In Affiliation, CrossFit, HD Videos

July 22, 2012

Video Article

In this special interview filmed July 5, CrossFit founder and CEO Greg Glassman talks about the CrossFit affiliate model—a model that’s revolutionized the fitness world.

The CrossFit affiliate model completely changed the way young trainers operate and develop. As a CrossFit affiliate owner, trainers are in control of their own destiny and are not beholden to an owner who essentially charges them to use expensive bodybuilding equipment.

In a CrossFit affiliate, passionate young trainers are now afforded the opportunity to earn a professional wage while running their own business, and they receive the support of the greater community, as well as CrossFit itself. And CrossFit is fully committed to supporting each and every affiliate.

“This charter is now, as I see it, it’s our covenant with the community, with the affiliates, to never avail ourselves off any opportunity or relationship that doesn’t in the end ultimately serve their needs—their professional needs, their personal needs, their financial needs, their business needs,” Glassman says.

4min 12sec

HD file size: 134 MB
SD wmv file size: 50 MB
SD mov file size: 24 MB

Please note: These files are larger than normal Journal videos. For smoother viewing, please download the entire file to your hard drive before watching it (right-click and choose Save Link As...).

Additional reading: Professional Training by Greg Glassman, published Jan. 1, 2006.

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25 Comments on “The Founder's Views Part 1: The Affiliate Model”


Zach Even - Esh wrote …

Coach - you KNOW I miss getting my monthly journal as a PDF via e mail!!!! Seems so long ago!!!

Things have certainly changed since then, but then again, what doesn't change or evolve in 5 years?

CF has given our community AND outside the community opportunity to become GREAT coaches via all the seminars, courses, etc.

Seriously.... we have powerlifting, strongman, o lifting, etc.

These seminars need to be taken advantage of. THE greater knowledge and skills will serve their needs as well as those they train!

Looking forward to part 2, as I do w/all your vids.




wrote …

A truly great business model. Mr. Glassman is someone to be admired in the industry. He has created what amounts to a wonderful movement. Neat stuff!


wrote …

The CrosssFit Model epitomizes what Thomas Kuhn wrote about in "the Structure of the Scientific Revoluton" regarding paradigmatic shifts..(assigned reading in grad school 40 years ago). Congratulations and thanks you.


wrote …

I've been crossfitting for over 3 years and have seen the sport and community develop at an amazing rate in such time. I love my gym, the people I've met, and everything that I've learned. I am a Level 1 certified trainer but do not own my own gym. I do coach there on a part-time basis. I've also had the opportunity to be a member of 2 other crossfit gyms. My only issue with the Crossfit Affiliate model is that there are no standards that Affiliate gyms are held to to keep their affiliation. As long as they pay their money for the affiliate fee and attend a Level 1 cert they are a Crossfit Gym.

Coach mentions college graduates with Excersize Physiology degrees.. while there are several very qualified trainers and crossfit affiliate owners out there.. its my experience that there are far more Crossfit Affiliates that are people that didn't have much background in fitness prior to finding crossfit. Maybe they worked out at a gym for a few years and then opened their own affiliate. These types of gyms tend to just use the hopper method and pull wods out of thin air, put people through grueling workouts day after day, but they truly don't have any understanding for excersise physiology or long term physical development.

My grandma could pull crap out of a hat and tell people to go run, jump, lift, and throw. But in the end.. uneducated gym owners that just put their members through the ringer everyday are just going to end up hurting people.

I see new CF gyms popping up in our city every month.. I'd say about 40% of the owners truly know what they are doing and have a background in excersize phys, coaching, or personal training. The rest are just meatheads that open a gym because they found out about crossfit and got their level 1 last week.

Don't get me wrong.. I'm the biggest proponent of crossfit on the planet! I've seen amazing changes in my physical fitness and in the development of others.. I just think that there are far too many affiliates are not held to any kind of standard and will inevitably end up giving crossfit a bad name.

1st thing I say to any new member that comes in to our gym. "All crossfit gyms are not the same! We focus on form, coaching, and development of skill over time in our gym. We will not just put you through brutal wods daily. We are going to develop you based on your skill level"

Just my thoughts... there should be a job at HQ that goes around to different affiliates within a region and evaluates their coaching and programming to see if they are worthy of calling themselves a crossfit gym. We need to protect what we've worked so hard to build.


Grace Patenaude wrote …

Happy Birthday Coach! Thanks for giving us the opportunity to help others. I'll do my best to be one of the best and an affiliate that you will always be proud of!


Russell Berger wrote …

Thanks for taking the time to write up your thoughts on the concept of Affiliate quality. This is an issue that pops up from time to time, but we don’t often hear a thorough explanation from CrossFit on the reasons for the Affiliate model...(That’s why I think this is a great video)

First off, I’m going to do you a favor and throw out your statistical analysis of Affiliates and affiliate owners since it’s apparent you’re just guessing based on what you’ve seen in your area. So let’s just try to agree that you think some people aren’t educated enough. From what I can gather in summary, you are saying that the basic trainer licensing agreement CrossFit holds Affiliates to is not enough of a standard, and it’s pretty clear you think an important prerequisite is having a background or education in Exercise physiology.

I couldn’t disagree with you more. And let me use the comparison of diet to illustrate my point.
I imagine that you would expect any good CrossFit Affiliate to promote some version of the CrossFit “fitness in 100 words” nutritional prescription. Now why is it acceptable for coaches and trainers, with no formal training whatsoever, to give potentially life-altering nutritional advice to clients but not coaching? Do you think the Affiliation model should require owner to have a degree in Nutrition? Should they need to be registered Dietitians?

Hopefully you see the problem, not only can a trainer dramatically improve lives via nutritional advice without ever picking up a formal nutrition textbook, but that “formal” education would encourage a prescription you and I would both recognize as harmful. What’s more, it would drastically reduce the ability for good people to spread good information to a society badly in need of common-sense dietary changes.

