Starting a Gym: Marketing

Starting a Gym: Marketing

Yesterday, I wrote about scaling up from a personal-training studio to small-group training.

But where do your first 20 clients come from?

Heck, where does your first client come from?


Relying on Relationships


When you’re opening a gym, there’s nothing more reassuring than the first client purchase. It’s more than the money: It’s proof that you have something that people want. That you weren’t totally wrong about the viability of your idea. And that all your front-end systems work: You can bring people in, sign them up and take their money!

Marketing is about relationships, and that’s never more true than when you’re in the Founder Phase.

You need to think about each new client individually, instead of an undefined group.

First, before you do any marketing, build your systems to maximize your retention.

Make sure you have your pricing and program offerings dialed.

Your first clients will come from your personal relationships. As I wrote in “Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief,” it’s normal for your first client to be your mom. Or your sister or brother-in-law. Who would want to support you more than your family?

And, of course, support means paying you because they believe in your ideas, not enjoying your service for free because you need more practice. Good will should run toward the founder when he or she is starting a business. The new entrepreneur will need it!


Reaching Out


Here’s the process:

1. We call your best clients your “Apple” clients. Take them for coffee one on one.

Ask them these questions:

“What brought you to my gym in the first place?”
“Why haven’t you joined any other gyms?”
“What’s your biggest problem in life outside of your fitness?”

2. Ask about the people closest to them.

“Who has been most supportive to you on your journey, besides me?”
“What do the people in your workplace need? How can I help them?”
“What’s your biggest challenge in trying to help your family get fit?”

3. Map your client journey.

Where do new clients generally come from?
What do most new clients say is their goal?
What do your best clients list as their favorite part of your service?
Write all that down, and make sure every new client gets the same treatment.

4. Make your clients famous.

Every week, interview one client on camera. Just ask, “What’s your fitness story? What are you most proud of achieving? What’s something you never thought possible before? What would you say to yourself one year ago?”

5. Answer your future clients’ questions.

Publish one article every week. Start with the most basic questions possible, and answer them. Build an email list of everyone you know. Every third email should include a clear call to action: a clickable link to book an appointment with you.

6. Use your email list to start Facebook ad campaigns.

The key question to ask before you start any marketing is, “Who is my client?”

In my PT studio, that was easy: middle-aged professionals paid for themselves or their athletic kids.

But when I tried to start a CrossFit box, that was hard. I didn’t define my ideal client, so I made wild guesses about my service and pricing. And because I didn’t get my prices right from the start, I attracted a lot of discount-seekers who couldn’t really afford coaching. So I tried to degrade my service to their budget instead of asking, “Who can afford what I want to sell?”

You sell coaching. Who wants to be coached? Tell them how you’ll solve their problems.

That, in a nutshell, is marketing.

Want to start your gym the right way? Click here to download our FREE guide: “The Ultimate Business Plan for Gym Owners.”


Other Articles in This Series

How to Start a Gym
Starting a Gym: Location, Space and Equipment
Starting a Gym: Scaling Up
Starting a Gym: Adding Staff
Starting a Gym: Do You Need a Partner?

How To Take CONTROL Of Your Business

How To Take CONTROL Of Your Business

You’re good at tracking numbers.

As a fitness coach, you probably measure your clients’ body fat. You probably measure their progress on workouts and their max front squat. And then you take those numbers and plan the next steps. Right?

The best coaches take control of the client’s journey to fitness. But not all coaches do.

In business, you have to measure your profit, your revenue, and your expenses. But that’s where most gym owners stop. They can report their numbers to their mentor every month; they know where to find ARM and LEG in their management software. They know how to check their bank account. Some even know how to find leaks in their marketing funnel!

But they don’t DO anything with the numbers. Instead of using their numbers to control their business, they let their business happen to them.

We recommend Profit First for gym owners, because it helps them take control of their money.

Instead of waiting to see what they have left at the end of the month, they write themselves a couple of checks at the start. Then they cash them. And then they work hard to make sure the money’s in the bank! It works.

We teach the 4/9ths model to most gym owners for the same reason.

Instead of making wild guesses about what coaches should be paid, or trying to figure out a percentage, we tie payroll to revenue. Coaches can do 1:1 training; make more for group classes; do semiprivate training; coach nutrition; offer specialty programs–but the gym owner never has to worry about starvation. And neither does the coach.

We teach the Prescriptive Model to every gym owner.

Instead of hoping their “community” or “WOD scores” will keep clients around, gym owners meet with their members quarterly to measure progress; then they decide what’s next or each client. Members aren’t left to guess about their progress, or wonder if another gym would be better, or just wander into classes aimlessly.

We teach Intrapreneurialism to every coach.

Instead of waiting for staff to “do the right thing”, or guess what’s in the owner’s head, an owner can help her coaches build a career on her foundation. No more wondering if they’ll leave to start their own gym. No more asking for favors (“Will you take out the garbage when you leave?”) no more hoping they’ll live up to their salary, no more trading for classes coached. Owners do Career Roadmap meetings with their staff; plot out their opportunities to earn; and give staff as much (or as little!) coaching as they want.

