Blog Header Image

Adrian Murley


January 22, 2024

Passport to the CrossFit Future: The key to unlock renewed passion

This article is an opinion piece reflecting my personal views and experiences as I navigate the evolving landscape of CrossFit and its impact on my business, CrossFit Iron Bear. My thoughts aim to encourage conversation and creative thinking on ways to effectively move forward while shedding light on the complexities and decisions faced by box owners and enthusiasts in the dynamic world of CrossFit. - Adrian Murley

Not too long ago, my recollections of CrossFit evoked a vivid sense of vibrant community spirit and a commitment to functional fitness that surpassed the mere act of exercising. It transcended the confines of a workout routine; it was a genuine movement characterized by the collective energy of camaraderie, the resonance of sweat-soaked high-fives, and a shared determination to push the boundaries of physical capabilities. My incredible CrossFit journey began at S2S CrossFit, the first CrossFit box in Bali. This immersive experience at S2S CrossFit was what initially captivated me, drawing me into the vibrant world of CrossFit. The dynamic and engaging environment at this pioneering box in Bali set the stage for my enduring passion for this fitness discipline.

Yet, as time has progressed, the CrossFit community has undergone discernible transformations with shifts in management, the running of the Games and all the lead up competitions and the most recent one of a huge increase in affiliate fees, prompting contemplation on whether the core essence of this fitness phenomenon is standing at a pivotal juncture. The shift suggests that the very heart of this fitness culture may be navigating a crossroads, prompting reflection on the intricate interplay between tradition and adaptation within the broader context of a dynamic fitness landscape. If so, how do we navigate this and not just get through it, but unlock renewed passion for the future.

What started as a grassroots movement, fueled by passion and a genuine love for functional fitness, in garages, warehouses or anywhere you could find a space, seems to have morphed into a more corporate entity. Affiliates, once the lifeblood of CrossFit, is now viewed by possibly some at HQ as mere sources of revenue to fund the CrossFit Games – a spectacle that increasingly takes center stage. I, like so many others, love seeing the absolute elites in the sport battle it out and I certainly don't want that to disappear. My fear is though that through this change the heart of where all this started is being lost in the quest for airtime and corporate success.

At the heart of this evolution is the perception among many that CrossFit has lost touch with its roots and, by extension, the dedicated owners of the boxes.

The spotlight on the Games, marked by its corporate allure, appears to cast a shadow over the fundamental essence that initially set CrossFit apart: the grassroots, community-driven ethos and the emphasis on functional fitness flourishing within boxes of all sizes.

Former torchbearers of the CrossFit spirit, the owners of local boxes, once champions of creating close-knit communities, now find themselves grappling with the delicate equilibrium between corporate focus and expectations on one side and the genuine, grassroots character of their gyms on the other. The tension between these two dynamics underscores a nuanced challenge—one where the attraction of corporate success must be carefully navigated without compromising the authentic, community-centric fabric that defines the very soul of CrossFit. As box owners strive to strike this delicate balance, they face the complex task of preserving the intimate, personal connections that thrive in smaller gyms while simultaneously navigating the demands and expectations of a broader, more corporate landscape. The evolving landscape of CrossFit, with its shifting emphasis, prompts a critical examination of how these local boxes can remain true to their roots in the face of a changing fitness culture.

This shift towards a more corporate model may very much be creating a disconnect, as the focus on revenue streams could potentially overshadow the genuine desire to foster a community of individuals striving for holistic fitness.

However, amidst these concerns, it's essential to acknowledge the unwavering commitment of the local boxes to the core principles of CrossFit – functional fitness and community. Regardless of trademarks and branding, these amazing boxes persist in placing functional fitness at the forefront, offering a space where individuals of all fitness levels can come together, sweat, struggle, and support one another.

We must remember that the heartbeat of CrossFit lies not in the grandeur of the Games but in the relentless dedication of its community – the coaches, athletes, and enthusiasts who understand that functional fitness isn't just a trend; it's a way of life. It's about moving well, staying healthy, and fostering connections that extend beyond the gym walls.

So, why put pen to paper on this matter?

With all these things to consider, what prompted this reflection has been driven by the most recent changes that impacts every affiliate. The topic at hand has centered around the substantial hike in affiliate fees, sparking a decidedly mixed response. As an affiliate navigating a landscape of soaring costs, it's imperative to conduct a thorough assessment of the value derived from the money invested. We all seek bang for our buck, and this recent development has prompted a contemplation of those considerations.

