CrossFit PIA Grand Opening

By Lorenzo Neal

In Affiliation, Sports Applications, Videos

September 17, 2009

Video Article

NFL superstars are quickly discovering what other athletes already know: CrossFit works.

In this video by CrossFit by Overload, four-time Pro Bowl fullback Lorenzo Neal talks about his love for CrossFit during the grand opening of CrossFit PIA in San Diego on Sept. 5, 2009.

Neal discovered CrossFit two years ago during a workout with Ahmik Jones and was hooked immediately. The 255-lb. fullback says teammates at the recent Oakland Raiders training camp were in awe of what he could do after ditching machines for CrossFit.

“These guys are ... 25, 24, 23 years old,” the 38-year-old Neal says. “You can put them on the weights and I absolutely demolish them, and I’m like, ‘Go CrossFit.’”

The result of Neal’s affection for the program is CrossFit PIA. “PIA” stands for Players in Action, an investment group that includes Neal, superstar San Diego Chargers running back Ladainian Tomlinson, perennial Pro Bowl Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, MMA legend Chuck (The Iceman) Liddell and others.

“We don’t stand behind just anything,” Neal says. “We make sure that our name and our reputation is behind this, so we love CrossFit.”

6min 45sec

Additional audio: CrossFit Radio Weekend Edition 12, originally aired May 11, 2009.

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41 Comments on “CrossFit PIA Grand Opening”


wrote …

Great video, I'm really looking forward to seeing how PIA does, it's being run by some awesome CrossFitters down there!

Get em Erwin!


wrote …

He said they are putting together good trainers with people who have money and a marketing team. Are they trying to create CrossFit franchises? Creating little identical clone boxes? The gym looks great and it's exciting to see high profile people in there, but I'll be a little cautious until I see where this is going.


wrote …

As an affiliate owner myself, and just having started in May, I wonder how many of the almost two hundred people I've had come in for a WOD would have joined had our box been as nice as that one. I think all that is happening is that obviously Lorenzo isn't planning on being a trainer himself, so he is helping to provide a place for those good trainers is a good idea I think. I'm a little surprised that he isn't involved with CF Football. It'll be interesting to see if that ever develops


wrote …

This is legit. I knew it was only a matter of time before major pro athletes got involved in CrossFit. If the raider win 8 games or more this season it's cause Lorenzo Neal got the guys to do CrossFit. haha or maybe it would be because they didn't have like a million penalties and a crappy offense.


wrote …

Great video, and I cant wait to train more with these guys!


wrote …

What an incredible endorsement for CF - congrats Ahmik! PIA and CF - that's going to make some 'big holes.' Paul


Jesse Gray wrote …

Great stuff, glad to see my friends from Crossfit Socal doing so well! The trainers there are absolutely top notch and I think this could be a big step up for Crossfit in general.


replied to comment from John Webber

Lorenzo got cut from the raiders so I'm afraid we might not see that. However someone should let Jamarcus Russell know about CrossFit....or at least about what salads are all about. So much talent but good lord he is a "big" QB.

Don't really understand what they are trying to promote here but that seems like a pretty bad ass turnout for an opening. Good for them. Congrats.

The Pie
CrossFit Lions


wrote …

Great news that crossfit is spreading, but its almost becoming too much about the money. I am very happy that Greg & all are receiving money etc. for their efforts and hey don't get me wrong they definitely deserve it! They put alot of time and work into making crossfit what it is and I will always be thankful for that. Though of late it seems that the business side of crossfit is taking paramount - at least in my eyes. In the raising of the affiliate fees, which I understand is to control who affiliates so some random with some money cant start a box - basically a quality control. And now this idea to create CrossFit franchises? Basically creating little identical clone boxes? Ya the gym looks nice, but it has a globo-chain feel to it. I have always seen crossfit being an underground method, that goes against the grain, where each gym is different - a drive away from the globo idea. Which seems might happen here if each of the "clone boxs" end up looking the same. All the crossfit affiliates I've seen are all different and have something unique and aren't just some clone. I appreciate what Lorenzo Neal is trying to do but I'm very afraid this will turn into one of those cheesy chains and lose what makes crossfit special. And sadly the video reminded me of a Gillette commercial. Saying that I just hope Neal is really passionate about crossfit and just not on some business venture as most athletes go on. He did manage to draw a crowd at his box opening, though I'm unsure if most box openings are like that since I have never seen one but I'm going to assume most are not and will attribute the crowd to him being such a high profile individual. Even if it does turn out to be a burger-chain sort of deal at least he is helping trainers get jobs.