We teach Affinity Marketing to everyone.

Instead of praying for clients to refer their friends, gym owners can make the referral process an active one. They use the Affinity Marketing strategy to meet the best clients and offer the best service.

We teach Digital Marketing to everyone.

Instead of waiting for people to search “Gym near me”, stressing about the messages potential clients are hearing about CrossFit, or hoping the Games shows up on ESPN this year, gym owners can take control of their media. Lead generation isn’t a problem anymore–unless you’re just waiting for them to find you.


If you build it, they will come.




If you take CONTROL, they will come. And they will stay.


I remember running out of money before I ran out of month. I remember being terrified to check my bank balance. I remember praying for sales so my rent would clear.

Then I took control: I decided how much to spend on staff; how much to spend on marketing; how much to spend on equipment. That’s when I became an owner instead of a passenger. That’s when I stopped yelling “Jesus, take the wheel!!!!” and slid into the drivers’ seat.


Need help making that shift? Book a free call with our mentoring team here.

Full Transparency: Blood Tests and CrossFit Gyms

Full Transparency: Blood Tests and CrossFit Gyms

CrossFit effects its clients on every level.


We know, from dozens of stories, that coaches have the unparalleled potential to change cholesterol, blood sugar, cortisol and a host of other blood marker levels.


But how can blood testing potentially affect the business of coaching?


In early December, we decided to find out. Members of the TwoBrain mentoring team, as well as 10 coaches and clients from Catalyst, surrendered our blood to answer the question, “Could this help the clients of CrossFit gyms?”


I’m not the first one to experiment with blood testing in a gym. But my intention wasn’t to tweak the minute training of a Games athlete; mine was to answer the question, “Would this help CrossFit gyms keep members longer?”


First discovery: I’m not good at fasting. But I take the test more seriously because I’m forced to fast.

Clients and coaches lined up at 6:30am. I brought in a phlebotomist to take our blood. She set up a centrifuge in our Athletic Therapy office, and stacked rows of test tubes and syringes on my intake desk. The air in the waiting area was somber, as if we were waiting to see a doctor (and anticipating bad news). Most brought a snack for after the test; I already had my order in at the Workshop cafe next door.

It took around ten minutes per athlete. Then the phlebotomist packed up her things and the waiting began.


Second discovery: How I behave and think while wearing the client’s shoes.

Our results arrived a week later. An email notification arrives with “Your Blood Testing Results are Here!”

I clicked through, and away we went.

Here are some screen shots. I won’t share the name of the company we used outside the TwoBrain family, but you might catch a glimpse in the pictures.

My test was a full one; many of my coaches and all of my clients used a version around the $200 range, which wasn’t quite as comprehensive.

Most of my markers were in the “Optimized” range, so I’ll focus on the interesting ones–the “At Risk” markers.

Here’s how the 5 “At-Risk” markers were presented to me:


Nearly all were in the “Metabolism and Weight Control” category, so here’s a more detailed view of just those markers:

…if I clicked on the “LDL” picture above, I got this:


…and if I clicked “Shopping Basket”, foods and supplements that would help with my “At Risk” categories were sorted and prioritized this way:

(I’m not sure why it says “Fish Free”, except during the intake survey I clicked that I only ate fish once per week or less. I don’t dislike fish, but my wife does, so we rarely eat it at home.)


Just for fun, I clicked the “Cognitive” link and saw this:


Nothing crazy. But being on the other end of the testing put me into the client’s shoes. And when I analyzed my own reactions later, I chuckled a bit.


My first response was to justify my current behavior instead of asking, “What do I have to change in my lifestyle to fix these numbers?”


LDL cholesterol and cortisol levels were both high. The tracking service suggested I cut back on the intensity of my workouts. Since I’ve been scaling most of them lately, they’re nowhere near my usual level of intensity. So I pointed the finger at my stress level.


Now, I’m not stressed out. But I’m very busy: we happily add 4 new gyms to the TwoBrain family every 3 days. We just released our 2018 curriculum for gym owners, and compiling data to support what we teach was a LOT of work. We have three massive R&D projects running at major expense. All good things (eustress) but still: all.of.the.things. Our gym went through a management restructuring around Christmas time, and while we now have all the right people in all the right seats, their learning curve puts demands on my time that I don’t really have.


So I rationalized: cortisol and LDL are high because of stress; this stressful period will eventually pass; I’ll just do nothing and wait it out. And that’s how a client would probably react.


Next, I asked what the “hacks” were to solving the problem. What supplement can I take? What can I eat MORE of (instead of asking myself, “where do I need to cut back?”) Now, my friend and UpCoach mentor Craig Hysell has changed my view on “hacks”, so I immediately realized I was trying to avoid change. But most clients wouldn’t.


