My Thoughts on CrossFit Affiliate Programming
by Erik Castiglione
CrossFit HQ announced the launch of “CrossFit Affiliate Programming” this week. It’s designed to “save gym owners 4-6 hours a week,” by giving them an already done warm-up, workout, multiple levels of scaling for the workout, equipment layout, class schedule breakdown, and more. While it seems like a great deal, I would like to assure our membership that Viking Athletics will not be participating. And I have never been happier that we rebranded. Why? Because I’m not a fan of outsourcing programming. I’ve covered a lot of this in the past, but a big reason for it is that when you outsource, you’re relying on a person/company who doesn’t know your membership. So, they won’t be well equipped to meet the needs as well as someone who interacts with them daily and knows their goals. Furthermore, since this is the first outsourced programming coming from HQ, it’s likely to take off. This is going to commoditize many CrossFit affiliates and push them towards the franchise model.
When Greg Glassman founded CrossFit, as a hardcore libertarian, he believed gyms should be free to run things their way. For better or worse, the cream would rise to the top. In the mid 2010’s when many gyms starting training lay people like CrossFit Games athletes, injuries skyrocketed, and CrossFit developed a reputation as being dangerous. The problem? A lack of programming education. Anyone can mimic other people, but there was no understanding behind it. I’ve said for years that this is where CrossFit should invest – in programming education. By providing a ready-made program, and a script and schedule to go with it, there is no incentive to learn. And coaches now just need to regurgitate rather than think. They can pick a scaling from a menu rather than truly individualize the workout for a particular member.
The common refrain from those who outsource their programming to others when asked what sets them apart from other gyms is “our coaching.” I’m sorry, but unless you have inept coaches at one gym, and stellar coaches at another, two gyms offering the exact same thing are indistinguishable. Orange Theory and other commoditized group fitness classes show this. And if you’ll indulge my metaphor, fast food is fast food because the product is the same at every franchise location, regardless of the talent of the cook. You’re starting with the same ingredients. Chick-Fil-A may have the highest service level of all fast-food chains because they bring your food to you, refill your drinks, and bus your table when you’re done. But, it’s still fast food, and you can’t get a gourmet steak at a Chick-Fil-A – there’s no beef.
At Viking Athletics, we’re in the service industry. YOUR goals and wellness are our concern. Maybe CrossFit isn’t the best fit for you, so we offer other programs that may be better suited to your needs. And in all our programs, we look for movement faults that seem to be trends. For example, we’re coming to the end of a weightlifting cycle in CrossFit where we spent a lot of time working on drills to help members get comfortable dropping quickly into the receiving position for the snatch and clean. While focusing on the pull of the lifts might help improve them, the biggest weakness was in the catch for most of our members. We tailored the program to you. Going back to my metaphor – we start with the right ingredients. Our coaches can improve your experience from there for sure, but if you’re not even in the right restaurant, you won’t get what you want.
While it bothers me to see the CrossFit community head in this direction, I do understand that HQ is trying to add value to the annual affiliation fee. I sincerely hope that affiliates manage to maintain their own individual flair, rather than becoming franchises like Orange Theory. But if many of them do, that will only help Viking Athletics stand out more. We’ll always start with your goals and build our program from there. See you in the gym.