Is the CrossFit “fad” dying already? What’s killing it?

1stI regularly check CrossFit.com to look at the courses they offer (along with the WOD). I would like to get my CrossFit Kids certification someday as I think it would be a lot of fun working with children and then the Mobility course would be cool if you got lucky and Starret was there…anyway, you can’t look at available courses without scrolling through the 50 or 100 CrossFit Level 1 courses offered first.

It has always amazed me that every weekend there are like 10 CrossFit Level 1 courses offered and all of them are sold out. I think in my Level 1 course there must have been at least 50 people. That means that every weekend like 500 people are getting their Level 1.

Now, however, not all of the courses are sold out. I noticed this last weekend for the first time. Last weekend there were several courses with space available just a few days before the course started. This weekend does not have any availability, but as you can see from the pictures there are a lot of classes coming in the near future with plenty of space available. When I registered for my Level 1 two years ago I had to wait every week and watch for when they posted the new courses a month or six weeks in advance and register. If you didn’t register for your Level 1 as soon as the date/location was announced you probably would miss out as they sold out so quickly. When I registered for mine it wasn’t unlikely that all of the Level 1 courses listed on mainsite were sold out – ALL of them.

Yesterday CrossFit announced that its 10,000th affiliate opened its doors. When I first got my Level 1 there were two CrossFit gyms in Aurora (a rather big city with more than 330,000 citizens and a suburb of Denver which, even at that time, had CrossFit gyms located blocks from each other) and now there are six in Aurora with at least 10 additional CrossFit gyms right on the city boundaries. Sooner or later the market gets saturated. That is a law, or something. Sooner or later the supply is going to exceed the demand. That is definitely a law. And sooner or later the demand will be so high that the value of a CrossFit membership will plummet. Another law.

To that last point: enter Groupon.

I have considered opening my own box in the past. In my readings everyone implored not to use a Groupon or anything similar as it devalued your time, effort and abilities. What happens when the nearest CrossFit box does not value their own product and is willing to sell unlimited classes for $40 a month? What happens when multiple boxes do this? Suddenly the public’s perception of CrossFit doesn’t see the value at $150 a month, or $200 a month, and now they see it as nothing more than your run-of-the-mill globo box membership and it should only cost you $40 a month.

I just went to Groupon and searched for “CrossFit” and received four pages of results. Now, mind you, these aren’t all CrossFit classes, but a quick glance I see CrossFit LoDo, CrossFit West Metro, CrossFit Banshee, CrossFit 20 Mile, Lowry CrossFit, Ferza CrossFit, CrossFit Cherry Creek, Centennial CrossFit, CrossFit Battle Ready, CrossFit Cielo, Lone Tree CrossFit and the list goes on and on…and on……and on. Taking a quick look it seems most of these CrossFit boxes are offering memberships for somewhere between $39 and $59 a month. Again, how does one who doesn’t know anything about CrossFit – or what makes a good CrossFit gym/trainer/environment – know why they should pay well over $100 a month versus only $40 a month.

Hell, if I wanted, I could box jump. I could pay $40 a month for CrossFit and just visit each of these boxes for a month and get a years worth of CrossFit. Some of these stipulate that they are for beginners only, but not all of them. Many of them are just offering up their regular membership at a reduced price.

What do you think the members who pay three or four times the Groupon price think?

How does Groupon kill the CrossFit fad? How many boxes can survive if the vast majority of their members are paying only $40 a month? How many of these boxes will be forced to close their doors because they have 80 members at $40 a head and that isn’t enough to cover rent or utilities – or make it worth their time to possibly work two or three jobs to support a box that they own and that they can train at.

Because, let’s face it, the vast majority of the folks opening a CrossFit gym these days are doing it for one of two reasons:

  1. They want to own their own business and make a living. They were formally a member of a big name box that charged $175 a month and had 300 members. They did the math and figured that could be them. Big box, lots of members and a lofty membership fee. They could roll out of bed whenever they want and collect a pay check.
  2. They want to train all the damn time. They want a space where they can train whenever they want. And not a globo gym, no, a gym with bumpers. A gym that they own. They figure they can offer classes at 6am, 7am, noon, 4pm, 5pm and 6pm and the rest of the hours they can be a gym rat. They can be Rich Froning. They can get to Regionals. They can get a Reebok sponsorship. They can hide their passion and desire to get THEMSELVES better as a business to help others.

2ndBoth of these will fail. They will fail because they aren’t in it for the right reasons. And now they are highly discounting their services and they won’t survive. The guy/gal in scenario #1 will realize that they gave up a well paying job – with benefits – for a job that doesn’t earn a dime. The guy/gal in scenario #2 will realize that it becomes painfully obvious that they don’t care about their clients and their clients will leave.

Sure, in both cases, if they are smart, they started a business with enough capital to keep it afloat for a year without having a big enough client base to break even on their monthly expenditures. After two or three months with empty classes or classes with only a small handful of clients they start to discount. Now they aren’t charging enough to sustain a real business. Now they have already tagged themselves as a place that only charges $40 a month for CrossFit. Good luck getting someone to pay $150 now!

There are videos and articles on the CrossFit Journal where Greg Glassman boasts about the high success rate of CrossFit gyms. As a small business the success rate he claims is well into the 90 percentile for the CrossFit business to stay alive for five years – much, much higher than a “normal” small business. That was then. this is now. I am watching a few boxes close to home and I just got to think that the “sorry, we’re closed” sign stays up permanently in the not-so-distant future. They are too small, charge too little and I think got into the swimming pool after it was already too full.

And I haven’t even touched on the short attention span of the American consumer. Soon there will be the next P90x or Zumba or whatever. Those who really, really love the feel of a barbell and love the work CrossFit induces will stick, but those who are just doing the next thing in hopes of losing 20 pounds will move on.

As I see it the fad has hit its peak. The trend is moving downward and the open space available in Level 1 seminars is proof of that. It is the first sign that CrossFit will go down two paths. It will either survive in an underground fashion much like it did for the first 10 years or so of its existence – the time on ESPN is short lived and back to the ranch it will fall. Or it will go the way of Jazzercise. I really don’t think it can sustain the popularity it has right now. That just isn’t how the American consumer works.

I didn’t even mention the notion of injuries caused by CrossFit, or that more and more big time players are getting into the CrossFit space – hell, there is even a cruise that promotes itself towards those who love functional fitness. There was an add in 5280 recently (a magazine focusing on the Denver area) for Denver Athletic Club and their CrossFit classes. If the big pocket books of 24 Hour Fitness or Gold’s Gym decide they want to offer “Functional Fitness” classes that will make it really difficult for individuals to start up their own box. Again, the mainstream American consumer will play $60 a month at 24 Hour Fitness to have the ability to take their “functional fitness” classes AND get access to all the other equipment, classes and pools. Or something like CrossFit Sanitas which was bankrolled by high ranking officers from a tech company that has tons of space, equipment and bathrooms that make globo gym jealous. Point being, it’s going to be harder and harder to open your own place and that will squelch the appeal of CrossFit and give sustenance to the “next thing”.

At this point I am no longer considering opening my own place. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to. It wouldn’t be solely CrossFit, I can tell you that. We would have boot camp classes, spin classes and other stuff – diversify.

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One comment on “Is the CrossFit “fad” dying already? What’s killing it?

  1. […] wrote an post a few weeks (months?) ago that it looked like the CrossFit “fad” might be slowing down. My main reasoning was that some of the Level 1 certification classes were not selling out. When I […]

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