I am arguing that movement is no different. Many of the best CrossFit trainers I know come from backgrounds that have nothing to do with Fitness. And some of the most backwards, confused, and ineffective fitness programs (like diet) that I’ve seen are written up by Phd’s.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a closet fitness geek too, but the idea that the information garnered from a formal education in exercise phys or anatomy is some sort of magical buffer that will prevent anyone from being a “bad” trainer is bogus. There are PLENTY of people who can write out the citric-acid-cycle from memory and can’t see a client’s back round in a squat.

Now you’ve also predicted that these “bad” Affiliates, that Glassman refers to as the “Boogey-man” Affiliate, are going to give CrossFit a bad name. Unless you can give me a statistically significant example, you’re just echoing a claim people have said for years that has never come to fruition. CrossFit has never been bigger, faster growing, or more popular, and I’m saying that from my experience, having taught in hundreds of Affiliates world wide and met thousands of future CrossFit trainers.
Finally, I want to point out that I understand where you’re coming from with your suggestion that we police and standardize CrossFit Affiliates, but I think your idea is both based on an empty threat (as I said above) and would have consequences you and I would both hate. Think about it. As much as our critics love to paint CrossFit as an unbending authority that won’t tolerate differing views, we have the most liberal and tolerant business model I’ve ever seen. There are hundreds of Affiliates in great standing with CrossFit Inc. that all do things very differently. Some hate the zone and love paleo, some hate paleo and love the zone, some do neither. Some use a strength bias, some never lift heavy. Some love the games and send affiliate teams to LA, while some ignore the games and focus their energy on recruiting grandparents and kids.

Anyone who claims we don’t allow different opinions is missing the most obvious piece of evidence against that claim- the Affiliate model. I’d also argue that anyone making that claim is upset because what THEY want is for CrossFit to enforce THEIR specific view as the standard. That’s kind of what your argument would result in. How would you feel if CrossFit showed up at your gym and told you to stop teaching the lifting technique you favor? What if they told you to your beginner’s program was too long or not long enough? What if they told you your rates were too high or too low? That’s called a Franchise, and now were are running right back into problem of creating a barrier that prevents good people from improving the lives of a society who desperately needs it. (not to mention the huge increase to Affiliation fees that would be necessary to pay for this centralized control).

Now you might argue that this would be a good thing- a barrier, slower growth, more exclusiveness, etc. I would call this unwarranted elitism. This is not a real or possible goal, and the effect would only be preventing potentially great trainers from spreading CrossFit to people who can have their lives transformed for the better. Will this mean poor trainers start gyms? Absolutely, but this isn’t even a real threat, it’s just a benign reality. How do I know? I was one of them.
I look back at the workouts, movements, and programming I used when I began training people in CrossFit and I can see how far I’ve come. One of the core beliefs of the CrossFit program is that functional movements are inherently safe. We are training people to do things their bodies are designed to do, and acting like pulling early with your arms on a clean or doing a week of poor programming is a death trap is silly. Even with my inexperience and poor coaching, I transformed my own physical abilities, and my gym changed the lives of hundreds of people in our city and continues to thrive today. I am not alone in this, and anyone who thinks they represent a higher “standard” of CrossFit Affiliates probably needs to sit back, enjoy a slice of humble pie, and think about where and how they started.

So Brett, I’m not trying to tell you you’re being arrogant or you’re a jerk. I really do empathize with a lot of what you’re saying, but I think your perspective is short-sighted and fueled by the mirage of spending too much time reading what people say about CrossFit on the internet, and not enough time touring the Community and seeing what CrossFit is really doing for people. If you still disagree, I’d love to hear why my nutrition analogy isn’t comparable to what you’ve suggested. thanks!


wrote …

If I may amplify a point russell wrote about in a Journal Article:

"CrossFit is an open-source fitness program, meaning the internal workings of our program are exposed for everyone to see, experiment with and change as desired. This gives our methodology a unique advantage: when someone discovers a better method for improving fitness, we can adopt it into the CrossFit program."

In other words, the benefit of NOT policing affiliates for standards is far more significant than the possible downside.

From my experience, virtually everyone starts off doing CrossFit wrong. They use too much intensity, they don't start with a trainer, they figure it out on their own, they have no idea how to do many of the movements and just guess. Before there were affiliates, in fact, everyone did that - except the few who were in Santa Cruz. I certainly had no one showing me wtf to do in Baghdad in 2007, but the gains I made - astonishing to me then. And I was doing everything wrong - except the intensity, and the fact that I learned a little bit every day, every WOD, every video, every mis-step.

So let's say your premise that only 40% of CF affils have any idea what they are doing were true - that's still very good, and if true, it would be an upgrade compared to how cross fit was born over the internet. What's more, of the gyms I've seen "grow up", even when they start out ignorant of technique and weak on coaching skills- their athletes still make immense gains, they learn every day and they break through limitations they thought were permanent. And over time the coaches gain skill and the gyms become stronger and become a place anyone can show up and will receive training that exceeds anything available short of a college S&C program, and often it is far better than that, too.

IOW - even if your worst case assumption is correct, that's still better than if those 'bad' affiliates were not there.

I don't know anyone who was even teaching the idea of functional movements for fitness before CrossFit. There was no equivalent certification. The alternative to CrossFit was the crap we all used to do that made us so appreciative of the results we achieved with CrossFit, when we found it and performed it poorly.

Affiliates don't do CrossFit perfectly? Neither do I, neither do you, and the only thing either your or I need to worry about is - how will I be a better (and more humble) athlete or coach tomorrow than I am today.


replied to comment from Russell Berger


I would disagree with your nutrition analogy. The reason being is that I could follow the trainers nutrition advice for a week and there would be time for me to recognize if I was making progress or was sliding backwards. But, within an hour a single workout from an overzealous incompetent trainer could put me in the hospital or worse.