Finally, I tried to use my tried-and-true avoidance technique: “I might be unhealthy, but this is the price I’m willing to pay to feed my family.” This is a sticky lie, and I know it. More sleep and more time skiing instead of working will make me a better husband, dad and mentor. So why am I writing this review at 4am, and then working on another big project this morning? I don’t know the answer, but I believe our clients will do the same things.


In other words, they need a coach.


Third discovery: I automatically trust the people who provide the data.

When the guys behind the software said “Eat more rolled oats”, my first thought was “Wow, I’ve been wrong about that for a full decade.” I immediately mistrusted what I knew about myself because these guys have white lab coats.


The Zone Diet works really well for me. I focus on cognitive performance instead of physical performance, because winning the Games doesn’t help other gym owners (but mental acuity does.) I don’t eat rolled oats in the morning because even small amounts make me less sharp.


But when presented even a shaky chain of logic (my LDL is high; high LDL is dangerous; LDL is best controlled by diet; people who eat more rolled oats have lower LDL) my knee-jerk reaction was to buy into whatever the computer said. Never mind that not all of those things are necessarily true, or that correlation doesn’t equal causation (people who eat rolled oats are probably also more likely to exercise)–I was reaching for my grocery list before I even clicked the “Next” button.


Fourth discovery: I need an impassive expert to tell me what to do FIRST.

But most clients won’t look for a filter: they’ll just take the recommendation of the computer.


I emailed the results to my RD, who happens to sit in the office two doors down from mine. I’ll walk through it all with her on Monday. Then we’ll decide if I need to do anything different; I’ll probably add some aerobic work into my week (I usually ski all winter and bike all summer on top of CrossFit, but I’ve been missing it this year.) When the software said “Cut back on exercise intensity”, I said “Nah, the Open is coming up.” But I know many exercisers would see this as the golden ticket to the treadmill.



  1. If your gym is operating under a Prescriptive Model (which we teach in the Incubator), blood testing could be GREAT. For example, if the client received the results of the test, and their COACH received the recommendations, that coach could filter and curate their knowledge to apply working solutions for the client. Under the prescriptive model, it’s totally fine to say “You need to come to CrossFit twice per week and cycle twice per week, instead of coming here every day”. But if you’re just selling group memberships, downgrading a client’s visits is a threat to your revenues. I believe this prevents a gym owner from making the best coaching decision for their clients, and will shorten their LEG (it’s certainly been true in my case.)
  2. Being the keeper of the data should increase LEG. If you base a client’s progress off their Frathey can go anywhere else, because everyone has a clock. But if you’re the only one tracking their progress through deeper means–like an Inbody test, or blood testing–they won’t be able to see their progress anywhere else.
  3. Blood testing can make the “invisible” changes–blood sugar levels, cholesterol–more visible to the client. That means more Bright Spots. And the way the data was displayed on the tester’s website was really appealing and exciting – I’ve gone back 5-6 times since. I can even project changes, which feels like a game.
  4. The price might deter some gym owners who struggle to charge what they’re worth. But objective data (from an InBody, blood testing or even measurements) will help the gym owner show the client what they’re actually providing, instead of just selling group exercise. I wrote about this at length in “Help First” (walking around the table).


Is this scalable? We’ll see–TwoBrain gyms could see a custom option from this testing company by the end of 2018. A few doctors are already being tested to give me their opinion. And we’d have to be very careful about scope of practice, but working with an out-of-state testing company might help there, too. Heck, in North America, most doctors don’t have time to take blood tests and sit down to review the results anyway.


How deep can the prescriptive level go? To the depth of the paper prescription pad–or a few millimeters beneath the skin?


Many of my Personal Training clients pay $15,000 per year for private clinic access. In Canada, our healthcare is “free” (but largely unavailable, or a dangerously slow process). So people who can afford better will enroll in a private clinic, and do testing twice per year. It’s mostly basic pushup tests and skin fold measurements, then a blood panel. They hire weekend-cert Personal Trainers to do the physical testing (and make them wear lab coats–no exaggeration.) Then they hire Registered Dietitians to prescribe the Food Guide (which, as we know, doesn’t work.)


WE CAN DO THIS–but we can do it RIGHT. The barriers are access to technology, and the mindset of the coach.


That first barrier is coming down fast.


Want to hear more from the scientists and developers of the blood testing regime I went through? Respond to this post in “Comments” or just hit “reply” to this email, and I’ll invite them to the podcast.

The Trade Deadline

The Trade Deadline

What if you could trade your five worst clients for five more of your BEST clients?


If you’ve been listening in 2017, you’ve heard me talk about your “SEED” clients: how to identify and serve the best clients best.


Mike Michalowicz’ book on the topic, The Pumpkin Plan, formed the strategy we teach in the Incubator. We tailor it for gyms, of course. But when Michalowicz was on our podcast,  he also talked about what do with your WORST clients.


If you’re like me, that phrase (“worst clients”) sent a shiver up your spine.


