Is CrossFit interest declining?

I 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 got my L1 you had to watch for when new classes were released for the Denver area because they sold out so fast. Looking at CrossFit.com right now there are five of the six courses for this week with availability. It’s a tough weekend with it being Thanksgiving weekend, but even next weekend two of the six have availability.

I think this is why they created the new L2 and L3 certifications – to drive more business/interest.

Anyway, that’s not what drives this post.

Everything peaks. Some peaks last longer than others, but everything peaks. Someone finds something that the market loves and a bunch of people copy it and eventually the market supply outpaces the market demand. Whether that product is a full size van (how popular were those in the late 80’s early 90’s), Jazzercise, P90x or Coca Cola (first time in years that public consumption has decreased) sooner or later the public moves on.

I think the trend of both CrossFit and craft breweries is sort of the same. Both got really popular at about the same time and, at least here in Denver, there is a CrossFit box or a brewery about every 5-10 miles (more CrossFit than breweries…but breweries are popping up everywhere). Sooner or later the market will be over-saturated for both. Sooner or later there will be more breweries than beer drinkers and sooner or later there will be more CrossFit boxes than those interested in CrossFit.

Well I think the CrossFit market might finally be full. I know CrossFit announced they had 10,000 affiliates this year, but I wonder what the count is now? Locally we have had three boxes close their doors this year – and those are only those that I am aware of. CrossFit Saddle Rock, CrossFit Unbroken and CrossFit Parker have all closed this year (and really all within about 6 months). In only one of those cases, that I know of, did a coach from one of those gyms open their own, new CrossFit box – Kevin Ogar opened his own box when Unbroken closed its doors.

Unbroken and Parker were both very long standing gyms in the community. Parker was the only box in Parker when I first started looking into CrossFit five years ago (now there are four, I believe, if I include Parker still). And at that time Parker was already well established. Unbroken was owned by Matt Hathcock (former games competitor and star of one of my favorite Games events of all time) and had been open for several years, too. When I was just visiting Glenwood Springs this past weekend I was going to go to CrossFit Generate (I think was the name), but found out it recently closed its doors.

Unbroken I heard closed mostly because Matt lost interest in CrossFit and I think once the owner loses interest the gym will struggle. If the owners can’t put in full effort its client base will see the quality drop and it makes it hard to sustain. I suspect the same thing happened at CrossFit Parker.

I travel to Phoenix every spring for golf and baseball and while I am there I visit Firebird CrossFit and I just saw that their owners just sold the box to another couple who have been members of Firebird for a few years. It will be interesting to see how that gym continues to grow – or fail – with new owners.

The point being that the interest in CrossFit is at least plateauing, if not declining. Those who have been in it for years are moving on. Gyms that have been open for years are closing their doors or selling to new owners. Some of the best of the best (Hathcock) have lost interest. The CrossFit Open isn’t growing exponentially any longer (I have seen claims of 270,000 participants in 2015, but when you scroll through the leader board there are a LOT of people who didn’t complete any workout).

Who knows, maybe this is just my small world of CrossFit. Maybe this isn’t indicative of CrossFit’s interest world wide. It is only a matter of time before it peaks and goes down. I don’t think it will ever wane entirely – there will always be people like me who will participate in CrossFit for the foreseeable future. There will always be people like me who love it, love the competition, love the work to improve myself, my lifts and my times. But there are many, many more who are in it just so their beer gut doesn’t get TOO big – they are OK with a beer gut, but they just want to feel like when they drink 5 beers a night that they work off a little of it at the gym three or four times a week. Those very casual CrossFitters far outnumber those who live and breathe it. Those casual CrossFitters will find the next Bikram Yoga, P90x or Jazzercise to sweat a little bit.

Does anyone have any similar stories or experiences of boxes closing locally? My curiosity would love to hear about them.

– EDIT –

I just read that Ferza CrossFit (I think that is located in Cherry Creek) has also closed its doors. They say the owners lost interest and want to pursue something else. Well, either that or rent was way too high in Cherry Creek for a CrossFit gym. That brings the total to four closings in the Denver area in about six months.