While most folks would agree with you, including me, that there are good trainers and bad trainers regardless of background, edjucation, or certification Im just having a hard time believe how little importance you put on an actual degree in the industry. Maybe I'm not reading it correctly, but are you really saying it wouldnt be important NOT to have an education in Exercise Phys? Seriously? 4-5 years of extensive study and practical application, to you, mean the same or even less than a two day seminar/certification?(generally speaking)

We both agree that degrees are not a magic buffer for quality training, but it sure as hell is a great place to start. What you would call 'elitism' I would call a learning curve.


Russell Berger wrote …

You've misunderstood me. I'm not saying having a degree in a related field is necessarily detrimental to being an effective trainer, but expecting a degree in exercise phys. to make you an effective coach is like expecting a degree in nutrition to make you a popular chef. They don't necessarily equate.

In your disagreement with my dietician analogy, you've fallen victim to the same view of CrossFit workouts as a deadly, life-in-the-balance practice that if done improperly will result in hospitalization after one session. There is simply no real-world justification for this view. I spent the first year of my affiliate putting people through poorly programmed workouts, pushing them into intensity too fast, and failing to correct poor technique... and guess what? While that obviously isn't ideal, everyone got great results and nobody ended up paralyzed from the waste down. I can assure you that my experience is not unique.

What's funny is this hyper-sensitive approach is the same reason a registered dietician would tell you not to give nutrition advice, even for a week. After all, a single meal of potentially deadly saturated fats recommended by an "overzealous trainer" could put someone who is predisposed to heart attack in the hospital!

Now most of us would look at that and laugh because we know fat is not the problem in most people's diets, and as far as macronutrients go, everyone needs to be eating some of it. Your illustration of the one-workout-death-threat is just as silly.


replied to comment from Russell Berger


Please direct your attention to the injury forum. You will find a great deal of avoidable injury and near death experience examples. If only the client had been properly informed to back off, slow down, lighten up(they may not know any better, this is where we come in). If the trainer had simply had the experience to recognize potential hazzards, then much can be avoided. I've had to remove clients from the gym to force them to back off. Experience. You even admit now that you are better than you were when you initially started. Based on what? Continued research, study, practice? Sounds like an 'in the trenches' type of degree that can only be achieved thru time. Not a single weekend experience.

You mention that since you did everything poorly when you first started, but everything turned out ok, then all is ok. No. It is not. That is an irresponsible line of thought/logic.

Not sure I understand your example of comparing nutrition degree as it equates to a chefs popularity.

And yes, getting a degree in Exercise Phys will ab-so-lutely make you a more effective trainer, well, it can potentially make you more effective. We all know that if you cannot communicate it to your client it just doesnt matter. But, being able to explain HOW things work and WHY we do them the way we do allows for a more beneficial training session. Simply doing 'Fran' because..well...Crossfit does it so we do it and occasionally throwing out the word 'functional' , again, is irresponsible. Having the ability to go into depth is part of being a professional in the industry.

And as far as the dietician remark, any degreed professional would do an in-depth interview with their client before offering any sort of nutrition program, so, your point doesnt really make sense.


Russell Berger wrote …

pointing me to the injury section of our discussion board is only going to help my point. If you were trying to say CrossFit can get people hurt I would agree with you, but what you are trying to say is that CrossFit is dangerous outside of the hands of a trained professional... The DB is only evidence for the first claim, not the second. The DB only shows a vaguely scientific snap-shot of rate and type of injury, and saying a lack of formal education had something to do with it is just speculation.

CrossFit would not have, and could not have grown to the level of immense popularity and success it now holds if it were as potentially dangerous in the hands of the untrained as you suggest, especially considering you think 60% of these gyms fit that description. Squats and pull-ups are not the equivalent of Russian Roulette no matter how much it upsets you that the under-educated are teaching them.

I mentioned my own experience as an affiliate owner because It is great anecdotal evidence that even doing CrossFit poorly doesn't result in your prediction of death and destruction, this is inductive logic and unless you've got stronger evidence against this claim, my logic is sound.

You actually explained the analogy between a nutrition degree equating to being a chef yourself when you pointed out that Exercise phys. instructs us on what happens beneath the surface of the human body related to training. This is why many academic types can regurgitate facts on metabolism and anatomy yet can't properly load,train,see,or correct real clients while they are training. It's a completely different skill set much like knowing what foods to eat doesn't mean you know your way around a kitchen or can make food taste good.

CrossFit has done more for educating our society on the instruction of Functional movements than any other organization in history. You keep implying that "just a weekend" can't possibly be enough training to effectively train people, but ignore the thousands of gyms that effectively train people with little more than these credentials and probably a year or two of learning from another coach prior to attending an L1 course.

so to conclude:

- You have not provided evidence that a lack of education makes CrossFit dangerous, so I assume you're just telling us a story that sounds good to you.

- You claim that holding an L1 certificate isn't enough to train people but haven't otherwise explained the physical and economic success of the thousands of Affiliates who hold only these credentials. So I'm going to assume you think the amount of time spent learning something is directly equal to the value of that knowledge. This is a logical fallacy. (you must think the 2-day USAW courses suck huh?)

- Because I've got to throw out your bogus claims of how dangerous CrossFit is in the hands of the under-educated, You haven't explained why creating expensive, time-consuming, degree-requiring barriers to entry for Affiliate owners would be better for the spread of fitness knowledge to our society (CrossFit may have never even happened if this was the case).


wrote …


Excellent points, but off target.

Looking at the injury forum and recognizing avoidable injury. Avoidable. I once threw my back out stooping over attempting to eat a cup of pudding(it was paleo). Embarassing, yes. Shit happens, yes, but the avoidable stuff is our responsibility. Recognizing the avoidable stuff is experience and practice.

The forums and DB is one of the factors that we all, inluding HQ(post your results), look to regarding how effective CF is as a training program. People from all over the world input their scores, talk about their results,etc. So either the DB is a small unscientific(unreliable) snaphot of effective/ineffective fitness or its a source we can go to, identify mistakes as well as productive training practices, and learn from them. You cant have both simply to suit your argument.