For now I'm with David, it looks great & I am happy that crossfit is getting spread out there, but I'm remaining cautious until I see what Neal's endgame is all about.


wrote …

I agree with Norman #9, the affiliate looks great, but feels more like a franchise, like Snap Fitness. Glitzy but soulless.
I can't explain it it other than, Globo.


wrote …

I can appreciate why some Crossfitters may be concerned about "Globo" CrossFit. However, if the program is run according to Coach Glassman's methodology and the overarching goal remains to increase work capacity along broad times and modal domains, I have absolutely no issue with CrossFit as an investment.


wrote …

It looks Globo, but at the end of the day, CF core values will prevail. Lorenzo's passion for CF is obvious and his intentions seem sincere. He's loving the Kool-Aid! It won't be long until PIA starts looking like a typical CF box with holes in the drywall from bouncing barbells and scuff marks from all the HSPU's! Congrats to all the people who have gotten their box up and running and best of luck to those opening new boxes soon!


wrote …

Great stuff Lorenzo! My name is Andy Hendel, owner and coach at CrossFit Charlotte. I played back in 80's and started this 5 years ago. Keep speading the word. Every fooball player and every athlete from all sports should be doing CrossFit. If you are ever in Charlotte look us up! If you know any Panthers tell them. They could use an ass kicking WOD! Best of look.



wrote …

OMG! He should become familiar with the CrossFit football methodology as well.


Patrick Mcelhone wrote …

Wait a minute. What is going on here? Is Lorenzo Neal an owner of this CrossFit box? Does "PIA" have an ownership in this box? Does Ladanian Tomlinson do CrossFit?

When I watched this video, I got the feeling PIA was a "product placement" company, that puts athletes together with products "they believe in". But, that sounds like an company specializing in getting athletes to do paid endorsements. Was Lorenzo Neal paid to endorse this specific box?

When I clicked on the link to CrossFit PIA, the 2 trainers were level I Certified. Ahmik Jones is not a listed trainer at this box. Is Ahmik involved with this box?

This whole thing seems like a Gillette commercial. What is going on?


Jesse Gray wrote …

I have no authority to "officially" answer any questions but I am friends with Ahmik and Krista (Ahmik's wife and the person who does all the real work at CFSC!) and Erwin, the head train at PIA but I can spread light on a couple things. First off, Lorenzo seems to be genuine in his love of Crossfit. The old CFSC box was about a quater mile down the road from the Charger's training facility and after a few drop ins Lorenzo became a semi-regular face at CFSC. In addition, Lorenzo would bring in other NFL players from time to time. If you look at the archives of CFSC's page you can find pictures of other NFLers working out there.
Secondly, while Ahmik and Krista are not explicitly listed as part of PIA the trainers are all from their box and the programming is based on their method. I know both of them were extremely involved in organizing and opening it up.
Finally, Erwin, the head trainer at PIA is among the best and most knowledgeable trainers I have ever met and this includes the cert teams from CFHQ. The guy is a fire breathing monster as well as a super nice guy in every way.
You may be worried that this is the start of something you don't like in Crossfit. The beginning of mainstreaming CF. I see people calling it a globo gym. That's ridiculous, it's one gym and I see a definite lack of nautilus machines and smoothie shacks. What you should be worried about is the higher quality of competition gyms like this will bring to the table.


wrote …

The higher quality competition should worry no one. CF is about community and I am very happy to see Ahmik and Krista helping one of their trainers open their own box. It seems to be a natural progression. Athlete, Trainer, Affiliate Owner, Develop Trainers, Develop Affiliate owners...this just shows that Ahmik and Krista have reached that level.

