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Back to the Beginning by Craig Hysell - CrossFit Journal

Back to the Beginning

By Craig Hysell

In Basics, Coaching

July 25, 2012

PDF Article

With CrossFit’s popularity exploding, Craig Hysell describes his box’s introductory program and why it works.

So, you got ’em into your free trial class, and they fell in love with you at “constantly varied functional movement.” A prospective member is in a sweaty heap at your feet and, when he can breathe again, he practically begs you to tell him how to get started.

You say it’s simple: he needs to sign up for your Elements Class.

“What’s an elements class?” he asks.

“It’s our foundations class,” you say.

“OK. … So … what’s the foundations class?”

Biting your tongue, you answer, “It’s our elements class.”

WTF? How could a concept so, ahem, elemental be so confusing?

Well, it is. And it’s your fault.

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27 Comments on “Back to the Beginning”


wrote …

? i don't get it. is there more to this article?


wrote …

Did you read the PDF?


wrote …

What a fantastic platform for other affiliates to launch from. Well done.


wrote …

Just started our elements/foundations class. We call it CrossFit 101, as we found that the previous two names were confusing to some. Great article, and thanks for sharing good information.


wrote …

Awesome article. Great structured layout to the program as well.


wrote …

Wow, very generous of you to share that. The idea of doing the same workout on the first and last day is very smart. Nice work.


wrote …

Hey Craig. I was looking forward to my family's annual trip to HHI long before reading your article. Now I am more psyched than ever to get back and visit. You guys run a great box and this is just another example! See you in a few weeks.


replied to comment from nicole matchett




wrote …

Who we really needs to thank is Nicki Violetti from the original NorCal CrossFit. That is where I got this On-Ramp. I (WE) tweaked it everyday after every BootCamp. I didn't come up with the word "BootCamp" either, but I decided to use it and I capitalized the "C". Tricky right? We opened the doors on a resort island with lots of women over the age of 30 and they all know what a BootCamp is. At least they thought they did!

I have implemented it in my new venture with many changes and some great improvements that really work. Let me know if you need it.

Take a look around at who may be driving by daily to take a look, "friending" you on FB or dropping their kids off for a WOD. Find something they recognize and put it out there CrossFit style.

Thank you Nicki. We were a simple and horrible 3 day On-Ramp before you came along.



wrote …

Hi Craig,

Thank you for sharing and giving insight to the process at your business. I run a crossfit gym in Portland and am always interested to hear other's results and approaches. Would you mind sharing a few more metrics, if you know them?

You say you have a 80-90% conversion rate for those that "stick it through" boot camp. So...

What percentage of the original bootcampers make it through boot camp?


wrote …

Superb structure. Thanks for sharing, member retention and the desire to get a cash flow in the initial start-up of a box is always a concern. This article helps a lot.


Ah! The million dollar question, Xi!

Honestly, it's different every time and consistent, I believe, with a mentality rather than a physicality. Find out how to measure that in a quick, unobtrusive and unterrifying way and you'll never have to worry about money again, Xi! :)

They are not just buying into CF, they are buying into your box, your enthusiasm and that of your trainers, your focus, your direction, the opportunities you afford them training-wise, community-wise, knowledge-wise. It's a very dynamic situation and, to be honest Xi, you're not going to please everybody all the time.

At my box we support 4 different local charities. On Day 1 we give them an orange CFHH "I CAN" wristband and tell them, if they make it through our BootCamp we will donate a portion of the fee out of their BootCamp to one of our four charities of their choice. Our charities support local veterans, pediatric cancer, sexually abused women and children and the power of attitude in forging education and opportunity. This hits home with a great many people who walk through our doors. Has it helped with retention? Absolutely. Does it make all the difference? Nope.

They also get a pretty cool t-shirt for graduating... which might help. ;)


wrote …

Why isn't Nicki from NorCal CF mentioned in this article!?!? It's her program exactly!


wrote …

Thanks for sharing. This is a fantastic format and I look forward to implementing something similar at my Box.


wrote …

Thanks for sharing. This is a fantastic format and I look forward to implementing something similar at my Box.


wrote …

Love this article. Great business sense to play on the bootcamp buzz word right now! Also, talking in plain fitness speak instead of Crossfit's often generic and indistinguishable language, is a good way to go. Like to see more articles like this to share business know how.


Craig Hysell wrote …

Thanks everyone for the comments.

The thanks is without a doubt 100% due to Nicki Violetti. I have personally thanked her several times, thanked her and her team in the article at the bottom of page 3 and in my about the author and I couldn't be more stoked she is fully recognized here. Again, my intention is not to take credit for the original template, my intention is to put her fantastic program at the forefront of our community again with a few hopefully helpful specifics as to how we specifically utilize it and how it continually evolves at CrossFit Hilton Head. The initial credit is entirely hers. Sorry if that was unclear. I hope all of it helps!

