The Non-Convert: A Changing Landscape of CrossFitters


Ten years ago, virtually 100 percent of prospective students who walked into a CrossFit gym were converts. They were converts from a history with personal training or spin classes or something else. Few people, if any, were leaving one CrossFit gym and walking into another CrossFit gym. CrossFit was new, and few knew what it was, let alone had done it before. No one walked into a CrossFit gym in 2007 and said, “I’m interested in learning more about your gym. I’ve spent the last three years at CrossFit So-and-So.” They all said, “I’m interested in learning more about this CrossFit stuff. I mostly do half marathons and take kickboxing classes,” or something of that nature.

Though there are still plenty of fish in the sea, so to speak, this is the first time we’ve seen prospective students with previous CrossFit experience walking into gyms. While the number of tangents this very observation can spawn is high, the general obvious question is simple: “What does this mean for affiliates?”

Does the future of CrossFit look like a game of differentiation? Does it look like a gradual rising of the cream to the top? Are affiliates destined for a cutthroat turf war? All of the above?

This element of experience is just one of many new elements to the CrossFit marketplace. Not for nothing, experience allows for consumer perspective. In 2013, more so than ever, I think we can say that not all CrossFit gyms are created equal. And, though this means there are great gyms, no-so-great gyms and flat-out bad ones, it does mean there are choices.

One element this creates is a need for affiliates to show a degree of quality or potentially suffer the consequences of poor retention. When you’re the only gym in town, your version of CrossFit is the only version of CrossFit available. And new gyms create a chance for consumer differentiation.

Another opportunity this creates is that it adds a new type of gym prospect to the mix. Not only are gyms earning new members by converting them from Globo gyms and Pilates studios, but experienced CrossFitters are now a demographic in towns with multiple affiliates and transplant CrossFitters. In my opinion, this is the most potentially problematic element in the mix. There is, unfortunately, no shortage of stories of gyms poaching clients from other gyms.

Is this the beginning of the rise of the cream to the top? Maybe these potential choices made by CrossFitters with some experience are the first steps to nullifying arguments by gym owners that “CrossFit Jane down the street is taking our potential members.” Maybe it’s not. What do you think?

— Logan Gelbrich