In addition the more CF is out there being talked about, THE BETTER IT BENEFITS ALL CURRENT AND FUTURE AFFILIATES, I whole-heartedly believe that. It's quite simply free advertising for other CF facilities (nation-wide eventually) when these "names" are associated with our program. In fact I'd about cherish the opportunity to be an affiliate very near CF PIA...And I'd be holding joint events with their gym regularly.


wrote …

It will be interesting to see if the integrity is kept or if the possibility of riches prevails...


wrote …

I think it would be a mistake to focus on what the gym looks like. CrossFit boxes are often no-frills, hardcore garage gyms, but I've been in boxes with nice soaps in the bathroom and flat-screen TVs in an upstairs lounge.

Does that take anything away from constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement? I don't think so.

When I watched this video, I saw athletes doing CrossFit. I didn't pay much attention to the color of the walls.


wrote …

I have to contrast this featured article w/ the underground gym featured a few weeks ago. The underground feature (in NJ)seemed to be highlighting the "old school" atmosphere. Definitely a huge contrast. I certainly don't have a problem with the new equipment or the polished look.

Finding investors is essential, whether it is a bank or a relative. I'm just not sure about the "PIA" tag. Will the "PIA" tag become a discriminator?

It seems to be a catch-22, we all want mainstream pro atheletes to endorse how we train, but we don't want our culture to change.


wrote …

Cool video. Did not know that LT utilized the CrossFit protocol. He has been a longtime trainee of Todd Durkin, who uses multiple modalities with his clients.


wrote …

Honestly, Im pretty bummed out by some of these responses. Some of this doesn't sound like the CrossFit I know and love.
I understand why you might be intimidated by the amazing athletes and CrossFitters in this gym. They will probably be the ones beating you at the sectionals and regionals this year! Lol :)

I have had the wonderful opportunity of training under Ahmik and Krista both, for the last 2 years. The results I have seen through their advice and programing far surpasses what I thought possible for myself.
Their combined knowledge is unmatched, and their friendship is a special gift. If you have had the pleasure of meeting, or you know the Jones', then you are fully aware that they own a gym, train clients, and mold amazing trainers for one reason alone: They LOVE CrossFit.

They love passing their knowledge on to others and have been doing so long before the majority of us were even introduced to the idea of functional fitness.
The reason behind this gym was simple; to take their trainers that cant afford to open their own box, and allow them the ability to train without worrying about the financial/logistaical aspects of opening a new box.
In my opinion this allows the head trainers to focus on training clients and furthering their knowledge by attending more certifications. Lorenzo believes in CF so much that he wanted to help with the success of CFPIA. He is an amzing person who truly believes in the possibilities that CrossFit can afford individuals.

Lastly Erwin Caalaman is the head trainer of this gym, as well as my best friend. He has been with Ahmik and Krista at CFSoCal for years, and has finally achieved a goal that most of us share; to own and operate his own box. He is listed on .com as the Affiliate owner of PIA, again showing the selflessness of Ahmik, Krista, Lorenzo and the other people involved with the start up.
He is an amazing trainer regardless of his level of certification. I know many individuals who should be level 2 certified, but cant afford to at this time. Erwin now has the opporunity to obtain whatever cert he can schedule himself for.

Im not sure why anyone would be skeptical of a gym that is set up nicely or has fresh paint on the walls. It's new! Bring on the scuffs, holes, and chalk paste!
Come on down and check it out for yourself.
Afterall you shouldn't judge a box by its color.


wrote …

I use to workout at Golds Gym when it was a gym for serious lifters.
Since Joe Gold sold it back in the 70's, it has become the largest co-ed gym franchise in the world. The franchises now provide tanning rooms, jazzercise, a smoothie bar, etc. They will no longer allow me sweat on their equipment.

