CrossFit is an Education Company
The business you're in might surprise you. Facebook is not a social media company; it's an advertising agency. McDonald's is not a restaurant; it's a real estate mogul. And CrossFit is not a fitness brand; it's an education company.
Let me explain.
How CrossFit Saved My Life
In 2018 I got sick. Very sick. Sick enough that I had to take a 4-month short-term disability leave from work at the age of 29. A combination of overwork, bad habits, and a horrible diet had finally caught up with me. My 5'11'' 175lb frame shriveled to a skeletal 123lbs. It was exactly the wakeup call I needed.
During those bedridden months, I started to learn about health in a way I never had before. I wanted to understand what happened to my body and how I could prevent something like this from ever happening again. I devoured books and documentaries and my search inevitably led me into the world of CrossFit.
Now, granted, I had heard about this cult-like brand before from a coworker whose boyfriend had been drinking the Kool-Aid for several years. The stories of black box gyms and shirtless adonises were intimidating to say the least. I was the kid who finished dead last in the mile run every single time in middle school, high school, and college. This elite community didn’t appear to have room for someone like me.
But I was wrong.
Through my research, I learned about the principles which guide the CrossFit philosophy. I discovered scaled workouts and alternative movements. I saw people who started CrossFit when they were 300+ lbs or had cancer or were turning 78 years old – and they were all succeeding.
Within 2 months of returning to work, my wife and I joined our local box (shoutout to Strong Tower!). It was everything we could have hoped for and more. The scaled WODs pushed us to our limits and showed us that we were capable of so much more than we thought. The community became our second family.
But, more than anything, it was the education that changed our lives.
Health Without A Gym
A year into our CrossFit journey, we moved down the Buckeye State from Cleveland to Cincinnati. Then, a few weeks in, the world shut down. Like many people, the virus changed our plans seemingly overnight. We had to sort through career, logistic, and financial challenges. And we had to figure out how to stay healthy amidst it all.
What we learned in CrossFit equipped us to stay healthy when joining a box wasn’t an option.
We found ways to do modified workouts in our apartment and in the nearby park. We placed more focus on nutrition since we had more time to cook at home. We used YouTube as our personal training hub and were able to parse through (most of) the good and bad advice by referring back to what our coaches had taught us.
Most importantly, we weren’t a special case. Our social media feeds were filled with stories of fellow “exiled” CrossFitters taking their health into their own hands by using the principles, techniques, and resources gained from CrossFit.
It’s time for CrossFit to think outside the box.
Education is Growing Faster Than Fitness
In August 2020, much to the community’s delight, Eric Roza stepped in as the leader of CrossFit and hosted a Community Town Hall. During the interview, he noted a few key themes that are relevant to the discussion of education.
- Roza wants CrossFit to become “the world’s leading platform for health, happiness, and performance.”
- The focus must become “global.”
- A primary goal is to support the community so that more people can sustain their livelihood directly because of CrossFit. (Roza notes that approximately 100,000 people are able to work full-time within the CrossFit sphere, and he would like to see that number grow to 500,000 – 1,000,00 within the next 10 years).
Let me provide you with some numbers to show why a shift of focus towards education can help the new CrossFit reach every one of these goals and beyond.
- The global fitness industry is estimated to be valued at $100 billion and will likely grow between 8 – 13% over the next 10 years.
- The global education and training industry is estimated to be valued at $7 trillion and could grow between 30 – 50% over the next 10 years. That means the education market is currently 70x as big as the fitness industry.
Before you say we’re comparing apples to oranges, let me clarify a bit. Roughly 8% of the total education expenditure goes towards what is classified as “Lifelong Learning” (this category is likely where a health education, such as CrossFit, would fall under). At a $7 trillion market cap, that’s approximately $560 billion (Source). Still 5x as large as the entire fitness industry.
A segment of that is the eLearning market, which is expected to double from $200 billion to over $375 billion in the next 5 years. If you want to see the seeds of what this could look like within the community, check out the supplementary courses offered by CrossFit HQ or the Mindset course by CrossFit Mayhem.
CrossFit is perfectly positioned to compete in the education market where the financial growth potential is, at the very least, 5x greater than in fitness.
Right now, educational resources like these are one-offs. It's expected that box owners and elite trainers will pursue options like these as well as the Certification courses. But if CrossFit, as well as the individual affiliates, wants to grow to the heights they believe are possible, then education needs to become a core element of the CrossFit product.
- Instead of certifications being marketed only towards potential coaches and gym affiliates, there should be educational opportunities advertised to every member.
- These courses/learning experiences should lead to certificates, badges, and credentials that translate into real-world value (discounts on groceries, lower health insurance, wellbeing bonuses in the workplace).
- The courses must be performance-based (nutrition, weightlifting, mindset) and problem-solving (combat diabetes, recovery from chemotherapy, getting back into exercise after childbirth).
- Partnerships should evolve with local businesses, colleges, and even hospitals so that institutions can outsource their health initiatives directly to CrossFit and their affiliates.
What The Future Holds
A lot of what I'm pointing out is already being tested by forward-thinking affiliates. They are laying the groundwork for a number of transformative opportunities in the space.
What I'm asking is for the average CrossFit member to take their education seriously. To recognize that a long, able-bodied life demands more than a few scaled WODs a week. It calls for a deeper understanding of health, one gained through purposeful learning experiences.
And I’m asking for CrossFit to take advantage of the business they are really in. Fitness is a byproduct of an effective health education in practice. The latter is what they do.
CrossFit is an education company.