The client is always right–aren’t they? Don’t we need to latch onto every client we can possibly get?


What if you could trade your worst clients for better ones? Who would you swap?


There’s value in knowing who your best clients are–and who they’re not. Because when we identify where best clients come from, what they want, and why they stay, we attract more like them. And when we identify the same characteristics of our worst clients, we avoid painful mistakes in the future.


Let’s start our top secret list with this exercise (the inverse of the “Seed Client” exercise, so let’s call these “Weed clients”.


Make two lists:

List #1 – the people who pay the least for your coaching. Calculate this by dividing their monthly rate by their average visits. No judgment here; we just want to know who pays the least per visit.

List #2 – who complains most? Who makes your energy drop when they walk through the door?


Now compare the two lists. Which names appear on both?


Michalowicz would have you fire those people immediately. (Here’s how to do it.) But if that’s uncomfortable for you, no problem; when you start improving your gym, they’ll probably leave anyway.


Ask yourself what these “weed” clients have in common.

  • Where did they come from?
  • How much do they pay?
  • What are their requests?
  • How are these answers different from your seed clients?


If all of your “worst clients” came from six-week challenges, consider forgoing more six-week challenges.

If all of your “squeaky wheels” are currently paying at a discounted rate, consider eliminating discounts.

If your most disruptive clients are likely to quit if you raise your rates, consider making the same money with less people. Then raise your rates.


Every client is a good client–until they’re not.


And a person can be a great person without being a great client. They can even be your FRIEND without being a great client.


You don’t need everyone. If you ask yourself, “How did I get this client?” for both your SEEDS and your WEEDs, you can start trading worst for best by modifying your own behaviors.


Stop doing the things that grow weeds, and start planting more seeds. Your deadline to start making those “trades” is December 31. What’s your plan?


(We teach the process step-by-step in our Affinity Marketing Plan. It’s part of the Incubator and Growth stages.)


The Fastest Way to 10x Your Business

I was visiting a new gym in Boston.

The coach said, “Warm up with double-unders.” I’m okay at those, so I did 100 unbroken.

Then I noticed people were staring.

“You just broke the record!” one lady said. The others were still frozen.

“What was the record?” I asked.

“SEVEN!!!” she said, loudly.

I love visiting new gyms. To a brand-new CrossFitter, I can pull off a bit of athleticism because I have a good skillset even if my fitness isn’t at its peak. A REAL CrossFit athlete can usually lap me on any given day.

The point is that context matters.

The fastest way to 10x your business is to have a really bad business, and then make it mediocre.

It’s very, very hard to 10x a GOOD business, because it’s already doing the things that make it successful. TwoBrain grew by 300% this year–which is remarkable–but it was only our second year. Growing Catalyst, IgniteGym or another of my established companies 300% would be close to a miracle. Because they’re already very successful.

In fact, a 20% growth in Catalyst would be a 200% growth in other gyms. Context matters.

When you’re considering growth, start with what you NEED to earn first:

Being stretched I decided good seed would be investing in a business mentor- Chris Cooper… curious and wondering how long it would take to start seeing some fruit, we jumped in. That first year 2016 with 2BB we made 200K that’s 110K more than the year before!! More than that my family slowly started getting their dad and husband back. My parents started getting their son back… my friends started getting their friend back. My team started getting the leader they needed and wanted. This year we have already well surpassed our last year revenue and still have 2 months to go. The best part is because of this group I am constantly challenged to do all that’s in my heart while making sure those most important to me get the best of me! Thanks guys!

That’s just over 2x growth in a year. Amazing. And even more this year.

But as the gym becomes more successful, percentage growth will go down because the numbers are FAR bigger now. It’s still great if you have the right context. And, frankly, this guy’s top priority is his family; a more important metric for him to track is his family time.

The point of this article is clearly a humble brag about my double-unders.

But my secondary point is this: be impressed by personal growth, long-term retention and profit; don’t fall for the red herrings of high gross, high headcount or “I tripled my revenue in the first month!” troubadours.

Episode 93: Greg Glassman

Chris: 00:00:00 – Have you ever met Greg Glassman? If you have, I’m going to bet you remember everything about the encounter. You probably remember where you were, maybe what he was wearing. You definitely remember what he said to you. To the outside world, Greg has a very iconic appearance. He’s one of the most renowned people in fitness and health today, but to the inside world, to those of his affiliates, he has a much closer connection. I first met Greg in person in 2012 at a Regional event where I was the media director. In 2013 I flew out to Seattle to accept his job offer in the parking garage at the Four Seasons to work and right for CrossFit Journal for a year. Last month when HQ invited me out to do their podcast, I responded to their invitation with a request to get Greg on this show so that he could speak directly to affiliates.