Unbroken CrossFit
CrossFit Parker
CrossFit Saddle Rock
Ferza CrossFit

Box Review: CrossFit Amplify

20150611_085524_resizedAs I posted yesterday, Chicago gave me the opportunity to visit two different CrossFit boxes. The second of those two boxes was CrossFit Amplify.

My initial thought as I walked into Amplify was how big it was. The second thing that caught my attention, but I don’t recall how it caught my attention (if someone told me or I read it somewhere) was that they had an athlete compete at the Central Regional and finish 12th! That is amazing. Making it to Regionals is amazing and finishing that high is tremendous. Something Amplify should promote the heck out of.

Tons of room - including a nice area covered in turf.

Tons of room – including a nice area covered in turf.

Anyway, the first thing that sticks out in my mind from Amplify is that the warmup was tough and that we did partner carries…someone had to carry me, sweat and all. Poor guy.

During the CrossFit class Amplify also had a boot camp class running at the exact same time. The space was big enough that the CrossFit class of about seven individuals didn’t run into the boot camp class that had at least 10 of their own. This was at 9:30am – the perfect time for a boot camp class full of stay-at-home moms.

The warmup was two minutes of rowing, then a variety of drills like high knees and butt kicks and ended with two rounds of eight lunges and six burpees.

The fun part to begin class were heavy sled drags. We paired up and each team had to pull the sled 30 times in 10 minutes. After the sled pulls we did six evil wheels every two minutes for a total of five rounds. Then the WOD was, with a partner: 60 burpee box jump overs (switch every 6 reps), 12 partner carries (about 100 feet) and 120 HRPU (switch every 10 reps). The pushups were surprisingly difficult after the evil wheels and burpees.

Once again, I was a soaking mess in the midwest.

20150611_085520_resizedEveryone was super nice, especially my partner for carrying me. Even after class a few folks from the boot camp class introduced themselves to me. The only downer was that I couldn’t get a t-shirt – they were out.

The space itself is amazing and if you live in the area I would highly recommend joining. I am guessing they have a ton of different class times and different class types. Would be a lot of fun.

Box Review: CrossFit 630

20150610_050837_resizedWhile the family was in Chicago we stayed on the very outter edge to the west of downtown Chicago in Naperville. There weren’t many CrossFit boxes really close to choose from, but I decided to visit two different ones while in town. The first one I visited was CrossFit 630.

Their space was a bit smaller than expected. It was in an “L” shape and the ceilings were super high as they were in an industrial space, but a decent chunk of space was used for restrooms and an office – or so it appeared. I still think they probably had plenty of space to hold two classes. There was an area that could be used for warming up when you first entered through their bay door and around the corner there was their rack and weights where they could do their metcons.

It was pretty apparent that they were in a state of transition in terms of where their front desk was located and other general furniture type moving. The coach that morning couldn’t find what he was looking for – which is OK, really, and it is understandable as all gyms at some point are going to move things around to better their member experience and when this happens it is bound to be a bit bumpy. As long as in the end their member experience in better it is all good.

This class was by far the smallest of my trip. It was their 6am or 6:30am class (only class in the morning) and it was myself and three other individuals. We went through the warmup together and then went over the Burgener warmup as the WOD for the day was “Randy”. It was a pretty good warmup and I like to see time set aside for instruction, especially as the three members working out with me were fairly new to CrossFit and needed the instruction on the snatch.

Love this quote by Sherwood

Love this quote by Sherwood

After the warmup we walked back to the rig, got out our bars and got ready for Randy. I finished well ahead of the other members and even had the second best time according to their record board (which, at just over 4 minutes for my Randy tells me that the gym is still fairly new because a 4 minute Randy isn’t THAT good).

After Randy we got out the bench and found our max bench. If you know me you know I LOVE this. As a guy who did a TON of “chest and tri’s” at 24 Hour Fitness for years I love a good chest day.

All and all I wasn’t super excited about my experience at 630 or disappointed. It was a good class and the coach was nice, but the overall energy was a bit low. Could have just been the class size. I know I have plenty of days when I am coaching and the class is smaller and running around pumping everyone up is a struggle.

Box Review: CrossFit Establish

20150609_063344_resizedAs my family was making its way from Colorado to Wisconsin we had an overnight in northern Kansas City, Missouri. There is a hotel in Liberty with a pretty solid water park inside of it that is included with your nights stay. When you have children that are 6 and 3 that is a HUGE win on a long road trip.

