CrossFit: Manipulating the Bell Curve


When I really began submerging myself in the CrossFit community with the intentions to do it all — being an athlete, coach and gym owner — I remember hearing my mentor say, “CrossFit is probably too hard to ever really be mainstream.” He said this not as a negative thing, but as a characteristic complement.

This, of course, was years ago and the landscape of CrossFit has evolved remarkably. CrossFit now has professional athletes with six-figure incomes. Its Games are played on ESPN after upgrading from ESPN 2. Not even the World’s Strongest Man saw that key distinction. Furthermore, when those words came out of the founder of the seventh-ever affiliate’s mouth, there were maybe 1,000 of the now 8,000-plus gyms worldwide.

So, I sit here wondering, “Is that still true?”

Is the pain cave too dark for the middle of the bell curve? Are high levels of fitness-induced adversity, like that in CrossFit, too much for the mainstream? Or is CrossFit, in its own CrossFit fashion, breaking that mold, too?

I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I’ll say this. I never thought I’d live in a world in which the masses shared the values and principles taught so well by the life of an athlete and the day-to-day inclusion of strength and conditioning in one’s life. Yet I’m a gym owner who is guilty of turning regular Joes into adversity-seeking, goal-crushing, blue-collar men and women.

Is it that the fringes — or “tails” — of the bell curve are getting bigger? Or are we seeing that CrossFit is perfectly relevant, as challenging and rogue as it is, for the masses in America? Maybe that’s just it. One by one, we’re changing the landscape of the population.

I’m excited at the prospect that the latter is true, and that my mentor had it wrong years ago.

— Logan Gelbrich