Chris: 00:00:48 – Finally we worked out that I’d fly out to Portland, sit at Greg’s kitchen table with him for an hour and a half and just ask them anything that was on my mind. And so I asked him about the origins for which some affiliates are still unclear. I asked him about how things should be in his affiliates today and I asked him what the future held. At the table where Jimi Letchford and Nicole Carroll, you can hear them chime in a little bit through this interview. This is an unscripted, unedited, free-flow discussion with Greg, of the kind that he no longer really does very often anymore. And so I feel incredibly privileged and proud to have done this interview from Greg’s house and be bringing it to you. Without any further ado, the man who needs no introduction: Coach.

Greg: 00:01:33 – Working with the best people in your community during what is for them, and due to no shortcoming of their own, it’s just how cool it is, but what might be the best part of their day and the start of their day. And that is a perk. What you’re doing is you’re having the strongest and most positive impact on their lives that any professional service is likely to have. And that even includes for services like psychiatry, medicine. If you’re hurt in a car accident, I know there’s some people believe that you lived because your doctor was very, very good at what they do. And although that happens, likely you lived because you weren’t critically injured and the health care you got was a routine. It was to the standards of the profession. And so I have to say how different would it have been if you’d been in the care of a different physician. And often that it won’t make much difference. But in the case of what we do, the people that didn’t train with me, they didn’t get to do CrossFit. What did is they found themselves doing lateral raises and curls or working out, standing in line with William Kramer at the Smith machine. And so at the end of the day, what we have is an unprecedented impact on the best subset of your community that you can imagine, a relationship that transcends the professional and becomes at once personal. I don’t know why that is. You know, somehow you can have a relationship with your clients that you wouldn’t have as a lawyer or a physician. How many people have married their clients in our boxes, you know, hundreds. It’s hundreds. It’s a cliché. I can’t imagine a better way to make a living. I really can’t, you know, and I don’t see what I do for a living as being different really. It’s not quite like opening the door every morning, but I’m closer to those people than anyone else or anything else that happens in a workplace anywhere I know. And I may even understand them and what they do better than I do my own staff and what they do for me, often specialized, often not. But, I remember in the last days of riding my bike and unlocking the door that things were changing for me, that my responsibilities were making that less and less like what each day was going to be. And I boldly and bravely went in this new direction, but it also wasn’t lost on me that like, look, I got my dog following me—East Cliff on my way to the gym with the waves breaking on—you know, like this is great. And it was.

Chris: 00:04:54 – And it still is. So at some point you realized in the gym that you kinda had, you were kind of called to another level maybe. What was that transition like?

Greg: 00:05:10 – Very difficult. Very difficult. And the growing pains that are the growing pains that a business endures come as—the way a business grows is that all those things you’d metric as business grow, but the network that is the relationship of the principles is also a thing that grows. And what happens is that everyone in the process has to iteratively trade focus for scope. So you go from there in the details, doing something, to backing up far enough to watch someone else do it. Several people do it. And you don’t see it right away, but what’s happening is that you’re getting a better and better scope with less and less focus. And pretty soon you’re seeing all the moving parts and don’t have clear vision to any of it. And you can use the analogy of taking off in a rocket ship. You know, there’s a level at which you can see the trees and to the point where you can make out the leaves. See something about the individual health of a tree. With not much altitude at all, you can see the tree, but no longer the leaves. And then pretty soon you’re able to finally see the forest. But you can see no tree, right? Just the forest. And that’s it. And you’ve sacrificed focus for scope. Now that growing pain in the individuals involved, creates a psychological dilemma of the first order, and some of those people get left behind. And it’s tragic. And the difference can be as simple as being a great brick layer, a lousy instructor of bricklayers and an even shittier instructor of bricklaying instructors. And it’s just getting worse for you. Really you had but a singular skill and it was bricklaying. And you know, I can sit here and give you names, but boy, we’re—littered the wrong word because most of us that were here at the beginning still are, but many that aren’t, it was it was that kind of pressure. I’m gonna use the good example of my brother David Castro. He is one of the few people that I have ever seen reinvent themselves.

Chris: 00:07:53 – How so?

Greg: 00:07:55  – He’s just a different, better, newer version of what he used to be. It’s just a beautiful thing. It’s not easy to do. It’s not easy to do, but he’s that strong of a person. I don’t want to get into any more specifics. It’s not fair to Dave, but I was going to point to somebody and miss Nicole, too. I’ve watched her go from someone who doodled pictures of us at the first cert she went to to running the most successful, important training organization on Earth. I’ve watched her go from a little girl to a widely respected business leader of the first order, you know, and not everyone can do that.

Chris: 00:08:40 – No. Very few. So how do you maintain that focus on quality as you increase in scope?

