Thursday, January 29, 2015

CrossFit, the Games and Greed

As a newcomer to the CrossFit scene, it's clear that the big, international event that unites boxes across the globe is the Reebok CrossFit Games...call it the Championship Season of CrossFit. It's a leveling field across the globe that begins right in each individual box in the "Open" then moves to the Regionals and finally the Games in California. Online, there is a flurry of activity in the past few weeks as registration has opened for the CrossFit Games Open that begins at the end of February. The comments surrounding this opening is what fuels today's post...some thoughts on the Games and greed, an ever-present characteristic in our country.

My background has taken me through over 17 years of running in races from the 5K distance to the marathon to 100 mile races. I'm very familiar with fees to enter events and the landscape of the running scene has changed incredibly in those 17 years. What many of us refer to as "old school" races are out there but far less in numbers. By "old school," I mean a race that keeps registration fees low, focuses on the runners, and uses the entry fees to give back to an organization or even the park system, etc. where the event takes place. Unfortunately, the sport has largely been poisoned by big for-profit companies who have bought or created new events and focus more on the "experience" of the event and have insane registration fees for what you get. For example, two local marathons (Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon and the Akron Marathon) cost $90 and $85 and take place in April and September, respectively. The New York City Marathon costs $266. $266!!!! Furthermore, you have to get in via lottery! Tens of thousands run that marathon and they have to go to a lottery system every year due to the demand. I just don't get it. You know hotels feast on this so add that in there, too. Then we have the themed races like the Warrior Dash that cover a huge 3.2 miles and 12 obstacles. Lots of photos and a plastic helmet with horns are provided, too, for $58.77. That's for the one here in Ohio this May. (options to buy extra helmets are provided at registration) Now I may be hatin' a little on Warrior Dash. A lot of folks have fun at those and nearly 60 bucks isn't horrible but it's not for me. At the lower end of the running race spectrum is the local 5K. Outside of the small 5K I directed back in November, most 5Ks are $25 and up. Once you dip into the ultra world, that's where the biggest bang for your buck typically comes from. From a pure cost per mile perspective, a 50K ultra or a 50 miler often costs less than a road marathon yet the swag is normally very nice and tons of logistical support and FOOD throughout the race! So as you can see, there are lots of variances out there. For me, I dig a little deeper into a race before I send my money in. I care about the "why" of its existence and where the funds go. I have more of a purist mindset when it comes to running and keeping it that way. There are lots of ways to make a living out there...I'm just not a fan of building that living on the back of recreational runners.

Enter the CrossFit Games. Reebok and CrossFit are cashing in big time via the boom of CrossFit. There are now over 10,000 CrossFit "affiliates" across the globe...or boxes...or gyms. Pick your name! Those affiliates pay an annual fee to CrossFit and also gain different certifications via training by CrossFit, Inc. themselves. Is CrossFit a business? Sure is. But WHO is paying? Am I, a newbie CrossFit athlete writing a check to CrossFit like I do to run a 5K or 100 mile trail race? Where are MY funds going? Keep in mind that you are reading one person's opinion at one box in one little corner of this planet called Earth. For me, it really matters how I spend my money and where it ultimately ends up. I don't split hairs when it comes to big businesses like Starbucks, Target, Apple, etc. and how they spend. That's a monster that honestly, isn't worth my time. It's just not personal with them. Locally, though, I care so when I stroke a check to my local CrossFit affiliate, I need to believe in them, their processes, how they conduct themselves, and heck, their resume matters in this sport and where they come from...athletically speaking, of course. So no, I don't line the pockets of CrossFit, Inc. but I sure do support my local affiliate. They have to pay them, though, as well as keep up their insurance, pay the power bill, etc. just like every other company's overhead costs. Now I have paid CrossFit directly so far in my short 13 weeks of doing CrossFit. I have paid $20 to enter the CrossFit Open and just over the weekend, I paid another $10 to take the Judges Course. Even if I NEVER judge, that course taught me SO much that I now use daily when I work out. That was one of the best 10 bucks I've spent in a long time.