I think you picked up your 60% from another poster(Brett Purcell??). I havent given out any sort of speculative number like that.

Since when does quantity = quality? (Anyone heard of the shake-weight? Millions of those sold, must be the best fitness tool ever)

I can, just off the top of my head, think of one institution that does more for 'functional movements' than even CrossFit. Its called College/University.

Where are you getting this idea that the 'academics' just cannot seem to eyeball their way thru a training session? Your personal experience? There a book somewhere I havent read? Some huge data base I'm not aware of? I would enjoy reading it or hearing about it. Everyone I graduated with, sport coach I traveld to listen to, read articles on, were/are ALL able to triage somone thru even the most complex of movements with a high level of professionalism and courtesy. It is a requirement for graduation.

Granted, there are 'academics' who do spend most of their time on research in the lab and not in front of a class teaching. You've no doubt seen their work on the NSCA publications as well as applicable fitness practices.(think of that Sports Lab guy on espn measuring how hard a football player hits, receiver targets, etc). I absolutely agree with you that those folks may not be able to apply that knowledge to a group of new people. But, that is not their intent in the first place.

For you and me, getting in front of people and coaching/instructing/mentoring because we love it...THATS why we got into this and its those/we kind of folks that do our industry a disservice by simply regurgitating(sp)info and not being able to explain the nuances of what we do. Does it make a difference? Yes.

So, to conclude:
-Go back to the forums: If we use it as a basis for our success, we have to be able to use it to learn from our mistakes(this is where you'll find stories from folks that do NOT sound good because many of those injuries could be avoided). Not because it is about personal gratification in an internet discussion. Your out of line with that comment.

-Quantity does NOT equal quality (shake weight?)

-You are grossly undervaluing advanced degrees or simply cherry picking your examples to suit your argument. Education = experience = greater potential for success (I just dont see how you are missing this) you can bypass the Education part with an investment of quality time(you've heard of the 10,000hr thing, yes?)
examples:Louie Simmons,Richard Simmons(yes, that one)...those that are the only ones I can think of off the top of my head. But it took years for them to get to the level they are at now.

-Anyone can train anyone at any time for any reason with or without a credential. My issue stems from being able to consider themselves knowledgeable in the industry with less than 20hrs experience. Take the test Friday, train people Monday. A civilian is not going to know the difference in all the credentials available out their. They are trusting us with their safety and well-being. You feel comfortable putting your children or parents with somone with that kind of experience? Not me nor anyone I know.

And finally: yes, somone with just a L1 cert could coach rings around me and produce consistent and amazing results. Yes and yes. Does validating poor Crossfit protocols and practices(that you admit) simply because nobody got hurt sound crazy? Hell yes.
But in all honesty Russell, I do enjoy the discussion. Hopefully one day one of us can swing around the others gym and have a beer over this kind of stuff. THIS is what I enjoy most about CrossFit, the willingness of its participants to discuss training practices.


Russell Berger wrote …


Your specific claim was that injuries on our DB act as evidence for the need of formal education in exercise phys. This is pure speculation and I'd be just as justified in saying that the injuries posted to the DB could have been prevented by wearing posture-correcting shoe inserts. I also said the data was unscientific, but not unreliable or useless. That was your injection.

Also, don't take what I'm saying to mean that I don't value formal educations. I'm not saying people with college educations aren't also capable of getting hands-on training within their degree programs. I like to assume everyone I'm talking to knows more about fitness than I do, and I appreciate the value of learning anything that might make someone more effective at training people, but the notion that there is a linear relationship between academic knowledge and being an effective trainer is both unwarranted, and runs counter to all of the personal experience I've had interacting with L1 and coache's prep course participants over the last few years.

Finally, reducing the massive growth and success of a small gym in Santa Cruz with a cheap website to "Quantity does not equal Quality" misses the point completely. Selling a high volume of material goods (shake-weight) is by no means a comparable or lasting success. There are not thousands of testimonials of life-changing fitness via the shake-weight. The shake-weight did not permeate and change the views of the entire fitness industry. The shake-weight has not created an entire community of people dedicated to improving human lives. And here is the big one- The shake-weight didn't spread because of word of mouth and tangible results. It did so because of money and marketing. If CrossFit is dangerous in the hands of the under-educated, you must explain this TYPE of success in the face of such apparent danger, which would have obviously collapsed the success of the program and stigmatized it as dangerous before it ever left Santa Cruz.

And you bet on the Beer ;)


wrote …

This is an interesting conversation.

Russell, you seem to be discounting claims that aren't backed by evidence, while replying with your own.

There is not an insignificant number of injuries directly related to crossfit. Most people don't use the forums, yet the injury forum isn't small. Further, if you look at CF Games competitors, there are numerous injuries (and DNFs). What does that say, when the best of the best get hurt doing it? Sure, they are doing more work than you or me, or grandma, but intensity is relative.

You can't just claim that Crossfit has done more for educating society on movements. That goes back to your comment about telling a story that sounds good to you. Sentences with "great anecdotal evidence" shouldn't really exist. Especially when refuting someone's logic.

Further, the economic analogy doesn't hold up. Shake Weight being a prime example why. Lots of gyms make money. P90x is a brilliant plan - one set of movies that is sold repeatedly?! I heard they have sold over 30 million copies, and there are previous iterations "p90". I even just googled fitness industry spending and found this:

"In 2011, the number of U.S. consumers with a health club membership hit 42.8 million, up from 36.3 million in 2002. Combined, spending on gym memberships, fitness classes, DVDs, workout apparel and personal trainers is expected to hit $45.2 billion this year."

That is a lot of cash. I have no idea how big a slice of the pie CrossFit is, but I gather it's not into the billions....yet!....Anyways, changing things yes. But revamping the entire fitness industry seems like a stretch.