Greg: 00:08:51 – Well, by the exacting standards of expectation and you know, I’ve told you before, many have heard me say, I’m not an endpoint guy. I’m a process guy. And so without endpoint, there’s never perfect. There’s only better. You don’t have to worry about being done because we’re not going to be. It’s an inducement to being indefatigable. People ask me, when are we going to kick soda’s ass? And I said, I have no idea. I know this, that we will win. And what’s that win look like? I’m going to drive them out of the health sciences. That’s what it means. I’m not trying to get people to not drink. I have the world’s most effective avoidance program, or what would you call it? Consumptive reduction plan. :And it sounds like this meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. There. That was it. We were done with it. It wasn’t an issue in our community or our lives. But then there were intrusion into the fitness space. So let’s talk about Pepsi and Gatorade, with the help of the American College of Sports Medicine, killing athletes with exercise-associated hyponatremic encephalopathy. The people that were behind that hideous scandal, deadly scandal, were involved in the CHAMP piece, which was one of the first and what would have been tortious assaults on CrossFit were it not—were the plot not hatched on DOD property at the Uniformed Services University, they would have most certainly been sued for that crap. But they knew what they were doing and they did it there.

Greg: 00:10:48 – Kind of on a rant here, but yeah, I’ll bring it back home. This is all just training for me. I’m protecting the training space. I’m protecting the best work of the affiliates and promoting the best work of the affiliates. And what that is the health component. The soda thing, you know, no issues of consumptive reduction. I want them out of the fitness space and I want them out of the health space, and that’s what the victory looks like. And will it take five years, 10 or 50? I don’t know. I have no sense of that at all, at all. For me though, those things that I just tell you, we’re going to keep at it and we’re not going to stop. They tend to happen faster than you would have thought. You know, we got to a place on the hydration battle in a fraction of the time I was thinking it might take, or I was prepared to take. And I think that’s the thing too, Jason, when you’re not an endpoint guy, but a process guy, and then the job ends up completed, you’ve always, “wow,” ‘cause I was ready to do this forever. And so it’s always kind of a pleasant surprise.

Chris: 00:12:00 – So as CrossFit increases its scope, you know, your name is still written on every individual affiliate, how do you know that the affiliates are helping in this battle for the health of the country, the world?

Greg: 00:12:15 – Well, you know, I told you I know what the affiliates do and I understand that better than anything. And so I can tell you, if you’ve got hundreds of members that you’ve seen a hundred-pound weight loss, you know damn well—like who’s coming up and telling me “It’s not about the Games, it’s not about the Games.” It’s the guy with 300 clients. But your first 50 clients are all your really fit friends that love you and support you. If you’re new to the game, right? And then the next 50 aren’t so fit. And then when you get out there like client number 200, you’ve got someone with diabetes and you’ve seen the overweight and then you stay in this game long enough, and I think for the best of us, that’s the part we enjoy most. And it dawned on me that I had become that guy when I realized that I got more out of Sally getting her first pull-up at 65 and bawling like a baby, that was more enjoyable to me than Garth winning the world championships of Brazilian Jujitsu and telling me he couldn’t have done it without me. I think most of us are wired for that. I think so.

Chris: 00:13:23 – That’s certainly one of the biggest rewards of owning a CrossFit affiliate, is that opportunity. And that opportunity was certainly never provided to me through the NSCA. So, you know, with that in mind—

Greg: 00:13:38 – You have the CSCS cert?

Chris: 00:13:40 – Yeah.

Greg: 00:13:40 – Hold onto that. Keep a picture of it, keep it framed, you know, that’s not always going to be around.

Chris: 00:13:52 – Well actually I wrecked it because when I was writing a story on Gatorade for the Journal, I poured Gatorade and cornstarch on top of it and we didn’t use the picture. So now it’s gone. But, you know, along with that opportunity comes the responsibility to actively promote health, obviously. And so, you know, if your mark is on every individual affiliate, the leaf in your forest, what should we be doing in this crusade? At the affiliate level?

Greg: 00:14:23 – I’ve been speaking with staff about—and this came up at the trainer summit—about the need to reiterate that we are a high-fat, low-carb concern, and to do CrossFit on a high-carb diet is CrossFit with glycation, inflammation and oxidative stress, even if you’re burning it to stay skinny. And you’re going to induce a maybe visually attractive, metabolically deranged outcome. And if it is possible to win the Games on a high-carb diet, I would suggest that you’re putting yourself right where Sami Inkinen put himself when he won the world championships of the professional triathlon only to be diagnosed as a Type-II diabetic. And so that kind of thing concerns me. I like to share something, I think you’ll like this. I learned how to make world-class athletes by applying to very talented people all of the lessons I learned with very normal people. The Sallys taught me how to make Greg Amundsons. From the Greg Amundsons, I have learned nothing. Not to pick on Greg, I love him; he’s a friend. But I mean—look at what the CrossFit Games best do and try and develop some sense of how you might train. You would’ve found five years ago that you really didn’t have much chance in the Games without compression fabric. The following year, no one believed that, but that year they were pretty sure that if you weren’t putting on the hard-to-get-on shit, you weren’t going to be here in the Games because they were all doing it. And then we learned that if you don’t soak yourself in ice between the heats, and maybe that’s what makes the heat easier is the ice. Maybe it was one of those things. You know, the opposite of a heat is an ice. And so after my heat, I gotta be icing, that’s why I’m winning. And then it was the ridiculous fucking tape all over your ass. Everyone’s got the tape on themselves and that’s what you need to win. Where’s the tape going? It’s not going to be around for a while. And they’re going to do this with lucky socks and with nutritionists and herbalists and steroids. These are all things that are rearing their heads. We’re using world-class standards. We’re testing with—we’ve cut no corners here. You know, we may not be as big as the Olympics, but their testing is no more rigorous than ours and the protocol is no different. We’re farming this out just like they do.