Yet, delving into this issue has led me to examine the broader state of the CrossFit movement. Interestingly, it appears that the raw, grassroots essence that characterized its inception is no longer as pronounced as I remember it. Instead, I see a discernible shift towards a corporate model that, in its pursuit of larger profits, seems to be draining the movement of its original soul and vitality.

Embracing the inevitability of change and progress, it becomes imperative to approach these transformations with a conscientious mindset, acknowledging the delicate balance between evolution and preservation. As society advances, the essence of traditions and values can easily be overshadowed, necessitating a careful navigation through the currents of change. It's not merely about embracing innovation but also safeguarding the intrinsic aspects that define the heart and soul of a community or culture. While the intention may be progress, it's crucial to remain vigilant to the unintended consequences that may arise from the choices made along this transformative journey. The ramifications of these choices often extend beyond the immediate moment, emphasizing the need for a thoughtful and considerate approach that ensures the preservation of the core elements that make any entity unique and meaningful.

As the fitness landscape undergoes ongoing changes, finding a harmonious balance that respects the foundational principles of CrossFit for both the community and the corporate entity becomes increasingly elusive. Returning to the authentic, community-driven essence that initially drew me and many others to CrossFit, this distinctive movement, rooted in core principles of functional fitness, has the potential to rediscover its authenticity. It is essential to ensure that the commitment to health and fitness remains central, regardless of corporate ambitions or external influences.

So where do I sit in all this as owner of CrossFit Iron Bear?

Ultimately, I believe that while CrossFit is unique and amazing in many ways, there is room for growth and change, particularly at the local box level. A key aspect of enhancing the member experience in CrossFit is the potential to provide seamless access to any CrossFit box worldwide through a member's primary gym membership. A feature much sought after when people are making decisions on how and where to train. We could do well to recognise that and implement what I will call for the sake of this article the "CrossFit Passport".

This flexibility to be able to train when you can't get to your home gym is increasingly becoming a crucial factor for individuals when choosing their training location. Members typically have a home gym where they train regularly, but having the ability to effortlessly visit another gym while travelling or working in a different part of the city adds immense value.

Imagine being on vacation or in a different part of town and being able to drop into a nearby CrossFit box to train, without any additional cost or hassle. In the proposed model, instead of pausing their membership while on holiday or out of town for work, members would maintain their active status at their home box and simply, via the use of their CrossFit Passport, train at a CrossFit box near their vacation spot. This arrangement benefits the host box as well; while they might not collect a drop-in fee from these visiting members, the potential for these guests to purchase drinks, merchandise, or other items can offset this. Additionally, host boxes could explore other forms of reciprocal value, like asking the visiting member to leave a Google review or resurrecting the tradition of buying a t-shirt as a way to cover the drop-in. There are many creative ways to see this as a value add to your box rather than a free drop-in taking a spot in your class.

The key to making this passport system work smoothly lies in having a universal platform where every CrossFit box can verify the membership status of individuals. Such a system would not only streamline the process but also encourage a more connected and cohesive CrossFit community, enhancing the overall experience for members who travel. This passport approach leverages the strength of the CrossFit network, turning each box into a welcoming destination for members from around the world.

This level of accessibility, as I mentioned, could be facilitated through the creation of a central member database at CrossFit HQ. Members could get access to this feature by introducing a tiered membership system at each box. Members say for an extra $5/wk could opt into the CrossFit Passport feature, allowing them the freedom to maintain their fitness routine wherever they are, fostering a sense of global community within the CrossFit network. This approach not only enhances the member experience but also strengthens the bonds between CrossFit enthusiasts around the world. Such initiatives would not only expand the accessibility of CrossFit but also foster a greater sense of global community among members.

I firmly believe that HQ would be wise to recognize that CrossFit is more than just a trademark or a brand; it's a testament to the enduring strength of functional fitness, nurtured by the unwavering commitment of the community. Even if the CrossFit brand were to fade from the doors of some boxes, the spirit of the community would continue to thrive. The foundation of CrossFit is solid, built on the collective values of everyday individuals who own, coach, and train. These people are not motivated by a brand, but by the shared, transformative power of functional fitness - a life-altering journey marked by sweat, cheers, and mutual support. By enhancing the member experience and fostering a more interconnected global community through a CrossFit Passport-style system, we can continue to honour and strengthen this powerful movement and ensure it endures well into the future.

Continue reading