Riding CrossFit’s Coattails
Pura Vida, an IHRSA-member club in Denver, CO, the newspaper reported, had spent $120,000 to revamp a medical office in the basement of its building to generate a “hard-core” vibe. It created a small-group training space with concrete floors, monkey bars, weight racks, and more.
And that was just the beginning.
Town Sports International Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ: CLUB), based in New York City, which has more than 160 sites, expanded its UXF cross-functional training areas—featuring TRX cables, weighted push sleds, and heavy training ropes on artificial turf— bringing them to 90% of its locations.
24 Hour Fitness, based in San Ramon, CA, launched TC24, a functional-training program for groups of six to 20 people, with levels that become increasingly difficult as members move through them. And Life Time Fitness, a 126-club chain headquartered in Chanhassen, MN, began offering Alpha Training, a high-intensity program for groups of just two to six. Like CrossFit, Alpha Training focuses on speed, power, strength, and endurance. Life Time even holds the annual Alpha Showdown, an event similar to the nationally televised CrossFit Games.
At the time, CrossFit dismissed the notion of opening its “boxes” in traditional clubs or of aligning with large chains. Russell Berger, CrossFit’s head trainer, told the Journal that “to have a corporate entity representing our brand in multiple locations is really the antithesis of what we’ve done to this point,” adding that individual owner-operators are its bread and butter, and that it often rejects applicants “who are offering a lot of money, but for the wrong reasons.”
In the same article, however, industry consultant Bryan K. O’Rourke, the president of the Fitness Industry Technology Council, suggested that club members might want “the real deal.” Prescient, that O’Rourke.
Low Barriers to Entry
On the corporate side, it’s fairly easy to obtain a CrossFit box. You pay an annual licensing fee of $3,000, provide proof of insurance that meets CrossFit’s standards, and employ a Level 1 CrossFit certified trainer. The certification costs $1,000, and requires weekend training and the successful completion of a written test. CrossFit certification encompasses four levels: Level 1 Trainer; Level 2 Trainer (requires six months of training others and completion of an online course); Level 3 Trainer (first two levels, plus the completion of ANSI- certified Certified CrossFit Trainer [CCFT] exam); and Level 4 Coach (previous qualifications plus a performance evaluation).
Beyond that baseline, CrossFit licensees have plenty of latitude.
The Olympic Athletic Club, a 150,000-square-foot, multipurpose facility in Seattle, WA, made CrossFit a part of its environment two-and-a-half years ago.
“CrossFit is the fastest-growing exercise methodology in the world, and we wanted to offer it to our members as a functional fitness option,” says Kyle Hyde, Olympic’s fitness director. “There are approximately seven other CrossFit affiliates within a three-mile radius of our club, and many others in the greater Seattle area; however, we’re the only licensed affiliate located inside a health club.”
Olympic converted an 800-square-foot racquetball court into its CrossFit studio, stocking it with $20,000 worth of equipment. Three of the club’s existing personal trainers are CrossFit certified, so there was no need to add staff.
Beyond Fitness, which has two clubs in Paradise, CA, added a CrossFit box to its 1,500-member Pence Road location two years ago.
“At the time, there were no other CrossFit facilities in our area. It was clearly becoming popular, and people were traveling to other cities to participate in the regimen,” says Aaron Singer, the company’s group fitness and personal training director. “We wanted to offer a program that seemed a good fit for our demographic.
Beyond Fitness built out a 1,600-square-foot CrossFit space, spending about $50,000 for equipment, including barbells, rowers, speed ropes, bumper plates, medicine balls, and a large exercise rig. Singer, a Level 2 CrossFit trainer, heads the staff, which includes another Level 2 trainer, plus existing employees who’ve earned their Level 1 certificates.
A Demographic Twist
All things being equal, the space, equipment, and staffing standards of our sample in-house CrossFit boxes mesh fairly well with those of the stand-alone operations. For Olympic and Beyond Fitness, the road diverges with respect to the demographics of the members who are taking part. Hyde and Singer both report that they have more than 40 active CrossFitters. Hyde sees age ranges anywhere from 20 to 70, with a 50/50 gender split. Singer has members as young as 14 and as old as 74, with the median age falling between 30 and 50; two-thirds are women.
Both age ranges are far outside the millennial norm for a typical CrossFit club.
It makes sense that a facility with a diverse membership base would attract a wider variety of participants to the program, but, because CrossFit is known for its higher-intensity workouts, it might seem unusual that older members would find it appealing.
“You work with the demographics you have,” says Singer. “While we were expecting more in the 20-to-40 range, people who live in a retirement community in our area also expressed interest. Working with seniors and individuals who need rehab is part of my background, so we were able to safely bring those members into programs that worked for them.
“Based on those we serve, we’ve modified programming in ways that other CrossFit boxes might not. Not everyone who wants a rigorous workout goes hardcore.”
At Olympic, any member who’s interested in joining the CrossFit program needs to first familiarize and orient themselves via free Saturday classes, and then take part in the Jump Start Series, which costs $149 and covers functional fundamentals. If they’re able to complete Jump Start with no issues, they’re eligible to join the regular CrossFit classes. Prices for members range from $20 for a drop-in session to $145 per month for unlimited classes.