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June 16, 2020

Control Your Programming, Control Your Brand

With what seems like a mass exodus from CrossFit, many gyms are now being faced with rebranding. Many are lost or feel sad and frustrated that they will no longer be associated with a global brand. However, we see this situation as extremely beneficial to gyms; and the very best will thrive and continue to impact their local communities on their terms. CrossFit - or any other franchise or licensed gym - typically appeals to a limited audience. Why not appeal to a wider one?

We rebranded nearly four years ago in an effort to control our own brand. We opened our gym in 2009 as singularly a CrossFit gym. At the time, CrossFit wasn't the massive fitness movement and sport it is now. CrossFit workouts were reasonable from a volume standpoint. Fast forward a few years and, with the explosion of affiliates and The CrossFit Games, way too many CrossFit gyms started to program monster workouts on the daily and focus more on intensity and PRs than safety and movement mechanics.

It's very easy to become a certified trainer and it's equally as easy to open a gym. The process to be a CrossFit affiliate is this: attend a weekend seminar, take a test, apply for affiliation, pay your yearly fee. Although gyms give their hard-earned cash to CrossFit, they receive no protection from another CrossFit gym opening up right next door. There is no business advice, no quality control - good luck, the cream will rise to the top, CrossFit says.

Don't get me wrong, there are some great CrossFit affiliates out there that, like us, have education and experience outside of CrossFit and use CrossFit along with other training concepts. However, as CrossFit gyms opened and closed around us, we quickly became frustrated by being lumped into the "all CrossFit gyms are the same" thought process by prospective members. We had to apologize for the recklessness, lack of professionalism and the haphazard programming of other CrossFit gyms. We had to continually explain how we were different.

We decided that we wanted to be our own brand and be known for our own brand of smart, safe, progressive PROGRAMMING.

CrossFit brought mixed modality training (also known as concurrent training) to the masses, but they didn't invent it. And there are flaws in using CrossFit methodology as your only offering. For one, with the exception of lunging (for time), CrossFit lacks a focus on bilateral training. The overarching emphasis on intensity doesn't allow for much-needed tempo work in order to build proper positions. CrossFit tests durability - keep going under fatigue, speed is king. Get the most work done in the shortest amount of time, no matter what it looks like. Joint tolerance is put to the test. Chasing 1-rep maxes increases the probability for injury - we don't believe that the general public needs to prove a new PR in order to get stronger.

While we like some CrossFit principles in effective doses, the notion of "compete every day" is not sensible. Imagine if football players, fighters, soccer players, rugby players played a game every day. They'd be pretty beat up, right? Than why would you want to compete in the sport of fitness daily? That's a surefire way to injury, overuse and/or fatigue.

So, my point is to develop your brand around your own programming. Educate yourself on other training concepts, test them, slow down, help your members become bulletproof. The original intent of CrossFit was to prepare people for real life, not beat them down.

ANYONE, even gym members, can throw a bunch of movements together that will leave the group gasping on the ground - that doesn't mean it's a good workout. Soreness doesn't equal efficacy.

So, how do you brand yourself as a thoughtful, effective program? Social media and marketing should center around educating your audiences. Your blog posts and newsletter should communicate your next training phase and its intent. Constantly convey the how and the why. Set expectations. Within gyms, there is all too often a "do this" without a "why." When marketing, show beautiful images of members performing technically sound, simple movements. Lead with professionalism. Nix images of chaotic group classes and focus on individuals of different ages and ethnicities. By all means, stop posting ugly first muscle-ups and dangerous-looking lifting PRs. These are doing nothing for your business and your reputation as a leader in the fitness space.

You want to be regarded as a good coach. But if the programming is bad, the coach, no matter how great, will never shine.

People like CrossFit because they think it's fun. Creating workouts that are effective and appealing is an art form. Not sure how to program outside of the standard "lift + metcon" format seen at nearly every CrossFit gym? Never written a full training phase? Seek help from a company who can work with you.

Exercise programs like CrossFit are potent and, programmed correctly, can be done for life; done daily, they may cut your clients' fitness journies short.

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