For a guy like myself I have to search for CrossFit boxes nearby. There were three or four boxes pretty close to the hotel, including CrossFit NKC which I visited a few years ago (and apparently didn’t review?!). However, this trip I needed as much time as possible to get the family to Wisconsin and the closest box was CrossFit Establish. In looking at their website and Facebook it looked like a solid place to train. It was.

I arrived early in the morning before most everyone else except the coach and owner. Both introduced themselves and made sure I felt like I was at home.

I wish we had turf like that at my box. Would be a lot of fun.

I wish we had turf like that at my box. Would be a lot of fun.

As I was stretching my shoulders because we were going to start with snatches I started to notice a trend in what the other athletes were doing as they slowly showed up for the early morning class…I realized that all of them were doing the same stretches. As more people kept arriving, and eventually doing the same pattern of stretches I initially thought that the box must have a basic set of stretching everyone does before class. The stretches were popular, yet effective stretches like the ever favorite couch stretch and some pigeon stretching. But then I noticed what looked like a warmup on the board, some of it in lingo I wasn’t familiar with. While I like to consider myself well versed in CrossFit lingo or exercise lingo in general I am always amazed how I run across terminology I don’t recognize all the time. Some gyms refer to things differently. Even things as common as PVC pass-throughs.

Anyway, I soon realized I wasn’t doing the prescribed warmup for the day. This was the one thing I didn’t like about Establish: they didn’t keep me informed on what I should be doing, class schedules, patterns, how it would be run, etc. When I have visitors attend one of my classes I make sure they know I will start the warmup and the class will warmup together, what to expect for the WOD, cool down, etc. In this case I had no idea what some of the movements were in the warmup or that it had even started. Thankfully I know what I like to do to get warmed up for snatches so it turned out OK, but for a newbie this could be a real turnoff. Continue reading

Box Review: SouthWind CrossFit

20150608_053859_resizedThis review is a long time coming. I first visiting SouthWind a few years ago while visiting my mother-in-law in Victoria, KS. Victoria is a town of maybe 1,000 and about 10 miles east of Hays, KS. Hays is a bit bigger and has one of the better breweries I have ever been to – Gella’s. Look it up. It is well worth the 15 minute drive south off of I-70 as you drive through Kansas. But that is off topic.

Hays is also home to SouthWind CrossFit – the only CrossFit gym within who knows how many square miles.

Now one might think that if you run a gym without any real competition for miles you could half-ass it, SouthWind does not. They have a solid space, not overly large, but plenty big for their client base (the class I attended while in town most recently had about 12 athletes and there was plenty of room). Their equipment is top notch with high quality Rogue bumpers and bars. A Nice rig, climbing ropes and even a space that can be use for sled pushing or dragging in the colder winter months. My wife tells me that the building they are in used to be a furniture store and they did a good job changing it to a CrossFit box.

20150608_055451_resized_1

Strength class prior to the 6am class

When I got there early for their 6am class there was a few athletes, including the owner working on a strength program. They were doing some heavy squats, lunges and strict pullups. In looking around their Facebook page it appears they have a pretty competitive atmosphere and the weight being moved that morning was pretty impressive.

As the time moved closer to 6am most athletes showed up of all different shapes and sizes. Exactly what you expect for a typical 6am class and what I like to see – people there for all different types of goals.

The workout had a strength portion to begin, a nice quick WOD in the middle and a decent finisher. If I recall my previous visit correctly their classes last time were like this. They make the most out of of an hour.

They were in the middle of a 5/3/1 program and the day I attended was a “3” day for the push press. After the strength the metcon was 21-15-9 of burpees, KBS and double-unders – a very short WOD. Finally, the “cool down” or “cash out” for class was 100 lunges. Due to the humidity I took this portion outside. A theme whenever I go to the midwest to workout is how soaked my shirts get. Sweaty.

As I remember from my last visit the owner is super nice. The members were awesome and many introduced themselves to me before class. One of them gave me props on my time for the metcon. The class was fun, the athletes were lighthearted and it was a good time. Just what I want when visiting a box. I highly recommend SouthWind if you ever find yourself in north western Kansas.