Anyways, very interesting stuff. Crossfit is obviously booming. Affiliates thriving everywhere. That being said, there must be a few CF gyms that don't succeed. 100% success seems unlikely. So discounting the notion of 'bad' affiliates entirely may also be a mistake - they may just disappear, or go broke.


wrote …

"Further, if you look at CF Games competitors, there are numerous injuries (and DNFs). What does that say, when the best of the best get hurt doing it? Sure, they are doing more work than you or me, or grandma, but intensity is relative."
--Matt, it says competition at the world class level has risks. If you want to make a point, show some metric that shows the relative risk of competing in CrossFit is worse than basketball, football, bowling, soccer, hockey or rugby or marathoning or whatever. Is it more dangerous to drive in your car to a CrossFit gym or to do CrossFit three times per week? What if you already have an injury? What if you are stupid? What if you don't fear injury or take responsibility for your own injury risk prevention? What if you CrossFit drunk and sleepy?

Yes these are intentionally stupid examples, but the point is - risk analysis in a vacuum is pointless. I can reduce aviation injury rates to zero, and have no single human ever die in a plane again, and the cost is free. All planes permanently grounded. Ditto for auto accidents. So if no one ever died in a plane or a car, would the net gain justify the decision to take no risk? Obviously not, and meaningful discussion of risk has to include analysis of "what is unseen" or "what would happen if the airplane, car or CrossFit was not available?" With no airplanes, folks would drive more and more would be killed - statistically cars are significantly more risky than airplanes. With no planes or cars, many more people than that would die of starvation - millions, billions even. It's just my opinion, but I'm in favor of people getting killed in airplanes (as few as possible) because that means fewer die overall.

I think Glen's perfectly entitled to say most CrossFit coaches don't meet my standards, I think CF HQ should do what I think is best, and if they did, fewer people (no people?) would be hurt. I would hope most people would then be able think to themselves "thanks for the speculation." That is truly all it is. if Glen really has the burr under his saddle, he can use CF programming with attribution, start his own system called GLENFIT, and run his affiliate gyms as he pleases. Perhaps his gyms will be so much better, they'll drive CF out of the market place. No one will get hurt. CFHQ will learn its lesson and force people to follow the new guidelines GLENFIT has proved are more effective.

The same is true of Glen's opinion that there should be more of an emphasis on paying some institution lots of money to lead one through a syllabus and give one a degree which takes something like four years of your life away in order to be able to see and correct movement and do so better than a CrossFIt trainer with a L1 and no time in a classroom or reading textbooks. He might be right. He may not be right. I think it's a ludicrous proposition, based on the absord opinions I've read/heard over the years from folks (not all) with academic credentials. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever met such a person that knows anything about helping an athlete to move better, EXCEPT the folks I know with those degrees who can coach, who learned coaching outside of their academic program. But there's always GLENFIT to prove me wrong, should he choose that. And some have chosen that route (OPT maybe?), and at some point, there may be enough data to determine the cost/benefit between the two approaches and determine beyond Glen's pointless opinion or my pointless opinion which is more correct.

We could also find an investor and take 100 L1s and 100 Ex Phys grads and control for a few factors like months of coaching experience, for one, and set up the test for who coaches athletes to better outcomes. That would provide more information that my pointless opinion or Glen's.

Final example to try to make the point that risk analysis without consideration of the alternatives is the only meaningful risk analysis:
-What if we made people coach for six years before they could be turned loose in the gym with a CrossFit sign by themselves?
-What if all CF certified trainers had to go through a 12 month, $20,000 training program before they trained anyone in a CF box?

There are some predictable consequences. One is that a lot fewer people would get coaching from CF trained trainers, and a lot fewer people would get L1s, and then someone like Glen would notice how stupid that is and some up with NOTSTUPIDFIT and would start out like CF did ten years ago. And NOTSTUPIDFIT would be providing people the chance that CF has for the last ten years - the chance to take charge of their own fitness and health. And all those perfect CF trainers with expensive certifications would be making decent money but have little impact because there would be so few of them.

Or as coach put it, in much more simple terms: you have to know the desired adaptation, you have to know how long it takes to achieve it, and you have to know the injury rate for the population you desire to train. If you know those three things, you can compare fitness programs. Short of that we're just speculating, which can be fun, or not.

Although we are taught by many sources to think otherwise, if someone gets hurt, it is their fault. It's their body. They take the risks, knowingly, based on their perception that it's worth it. Cycling? Running? Driving to the gym to get on an elliptical? All have risks and the person responsible for the choices "pays their money and takes their chances". Talking about clients as if they are sheep and can't be trusted to make their own choices, and instead should rely on what I say or Glen says, is distorted hubristic thinking.

In my pointless opinion, Russell is dead right - NO ONE was doing anything to teach functional human movement beyond an elite few competitors prior to CF. Millions of people are on to this idea now. It is reshaping an entire industry, thanks to a crazy coach in Santa Cruz who wanted to coach real people in real movements so much that he invented an entire new business model to support his radical approach - thank the heavens.


wrote …


Holy smokes, way to take a decent discussion and completely destroy it.

While I think you make some good points, you just took the ball and ran with it...far far far away.

I agree with your statistical comparison. We can work the numbers to say anything we want. Yes and yes. The point being avoidable injury. I'm not getting into your airplane if your only experience with flying planes was on an Xbox or you just got your liscence the day before. No way I am consciously doing that. Would you? Would anyone reading this feel comfortable doing that? yes, this is probably an extreme example, but I think it still has SOME validity to it.

Second, damn. GLENFIT. Has a nice ring to it. Unfortunatly this kind of talk does nothing to move the discussion forward. Just comes across like: 'You dont like it the way it is, so go off and do your own thing, I dont care'. Its an open forum. For discussion. Solutions and compromises can be made here(as you can see in the posts between Russell and myself) We are all, I believe, better trainers/coaches now than we were when we first started in the industry. Why is that you think? I think its because we find more efficient paths to our goals thru practice, study, experience and discussing things with others. Your comments seem divisive and drive a wedge in something that can be so benefitial for everyone.

