As CrossFit has exploded in popularity over the past few years, there has been an increased focus on the safety of the programming. As with anything with a large number of followers, media scrutiny will soon follow. It is this media investigation that has been such an annoyance to the business of CrossFit.
To alleviate some confusion, for the sake of this post, I will here-after refer to the CrossFit corporate identity as “HQ”.
Just as the CrossFit Games (HQ’s premier event crowing the fittest person on earth) were coming to a close, ESPN aired an Outside the Lines segment highlighting some incidents of people being injured while working out. Predictably, HQ released a statement rebutting some information in the piece. In the statement, HQ focused on the fact that two of the injuries discussed during the segment did not occur at sanctioned HQ events/affiliated gyms. This is true. The injuries did not occur during the CrossFit Games process or at an affiliated HQ facility, but does that really matter and is that really what HQ is fighting against?
The answer, I believe, is a resounding no. HQ is fighting to hold onto the name “crossfit”.
Directly from the HQ website (What is CrossFit?)is this statement:
“CrossFit itself is defined as that which optimizes fitness (constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity).” CrossFit.com
So by that definition, it should not matter where the activity is performed. Whether an affiliated gym or not, it’s the activity that defines the word, not the company. They then immediately follow that up with:
“CrossFit is also the community that spontaneously arises when people do these workouts together. In fact, the communal aspect of CrossFit is a key component of why it’s so effective. “
Can you see the confusion (and why so many in the media community might be confused)?
There is an activity that many in the public call “crossfit” and then there is a company, with 10,000+ affiliates, called “CrossFit”. The company is, rightfully, doing everything they can to hold on to that name. They have to, each and every affiliate pays a yearly fee (around $3000) to be able to use the word “CrossFit”, and eliminates larger gyms from using it. If HQ were to stop fighting for the use, then the word goes into public domain and then HQ loses much of what they have gained. Affiliates no longer would have to pay, and any gym on earth could conceivably say they are teaching a crossfit class.
Even with my acceptance of the company fighting for their name, I believe that they are going to lose. Crossfit is now an activity of it’s own. Anything that involves constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity is crossfit in the eyes of just about anyone outside of HQ. It may not take place at an official affiliate, but to the general public it IS crossfit.
Russell Berger tries to make a case that it’s like the NFL, but I disagree with his comparison. If you think about kids going to play football in the park, they say “I’m playing football with my friends” they do not say “I’m going to play NFL with my friends”. So you can’t say that any resultant injuries are caused by the NFL. Where as because of the ambiguous definition of crossfit, if an injury occurred doing 21-15-9 pull-ups and burpees in the park I COULD say I got injured doing crossfit, though I’m sure HQ would dispute that, but I did not get injured AT CrossFit. It is a delicate difference, but a very important one.
As for competitions, HQ would likely never say that doing 3-5 high intensity, heavy weight movements in a single day or weekend is safe. They are careful not to back these events for novice athletes because I’m sure they know how dangerous it is. Again, it is just HQ trying to protect their brand. They won’t condemn fitness competitions because it raises awareness in crossfit but they also do not want to be directly involved because it could soil their name should a Kevin Ogar type injury occur. They are aware of the risks, but they are also careful to point out that it is not HQ’s philosophy to do these activities in that way.
In the end, HQ is going to lose a court battle at some point (may be a decade from now). Until then, expect them to fight tooth and nail to remove any negative press directed at crossfit related activities because they were not done at an HQ affiliated competition/gym. Affiliate owners everywhere need to hope they keep winning.