Greg: 00:17:44 – The athletes are what they are. God bless them. You know, look, I’ve had professional-athlete clients and if you’re in the NFL and you’re asking me, “Should I quit steroids?” I’m not going to answer that. I’m not going to be the one to tell you here that I think you got to pull the plug on your career right now. It’s not my decision to make. Ask me if I think it’s enhancing the quality of your life—the paycheck. Yeah. Health? Probably not so much.

Chris: 00:18:19 – Is it the affiliates’ responsibility to have those conversations with their clients?

Greg: 00:18:25 – Yes. If you’re my affiliate, yes. Bud, how you doing? How the kids? Your daughter take the SAT? Did your husband have his collarbone repaired? And what’d you have for dinner last night? You know, I mean, it’s part of every conversation. Unless I know you’re like Greg Amundson, you know, he brought Tupperware and he gave me a magic marker and he wanted me to show him where to put the cottage cheese up to, and he wrote on that “cottage cheese” and it was gonna get filled to the line every day, and I go, “You know, you can try other things—” “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.” He said, “Really, really, it’s easier for me if I just like—” Awesome. Awesome. You have to have that discussion. You have to care. You have to care. And when I don’t see results to my liking at the pace that I’m accustomed to, we’re going to talk more and more. And I was always jealous of Skip Chase and his home intervention. I just love that—I haven’t heard a lot of times where like, man, I wish I’d thought of that in the training space, but I did on that. And he basically, without much verbal harangue, if he wasn’t seeing what he needed and at the pace that made him happy, he shows up at your fucking house with a cardboard box and he wants to see the fridge. Lets himself and he goes to the fridge and he loads up the bad shit and he’s taking it with him. And I think that’s brilliant. That might just require a personality to dovetail with that. I don’t know, but I was jealous of it.

Chris: 00:20:03 – I think it’s a skill you can practice.

Greg: 00:20:04 – Good on him, though. Good on him. CrossFit is not an exercise program, it’s a fitness program. Thing that differentiates it is for me, the fitness program involves the food part. It’s huge. How much Axel Pflueger thinks it’s, you know, 40%. I think it’s more like 60. We can argue about that. What I can’t do is, but with a few, few narrow exceptions, I can’t point to an eating adaptation that isn’t also an exercise adaptation. Increased bone density. I can do it with diet alone. If you don’t exercise and you eat shitty, I can increase your bone density without exercise. I can decrease your insulin resistance. I can increase your muscle mass. I learned that—I had the wonderful experience of in 1995 I wasn’t training for the first time in forever, but I was traveling with Barry Sears and we were Zoning people. And so for the first time ever, I got to have impact on nutrition where I wasn’t providing one physically and I’d never seen that before. I knew what it looked like if you exercise and ate the way I told you. And I knew what it looked like if you exercise and eat the way the American College of Sports Medicine wants you to eat, you know the way that causes the chronic disease. But I’d never seen anyone eat right and not exercise. Never seen that. And so to come back and revisit locales and find that there was an increase in muscle mass and bone density and you know, it’s like, wow, you look like you’ve been exercising. Nope, I haven’t. What happens if you do both together? Ah, it’s a jet stream of positive results.

Chris: 00:22:01 – I think we affiliates could maybe use some help in knowing how to broach that conversation and just some of the things that you’ve mentioned already were here’s what I would talk about with my clients. That doesn’t always happen in my box. What kind of conversations should we be having and how do you introduce nutrition into that conversation?

