” Coach you have, nor the funniest/chillest Coach you have, nor the one with the best playlist. In fact, I have no clue what keeps your members coming to your gym, but I bet it has something to do with the Coaches mix of the above and their desire to build these relationships with your members.

In short, it’s your Coach’s ability to connect with every individual in your class, know their names, know their birthdays in addition to knowing how to fix their cranky shoulders or improve their Clean and Jerk and run a killer 60 minutes.

At San Francisco CrossFit, we have a saying for the Coaches: We want you and your personality only turned up. We want you to Coach as you, but we want you to sweat your butt off in the process of reaching every member in class, of keeping the class energy on point, and giving people a shared sense of their accomplishments for the day.

Coaching another class right after? Great. Do it again. Three classes in a row? Yup, that’s right — the members coming to your final hour of coaching don’t know, and shouldn’t care, how you killed it in your first class. They can only see what you’re bringing right now.

Are we perfect? Nope. Are we better than everyone else? I can’t answer that either. I can say that this is something we collectively care about and it’s something we work hard to improve. SoulCycle may have candles and sweet sound tracks. But we have real Coaches, deep athletic foundations and the ability to build better athletes over a longer period of time. But if we can “Out Soul” SoulCycle, then I know we will have members for life. That to me is something worth working for in our Boxes.

Nate Helming coaches strength and mobility for national and international-level road cyclists, mountain bikers, triathletes and ultrarunners at San Francisco CrossFit, as well as elite-level amateur runners and triathletes outside the gym. You can follow him on Instagram, Twitter and check out more of his videos and articles on his website,