Have fun out there!


replied to comment from Craig Hysell

Hi Craig,

I think you misunderstood my poorly worded question.

You say you have 20 spots in each bootcamp. I'm assuming you keep track and know how many people have signed up for the last X # of bootcamps. I'm going to throw a number out there....say an average of 18 of the 20 spots are filled.

18 people sign up. You say you convert 80-90% of those that make it through boot camp. That means some people just don't make it through. This is totally expected BTW.

Out of 18 people signed up, how many make it through or how many drop out before the end?

I'm going to guess 3-5 people drop out.

That leaves you with 13-15 people who finish bootcamp and then 80-90% of those convert to members.

So my question is on average how many people drop out of boot camp before it finishes? Thank you and I hope that is more clear.



To be more clear I honestly don't have an answer as to a percentage who complete the CrossFit Hilton Head BootCamp program. I know that, on average, we sign up 7-10 new members at the end of each BootCamp. I do not track the BootCamp sign-up to graduate ratio because I would continue this program even if only 5% of sign-ups followed it through to completion.

For me, the BootCamp is not a feeder program for our box, it is a necessary avenue for introducing CrossFit to our noobs. Our box is small space-wise and therefore classes are full. Our experienced members and the quality of their training cannot suffer because the coaches are trying to get noobs up to speed, nor would I accept a noob suffering injury because we have not spent adequate time going over technique. It also allows me and my staff to get to know the new athletes well before they enter a regular CF class and mitigates newbie fears through practice and education in a peer group setting.

Because 80- 90% of CrossFit Hilton Head BootCamp graduates become long term members, I believe those who do not follow the BootCamp through to the end would not have stuck with CrossFit either way. Hope that helps!

I'd be happy to bounce ideas with you anytime.


wrote …

great article; I think some type of introductory course is absolutely mandatory for new folks to correctly learn how to execute movements safely and efficiently before they pile weight, time or intensity into the mix. Just throwing brand-new folks into the regular classes is a disservice to everyone.


wrote …

This is great info and I am really looking forward to implementing this into our affiliate. The question I do have though is how do you get people into this program to start of with? I mean for those who have no idea what CrossFit actually is. Do you offer a free session for them to try out before they then sign up to the fundamentals/bootcamp sessions? If so how do you go about this? Do you have them jump into a regular class WOD or what?

Thanks mate


wrote …

On day 2 discussion points, it mentions not using ice/NSAIDS with an injury. Why wouldn't you want to use ice to treat an injury?


Ah, that's my grammar getting back at me. Good eye, Tom. We recommend ice first always, we do NOT recommend NSAIDS. If you need to take a pain reliever as a last resort we recommend acetaminophen over ibuprofen as ibuprofen has actually been shown to inhibit muscle recovery. The discussion point should read "Stay away from NSAIDS, instead use ice first."

HOWEVER, K-Starr has recently put this out in the world which causes us to reconsider some things. Hence our "living document" initiative. It's up to you to investigate further of course, (I know we're going to...) but take a look:

We also do the front squats for "load", not "time".


We heavily promote our CrossFit Hilton Head BootCamp through FB, word-of-mouth, videos of members, a promo video of our BootCamp and we stay very visible in the local community by hosting events and supporting charities. We also offer a free class every Saturday morning at 8am.

At 8am every Saturday I personally take any newbies we have and go over the movements they will need to understand in order to participate in our 8:30am regular group class. At 8:30am we work the new-comers into our regular group class in an extremely scaled down version of the WOD. (Feel free to look up our Saturday WODS on our website for examples if you like, Mason.) This is the only regular class we allow a CF "virgin" to try and we run it with 2 instructors. I watch over the newbies and one of our other coaches leads the main class.

In this way we feel that the prospective member can get a real feel for what we do AND safely get a sense of our program and our members. If they liked it, we talk about BootCamp at that time and sign them up if they're ready. They can come to the free class as many times as they wish.


replied to comment from Craig Hysell

Thanjs for sharing this, it really helps. But, can clarify this WOD:

3 rounds for time of:
Front squat 3-3-3-3-3

So is this basically "3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3"? I know you mentioned this is for "load" and not "time", but for "3 rounds"? Is there a break in between the 5th-6th and 10th-11th set that you wouldn't otherwise take in between each set?

Any info would be appreciated! Thanks again! Great info!


Hey Joseph!

Just do "Front Squat 3-3-3-3-3". That's it. Rest as needed between sets. Hope this helps.


wrote …

This is a great article and happy someone posted something like this!

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