Instead of somone 'taking four years of your life away', what if there was a required apprenticeship based on hours of observation/application at an affiliate? No idea, just promoting discussion.

Also, I dont know if you have a degree or anyone that you speak to does. But when I got mine the word 'functional' was not such a buzz word. We were required to learn all the olympic lifts and powerlifts, teach classes of children as well as elderly, talk our way thru training special needs folks in front of a review board of our peers not to mention all the research. ugh, all the damn papers. As well as a number of other tasks. I'm just amazed that you look at this type of experience as 'taking four years of your life away'. You really see a L1 fundamentals cert comparable to that? How do you not see this as anything but positive? I fully believe somone can be an outstanding trainer with just an L1, but your disregard for University...I just cant wrap my mind around it.

And finally, yes, this comment put a 'burr in my saddle' : "Although we are taught by many sources to think otherwise, if someone gets hurt, it is their fault. It's their body. They take the risks, knowingly, based on their perception that it's worth it. Cycling? Running? Driving to the gym to get on an elliptical? All have risks and the person responsible for the choices "pays their money and takes their chances". Talking about clients as if they are sheep and can't be trusted to make their own choices, and instead should rely on what I say or Glen says, is distorted hubristic thinking."

Bear with me because this part of my post in not productive but more of me just venting. Yours is possibly one of the most cowardly and bullshit comments I've ever read. Now, assist me here because i'm hoping i'm not understanding you correctly. But I'm understanding this as if the trainer has no responsibility for any injury their clients may incur. Poor programming? : clients fault for following it. Pushed too hard too soon? : client should have known better. Holy freakn gorsh!! You just put workouts up on the board with a *participate at your own risk, any mistakes are your fault and not the responsiblity of the trainers*??

They are seeking you out because they dont have the answers themselves. If they knew all they needed to know they wouldn't need to come to you in the first place. Trainer=Coach=Teacher. Shit happens and people get hurt no matter what the programming is. Yes, yes, and yes. But avoidable risk is avoidable. Your there to instruct them and guide them, not blame them for injury as they blindly wander around the gym trying to figure things out on their own. Damn man, comes across like you just turn your back on a client if/when things go wrong.

Hopefully I am totally taking your remark out of context or just misreading/understanding it. If I am, you have my sincerest appoligies, if not then I really am at a loss for words regarding that type of conduct. Eagerly awaiting clarification.


wrote …

I'm going to have to agree with Glen, and say you blew it. Calm down please.

I didn't say Crossfit is safer than other sports - you made that conclusion in your comparison. I said people get hurt doing Crossfit, despite it being built on a foundation of "inherently safe" movements with "safe" programming taught by "good" coaches. This occurs at all levels. And in other sports.

Glen mentioned avoidable injuries, and Russell went off about how Crossfit couldn't succeed if it's so dangerous. I mentioned that people get hurt, more dangerous than your flight or car ideas? I doubt it. More dangerous than rugby or football? I know it isn't. But my non-rugby-playing friends think anyone who steps on the field is crazy, as their view of danger is entirely different.

As an aside, I think a case could be made that the lack of 'bad coaches' within the community probably devalues the role of the coach. (If you can claim there are 'good', 'better', or 'fucking great' coaches, then there is by default bad, worse and shitty.) However, if people can succeed using crossfit, despite bad coaching (or no coaching!), then maybe your view that it's all on the person to know their body holds more weight. Maybe, all that is needed is someone to open your eyes and tell you the buzzwords before you learn it yourself. I don't think you'd argue on behalf of the need for no coach though, so perhaps you'll disagree.


wrote …

Glen, you are a good sport, if you'd let me accord you the title.

"We were required to learn all the olympic lifts and powerlifts, teach classes of children as well as elderly, talk our way thru training special needs folks in front of a review board of our peers not to mention all the research"
This isn't the kind of thing I'm accustomed to hearing about folks getting in an academic program and by the term you use, it strikes me that part of the groove of the discussion is - what university did you receive your degree from? Perhaps I don't know squat about your academic training. Perhaps I'd respect Ex/Phys degrees if I thought they were like what you describe. I've always thought of CF as the antithesis of academics - teaching only what you need to know to perform better, so perhaps I over-react to the notion that CF needs more people with academic creds. I see CF as having succeeded in spite of the academicians in most cases, and I wonder - if the academic approach to fitness was so great, why didn't one of the millions of them create something with the impact of CF? If you got value from your education, I don't mean to belittle, pls forgive my arrogance. I hope you could get a glimpse of why I have little respect for ex/phys creds in general.

There's a simple point and perhaps I didn't make it well. It's extremely easy and cheap to say "somebody else should be doing this or that thing according to my standards." That is a lame argument, it's boring and it's going no where. I should just ignore it because it annoys me and wastes my energy. Anyone who makes the claim assumes the role - from the safety of the internet where no one can tell if you could even coach Rich Fronning through Fran - of being the superior coach judging the inferior. I'm not above that kind of arrogance, but that doesn't make it not-arrogant.

"most cowardly and bullshit comments"
Think whatever you like. If I tell you that this kind of training has risks and you can get hurt doing box jumps or falling off of a bar or dropping a plate on your foot/hand or dropping a bar on your head, or pulling a weight with bad technique or even just due the bad luck of another athlete falling and dropping something on you - and you choose to jump in anyway, I respect your choice and I won't treat you like a sheep that's not responsible for its own life/death. You are there because you have the guts to take a risk to be better; that's excellent. I'll also coach the hell out of you and give you everything I can to help you get better, faster, and without injury. But I can never take away from you the responsibility for your life and safety and it would arrogant to think I could. And the attitude I read all the time is "clients are hapless sheep being ground up by trainers that don't meet my standards, and we have to save them." Nope, they have to save themselves from trainers that don't meet their standards. Thinking I know what's best for them is hubris, which I'm quite guilty of, but I'm learning to think with greater clarity.