To me, that video demonstrated the genesis of the franchising of the Crossfit brand.

I hope not.


wrote …

I think there's a line between getting the CrossFit philosophy and message out to the mainstream, and turning it into another big franchise type of "GYM". This video/infomercial comes close to that line.


wrote …


wrote …

Seems like another step closer to turning it's back on the community that built it.

When you're no longer outside the box where are you?


wrote …

I think this is great. Lorenzo Neal seems like a good advocate and based on this clip and the radio interview excerpt a guy I'd like to hang out with. That said, I can't believe I'm the 27th comment and no one has mentioned the standards on display. I'm pretty sure Tony will not be using the footage of him the next time he decides to do a casual exploration of ring dips.


wrote …

This is inevitable people...with growth comes change. We cannot have it both ways, explosive growth AND against the system culture. Coach himself said in the recent interview with Tony Budding that he honestly expects CrossFit to be the DOMINANT force in the fitness industry in the years to come. That will not happen without a certain level of change, with or without our approval. We have to be smart and flexible, adapting to it - rather than fighting against it.


Jay Ashman wrote …

Some of these comments amaze me... its like you people WANT to remain small and niche. Its almost like you totally enjoy having storefront boxes, garage gyms and basements with cement floors to workout on. That is foolish to me, with growth comes bigger success, which translates into OUR community becoming a "mainstream" training program. Isn't that what we all want, is for more people to drink the "koolaid"?

Adaptation is the key to growth, I don't want to disappoint you, but I love the idea of PIA. So what if the box has fresh paint and looks spiffy, its the training INSIDE that matters. These are 4 big-name athletes investing and getting involved in a concept that we have grown to love. This can only mean growth for us, for all affiliate owners and for future affiliate owners (like myself).

Embrace it, and let's more forward and allow our community to grow.


wrote …

Please, you are kidding yourself if you think these guys give a rats ass about Crossfit. It is a money making business, endf of story.
They will franchise a cookie cutter, equipped box, marketing, fees, etc and you will have to pay the consulting fee, marketing fee, franchise fee, t shirt fee...

This is what happened with Johnny G and Spinning. Started in a garage with a home built bike, organically built a following, licensed tons of facilities, made videos, infomercials, then sold to the highest bidder. Now my daughter's 16 year old friend is an instructor who paid her coacning fee and sat in a room for two days.


wrote …

I am disappointed in some of the responses to CrossFit PIA. I dislike the “I am authentic old-school and you aren’t”. I have a few thoughts.

1. The opening of CrossFit PIA does not prevent anyone from opening the “traditional” cement floor minimalist gym. If you think you can do better than CrossFit PIA then buy the store front next to them and compete with their business model.

2. If you do CrossFit for free in your garage or you pay someone $300 a month to train you; you are still doing CrossFit. Some people will feel more comfortable in CrossFit PIA, some people will feel more comfortable in a garage. I support creating a variety of environments in the hopes that people will discover a CrossFit gym where they feel comfortable.

3. When you snatch 100kg it doesn’t matter if you did it with an $800 Eleiko bar in an expensive gym or in your backyard with a $150 bar you found. The work is equal.

4. Ultimately the market will judge CrossFit PIA.



wrote …

When did they change the rules so that it's only CrossFit if you're doing it in the grungiest conditions possible?
Just had another look at the FAQs and it doesn't appear to have been added.

It also doesn't say that you can't have investors to help you open your box.


replied to comment from Richard Edwards

On what FACTS do you base your comments on? Every single CF gym looks different from the one across town from it. There have been several affiliates that have opened multiple gyms under the same name.

Do you personally know the people involved? Do you know that Lorenzo Neal is just really an advertising guru who is trying to make a few dollars more after 16 years in the NFL? He has probably made more than most all of us on here. But now, he is investing into this community.