The Debate: I have to be careful when I read comments online. The "keyboard bravery" that people have can really get under my skin. Their ignorance, intolerance and uneducated opinions just wear me the wrong way. They speak of the mega-giant CrossFit rolling in the dough and how the Open is just another way to line their pockets. OK, remember back to how I set the stage for entry fees in the running world? I pay a fee, I run a distance, I finish, I get some stuff and I go home. Within the CrossFit Open, ANY athlete can compete for a whopping 20 dollars. $20. So what do you get? Each week, a workout will be announced (e.g. 15.1, 15.2, 15.3, 15.4, 15.5) and athletes will have until a certain day and time to upload their scores. Even the "Fittest Man on Earth" Rich Froning starts in the Open in his affiliate down south. At the Open, we are one massive community. Locally, our box will do the workouts together as a community. We'll sweat, encourage, and tough it out together. In 2011, 26,000 athletes signed up for the Open. In 2012, 69,240 signed up. In 2013, 138,000 signed up. In 2014? 209,585 signed up. As the numbers grow, so does the revenue stream into CrossFit HQ. Some basic math tells me that at $20 a person last year, that yields almost $4.2 million in just the Open alone. Hate the machine? Why? Let me encourage you to take a step back here and not balk at that so quickly.

Running 200 miles/month prior to CrossFit 5
days a week now and about 50 miles per month
CrossFit is absolutely what you make of it. My last post was a before/after photo after 11 weeks. Today, I'm midway through Week 13. Here's the photo again that I shared. I commented back then that I've met new friends, been challenged every day, and am seeing results that this nearly 42 year old has never seen before. When I look at a $20 bill as shown up above and the opportunity to "compete" in the Open and be a part of the Games themselves WITH the understanding that it is nothing more, at its heart, than an opportunity to challenge myself, expose my weaknesses, log my score and get ranked with everyone else, then continue on with my life, getting stronger and fitter every day. Oh yea, and understanding I will go no further than the Open, too. It's all a matter of perspective.

Further, there has been a lot written against a new feature in the Open this year: the Scaled option. This year, athletes will be able to elect the non-Rx (prescribed) workout and do a scaled down version. This athlete won't be able to compete for the Regionals (and that's ok!). This is what got me registered because I know I can't do a handstand pushup...a muscle up...and a lot of the weights required for Olympic lifts. I just can't. Now, I can elect either the Rx workout or scaled workout each week and give it my all...for 5 weeks. I.can't.wait! So why the fight against the Scaled option? Well, many point to the CrossFit money-making machine again. I have a feeling that this option will cause last year's $4.2 million to be dwarfed. They are opening it up to so many more people now. Tell me again how letting people challenge themselves at their local box in these workouts is bad? Tell me, too...do you have an iPhone, iPad, MacBook, iPod? Apple just posted their quarterly earnings yesterday. It was the biggest quarter EVER for any company. EVER!!!! For the first quarter 2015, Apple brought in $74.6 BILLION dollars in revenue and $18 BILLION in profit. For you non-economics folks, the $18 BILLION is their take home, essentially, after accounting for expenses. Wow. Furthermore, they have $137.1 BILLION in cash on hand. Zero debt and a mountain of money...more than Hewlett Packard makes in an entire year. Back to your iPhone or Apple whatever...  OK, I think you get my point.

Bottom Line: If CrossFit continues to foster an environment of fitness, inclusion of all who wish to grace local affiliates' doors and give it all, and puts on the CrossFit Games in such a way that still finds the Fittest on Earth while letting the newbies like me get a taste of the excitement and challenge, then I have NO issue. From a purely dollars and cents perspective in my pocket, it's a no-brainer. 20 bucks. 5 weeks. Stronger. Fitter. Better.

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