There's a risk if you do CrossFit. there's a risk if you cycle on road (cars squashing you), there's a risk if you cycle off roads (hitting stuff). There's a risk if you stay home playing nintendo or whatever the cool game is - you get weak, can no longer live life with exuberance. There's a risk if you join a 24 hour fitness - you get bored and start playing Xbox or whatever again. "Nothing has no risk". To discuss injury and CrossFit with no context is just a waste of everything. Can you document that what you consider, in your very humble opinion, to be poor trainers has more risk than "some other thing?" If you forgive my sarcasm, I'll forgive your arrogance in proclaiming the judgement you have for the trainers you see and feel superior to.

I suppose it is patronizing to use the GLENFIT idea, but the point stands. If it's so bad that you have to stand there in judgement and essentially demand HQ take action on the strength of your anecdotal observations, why put up with the CrossFit mediocrity any longer? Go make it right. Or perhaps consider that you don't yet understand all, just like all the rest of us.

Matt did you read what you wrote?
"Further, if you look at CF Games competitors, there are numerous injuries (and DNFs). What does that say, when the best of the best get hurt doing it?"
It says nothing. The best of the best get hurt doing every single sport there is. Take it back and I'll give you a gold star.

Some coaches are better, some worse, bell curve, of course. Some learn CF with no coach and benefit. Hopefully, they eventually decide to find a good coach and advance more quickly. I deny the premise that CF is so dangerous it just can't be done without a coach from the top side of the bell curve. Ideally, every athlete would have access to a good coach. We're not at that reality but are infinitely closer than ten years ago. Making fewer coaches by inventing a standard higher than the present standard is a step in the wrong direction, it takes us back to "functional movements are too dangerous and coaches are too expensive, we can't run a business like that, we have to use machines".


Dale Saran wrote …

At the risk of causing more trouble, I'll jump in on this. As I see it the "quality control" argument comes in two flavors, and Glen has hit them both. First - CF's Level I is such a poor seminar because to takes place over a weekend (we saw the "Friday to Monday" comment that essentially demeans the entire program as worthless because it took place over a weekend.) I'll address that first in the most direct and data-driven way possible. First, the claim that a weekend course is inadequate to impart sufficient knowledge to help instruct someone safely on some fundamental biomechanical movements contains the inherent premise that training is so complicated, so demanding in technical competency, that nothing less than a four-year degree (or some other extended training) is the only 'safe' way to prepare someone to conduct such training. This is the essence of Glen's argument.

But the CrossFit Affiliate and Seminar program numbers and success is sufficient falsification of this claim. If, as Glen or Matt claims, there is some higher standard that is required to produce a competent trainer, then we should be seeing massive injury rates as a result of the thousands of incompetent and inadequate trainers we have produced. Since I am in a position to know exactly how many injury claims we received in a sufficient sample size to have some statistical merit, it seems I have exactly the claimed data to refute both Glen's and other people's claims. Let me elaborate - Of all the affiliate insurance policies written in the CrossFit RRG, both for individual trainers and affiliates, multiplied by the numbers of clients, multiplied by the numbers of workouts, multiplied by the number of days in a year, multiplied by the years since the RRG began, we have hundreds of thousands - and perhaps millions - of inadequately supervised workouts occurring. Thus, and in keeping iwth the "messsage board data", we should have (at least) thousands of injury claims, yes? If the 40% number posted above is accurate, we should have hundreds of thousands of injury claims in the RRG alone.

We've had less than a dozen. Total. In the three years since we started writing policies. 12. I'm going from my recollection (though I get updates fairly frequently and I handle the claims) - and I could pull the actual numbers but I'm being lazy right now as I'm on the road. Let's even assume I'm a little off and it's 2 dozen (it's not, but let's pretend). That's 24 injury claims in how many hundreds of thousands of workouts performed by this horde of inadequately trained CF Level I trainers? Could we agree that data set - even if controlled for some Level I's who have prior experience, and a community bias against injury-reporting, and eventual improvement over time - doesn't this still falsify Glen's (and others) internet bogeyman sufficiently? Where are all of the injuries that should be happening by these insufficiently knowledgeable Level I trainers? FACT: they don't exist. I know because I get the loss runs every month and have been since the RRG's inception. In the first year I think we had about 3 or 4 claims. Our actuaries were in shock. What do you think commercial gyms have for injury rates with all of that safe equipment.

Next post will address the second fallacy. It's much shorter.


Dale Saran wrote …

Glen and Brett - the "there has to be more education necessary to train folks" is belied by your own comments. Glen, you repeatedly refer to "experience" and "learning curves" and the necessity of your own hands-on training - at university. But by your own logic, the university should never have let you train someone without absolute hawk-eye supervision because to do so - based upon your comment that a single workout can produce near-death results - would be irresponsible. In other words, Glen, what it comes down to (and I think you would agree with this) is that in order to learn how to train people.... you have to actually train people. Now, your view is that all of the coursework and other academics that you obviously suffered through (and believe me, as someone who is entirely overeducated, I empathize) is a sine qua non for 'safe' training of clients.

Glen, I don't know if you've attended the ANSI accredited Level I course, but it is good. Really, really good. And the test is not a gimme. Our failure rate is typically around 25%. i.e. 1/4 people who attends a Level I does not pass the test.

Some other food for thought - Does anyone remember how much they had to do in order to be granted a license to drive a car? At the age of 16 in many states. Or what is required to own a gun and use it? (This ought to hit some buttons).