And Scott Bolan nailed it on the head "4. Ultimately the market will judge CrossFit PIA." Coach has said this all along. Yeah, there are bad CF gyms out there now, but eventually they will fail when a "good" one opens up right down the street from them.

I am excited about the growth potential that could come for our community from this investment group.


Michael Miner wrote …

I agree that time will tell, and the market will Judge the succes of PIA, I think its great for crossfit to grow, as long as It remains true to its original core values. It sure looked like they were doing Crossfit style workouts to me. I do agree that the business side of Crossfit seems to be at the forefront, but it was an inevitable step in the evolution of crossfit, lets not forget that it is also a business as well as the BEST program out there. Again I guess time will tell.
As long as there are us Diehards lifting till Ol Pukey shows up and Doing Fight Gone Bad, and Eva just cause we can, I think Crossfit's true culture and true values will always prevail.
So For our new brothers at PIA welcome,Now drop and give me 50 Burpees.


wrote …

Regarding some of the comments here suggesting that this is too "Globo" for CF:

Any reasonably successful counter-culture movement experiences this period in its growth cycle. Being "anti-mainstream" has become so much a part of what CrossFit means to some people that it has actually become an end unto itself. For some, CrossFit is (or has become) primarily about being "not Globo Gym" rather than being about "constantly varied functional movement".

CrossFit, conceptually, is about the training philosophy, the programming and the community. The great thing about the way HQ has done this though, is that that they don't own the philosophy and they've made years worth of programming available for free. As far as I can tell, the only thing you MUST pay for is use of the trademark.

Even if the Glassmans sell the CrossFit business and associated trademarks to 24 Hr Fitness for a zillion dollars tomorrow (not likely), I'm still going to be working out with awesome people that motivate me while using barbells, bumpers, rings, pullup bars, etc.


wrote …

i agree with all those that say at the end of the day, it's all about the core values. if people are putting in work, everything's gonna be fine..


wrote …

Regardless of your personal opinion on this video, it is clear by the number and content of the comments that there is some 'concern' out there. I believe that the endorsement provided by these athletes is a great thing but as an affiliate owner I also had some alarm bells sounding when I watched this video.
I guess my main point of concern was that many of the lessons learnt in the 'non profitable' stage of an affiliate are the most valuable. Lessons that may not be learnt here.
Let's face it; we would all love to have an excess of space and equipment but the great part of the journey is learning to work with what you've got.
I am relieved to see that I am not the only person out there that showed concern regarding this matter and right or wrong, I guess it just means we care.
There have been many valid points raised through comments for both sides of this story and I would love to hear some words of wisdom from Coach Glassman on the matter.


wrote …

I would say one of my biggest concerns was Lorenzo's inability to use even the most basic catch phrases or training cues/basic concepts in his interview. Excuse me for wanting better, but honestly, if it was my gym, I wouldn't want him pitching CrossFit to new and potential clients. It was hard to watch him sometimes. I understand he's a famous face and therefore that gives him instand "credibility" but Why wasn't Erwin or Ahmik talking more or at all in this interview? They are the owners/trainers, are they not? They should have had a bigger role. I'm reserved about PIA. It will go either way. If it fails, lets move on. If it's a success, awesome!


Frank DiMeo wrote …

Fantastic video!
Great attitude & passion for CrossFit.
Success breeds success.


replied to comment from Norman Tasfi

How does raising affiliate fees deter "randoms" from opening boxes? There should be real quality control going on, not just raising fees.


replied to comment from Jesse Gray

Jesse and Adam,
I dont think anyone who is passionate about CF is "worried" or "intimidated" by the possibility of a box producing, as you call them, superior athletes. The gym does look very franchised and focussed on financial success rather than member performance but the biggest concern is the level of ego involved in these posts. Have a look at footage of the games, that's not what CrossFitters are about. Fire breathers are our benchmarks and give others motivation to aim higher. Good luck with the new box but leave the talking s*%t out of it.

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