Glen, you reference the injury forums as proof of either CrossFit's inherent dangerousness or inadequate trainers. Have you controlled for how many of the injuries posted on that message board say that the injury was received while at an affiliate, performing under the supervision of a qualified Level I trainer? I would be willing to bet the vast majority of those posts (and that board dates back to before November 2005 when I showed up and used to scour the entire board almost daily while in Afghanistan) consists of people who are on the internet asking questions exactly because they DON'T have a trainer to ask. That's how I first nearly killed myself doing CrossFit almost 7 years ago - because I specifically disregarded the advice on here and went hard on my first workout because I knew that I wasn't like the other unfit tools on here. :-(

Finally, I know a brilliant trainer who does not own a degree in exercise physiology. Or any degree at all. Dude is incredible to talk to regarding training. I've even watched him teach and train folks (and been the recipient of some).
Goes by the name of Greg Glassman.
Under your standard, he should never have been allowed to go into a gym and train people due to his lack of requisite educational credentials and experience back in the day.


wrote …


Are you trying to say that only 12 people have been hurt doing Crossfit? Or that only 12 people have sued CF (or a CF-affiliate)? Because you couldn't be saying the former, and the latter is irrelevant (as people getting hurt is what I'm talking about, not liability over the cause).

Please don't put words in my mouth. Lots of courses take place 'on a weekend'.


Dale Saran wrote …

Matt - you've neatly ducked the enitrety of what I'm saying and said. And I wasn't putting words in your mouth - I was quoting Glen. If you believe the same thing (as Glen does) you can either say you do or don't. If you don't, then you agree with me that someone denigrating the cert based upon the fact that it takes place in a weekend is not a valid argument. Or, you could agree with Glen that it's the 'abundance' of one's education (for lack of a more encompassing word) that makes for a better trainer and thus a safer one - and a safer affiliate base - under Glen's rubric.

I'm asserting, based upon a significant size data sample that cannot be dismissed, that there is mathematical evidence to refute Glen's opinion (and maybe yours?) that there are oodles of inadequately trained affiliates and trainers out there 'ruining the CrossFit name' by virtue of their lack of exercise physiology degrees. That has been posited repeatedly, here and elsewhere and I have put the lie to that claim. I have offered a sample of three years of data that falsifies Glen's (and others') hypothesis about the inadequacy of CrossFit's Level I as a minimally safe starting point - or gate - for a new affiliate to pass through.

As I noted in the above post, I have assumed the validity of Glen's claim, and then shown that there are a sample size that can be very, very conservatively estimated at and N of over 500,000 workouts performed (as I think about it, the number is likely to be an order of magnitude higher). Glen's hypothesis and supporting data consists of the injury forums and Brett's assertion of 40% bad affiliates. If you all are correct, it logically follows that there would needs be a statistically significant number of both injuries reported and claims arising out of them. Note I said "claims" - insurance jargon for the report of an incident, not the filing of a lawsuit (this is an insurance use of the term, not a legal one). The lawsuits (even including the ones by affiliates OUTSIDE of the RRG AND inside of the RRG) runs about the same number - maybe 12.

This falsifies the claim. Period. QED. So, the sophistry you try above won't stick. I said 'claims' - as in people simply making a reportable event to the affiliate who then reports it to the carrier. You can try whatever scrub of the data you like, but no minimalizing will sufficiently explain the absolute paucity of the claims if Glen's and Brett's thesis is true.

Now, what conclusion you draw for the mechanism or causative effect is really irrelevant, but they're interesting to consider. For example, it could be that (a) the Level I cert is a fantastic education and the results completely and wholeheartedly make Glen's time in school seem perhaps enjoyable and interesting for him, but maybe a losing proposition if we place emphasis on 'time'. BUT, it could be that instead, the causal fact (for the low rates) is that (b) these movements, even when taught by rank amateurs and shitty trainers (assume Glen is correct), are so uniquely safe, you just have a hard time hurting someone without a real effort (or just random chance). Now, you could also assert that (c) we have secretly taught our crop of inexperienced and bad trainers how to hypnotize their clients into not reporting or complaining about injuries to their insurance carriers to such a statistically (in)significant level that we are really, really GOOD hypnotists. It could be something else, some combination of other factors, but the problem with the assertions is the fact that it defies the reality that we also see of amazing physiological benefit to the clients that all affiliates report, everywhere we go. i.e. People get fitter, better, happier, doing this CrossFit stuff.

So, I would genuinely like to hear how my logic is infirm or my data bad, or something, someone show me where I'm missing a step. If they can find that, I'll relook at the data or we'll try to figure out where improvements are to be made, but right now, I can't find it. And secretly, I suspect that if someone else knew that, too, they would have already created a competitive company and crushed us. But it's hard to have an injury rate of near zero, and barriers to entry near zero, and somehow worry that someone, somewhere has got a better mousetrap.


wrote …

I never deceived, however sophistry is a nice word (I googled it!).

Your words: " If, as Glen or Matt claims, there is some higher standard that is required to produce a competent trainer"

My point was about the idea that CF is considered "safe". Done with "safe" (aka 'functional' movements). I was addressing the fact that people do get hurt. Yet, safe is a relative term. I'm not sure we're arguing the same points. I wasn't directed invovled with the above debate - more dropping in asides from the peanut gallery.

I still don't get exactly what you are saying, only 12 injuries ever? Or 12 injuries that someone felt compelled to make an insurance claim on an incident?


replied to comment from Glen Jenkins

Glen - I mistakenly attributed some of Brett's comments to you. I apologize.


wrote …

I started crossfit with blood sugar levels that put me at high risk for death or disability. I have tried for six years to get control. My levels are now in the normal range due to the local availability of crossfit.Its only taken 4 months to achieve this.

I believe a risk/benefit analysis that compared the heart attacks and other disabilities prevented, were it possible, would prove beyond a doubt the benefit of maximizing crossfit presence.

People once argued against seatbelts because they were tied to some deaths. Obesity and diabetes are at epidemic levels. Will I trade a slim chance of non-fatal injury for near certain limb loss or blindness or death? Definitely.And yoou can not have it both ways. Stricter requirements means less facilities. Every missing faciliy means less people like me getting healthier.

I once read that you are in fact at higher risk of having a heart attack while working out BUT you are less likely overall of having a heart attack than someone who does not work out. We can see the injuries that happen with crossfit but the bad health outcomes that are prevented are never seen.

A less than perfect something in my book is way better than a perfect nothing.

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