Greg: 00:22:25 – Well we were promoting the hell out of the Zone diet since 1995. And what that meant is that when you came into my box, I would give you a prescription and tell you about the Zone. And we had purchased hundreds of copies of the book just handing that out. It was everywhere. And we were doing that and we charged for that like we did training. So ever since they’ve known me, there were people around that were introductory sessions and nutrition clients. I learned that trick from Gold’s Gym, or I did that for them. And so you’d get, I don’t remember what it was, six weeks of training and a meal plan that you were expected to follow. And if you didn’t have some reduction in your percent body fat by the end of that, I don’t remember now if it was six or 12 weeks, whatever it was, you’d get your money back. I think it was 12 weeks and a drop of six percentage points. That may have been where it was. But you couldn’t—you had this book and you couldn’t miss any time. And we did, Lauren and I did exactly that in Santa Cruz and it’s great. It’s great. I wouldn’t train people without some sense of—without having in place some constant pressure on the nutrition. Some boxes have it just culturally, it just happens. These boxes are doing Paleo challenges, Whole Life challenges, you know, there’s a lot of that going on. It’s an indispensable part of what they do. I’ll make a shameless plug for my friend Sami Inkinen, my superstar triathlete who was a diabetic. Now is the CEO and founder of Virta Life, Virta Health Corporation. They do handholding off the metabolic precipice. They do diabetes, Type II diabetes reversal for just hundreds of dollars a month, you know, like 400 a month. I can do that work too, cost you a whole lot more than that. And so if I were training today, someone came through the door that I didn’t think—for whom I thought their nutrition had served them poorly, it’d be almost everybody, I would encourage him to spend the 400 a month with the Virta Corp, how long you have to do that, four or five months? I think Sami gets 70% of his cohort from Purdue off of meds. In six months. I think it was. Seventy percent of the 400 people were off meds in six months. Well, you know at the point you’re off meds and you’ve been eating well for six months, I don’t think you need any more Virta or anything else. You know, it’s not possible to eat in a manner that brings your A1C down to 5 and then when the instruction stops, not know how you did it. It’s not possible. It’s not possible. You’ve become an expert, a world-class authority, because it’s not an easy thing to do. You’ve had to display so much willpower that you’ve learned—it’s been a journey, a very personal journey for you. Forget the getting off diabetes meds, I’m talking everything in your life you’re better at because the denial that’s required with that, you know. It’s an amazing thing.

Chris: 00:26:01 – It’s far tougher to change your nutrition than to start exercising, right?

Greg: 00:26:08 – Yeah. So my best tool for getting people to eat right once they’ve been working out with me—and you don’t have a lot of tools for those that don’t want to play. But one of my best tools was to mark, plot the progress of the person that was doing well. And I remember in, you know, people came around and thought, well I’m just never going to be Greg Amundson. But when Mike Weaver started running past people that had been working out longer than Weaver’d been around and they were like, all right, what’s he doing? And I go, one thing different than you. What’s that? You know, listening to what I’m saying about the nutrition. I’ve also used that to get bike riders that I wanted. Big name bike rider, taking someone that was not a threat and just had them over their shoulder all of a sudden. And now you got two or three of these guys on my ass where they didn’t used to be, and that has brought in some big-name cyclists in the door to me. Going way back, back in the days of Tom Rogers and guys like that, there’s no one riding today that remembers those names.

Chris: 00:27:27 – Actually, I don’t want to go down too many rabbit holes, but I love cycling and just bought 10 bikes for my gym. And when I was at HQ, like I know cycling has always been a part of what you did. Was there ever a point where you were introducing cycling into the gym itself?

Greg: 00:27:44 – We had a fleet of bikes.

Chris: 00:27:45 – And what would you do with them?

Greg: 00:27:47 – Well, go up about 2,000 feet into the woods with a pick-up truck full of dumbbells and hide ’em in the redwoods. Come down and tell them get on a bike and go to the top of the hill at Rodeo Gulch and I’ll be there. You’ll see me and I’ll have dumbbells and you got to do 50 thrusters and then down the hill and a hundred pull-ups and we’ll stop the clock or something like that. Maybe it was a hundred thrusters and 50 pull-ups, I dunno, but on the regular.

Chris: 00:28:19 – Oh, that’s great.

Greg: 00:28:20 – Oh, it was wonderful. They hated those bikes. And let me tell you where the bikes came from. I was at that crossroad, you know, do I need a bigger space? Well, I’m getting complaints. I don’t have the money for an expansion. Not just sitting around at any rate. You just don’t know if that’s the right thing to do or not. And so I went down this angle, will it provide a better programmer surface? And I was like well, hang some cargo nets. I’d get mountain bikes, I had a list of things I’d do. And then you ask, OK, you know, and this was due to more room. I couldn’t when we were at 1,250 square feet, what kind of moron is gonna put eight bikes in there? At 2,500 square feet, I’m the moron that would do that. And we rode the hell out of them. Rode the hell out of them.

Chris: 00:29:24 – That’s good to hear.

Greg: 00:29:30 – And you know something too, man, anyone that like—so you’re a bike guy. Yeah, I love bikes. Do you deadlift? Uh-uh. Have you ever been on a glute-ham developer? No. You know what, I’m gonna make you a better bike rider, right? Almost instantly. The report from any level of output, and all you cyclists out there, you think you are as good as you can get. You probably are with your current methods, but if you don’t deadlift and you ride bikes, you’re not as good as you could be. And I can add other things to that, but, the report you always get back is, there’s that hill that you would tend to shift up and stand, you know, now what they’re doing is staying seated and spinning it out and grabbing a harder gear and grinding on it. You know, just stuff like that. You know that hill, you know what your typical climb pattern is and it’s clearly been altered; more grip, more power.

Chris: 00:30:28 – Is there anything else in that same vein that maybe, you know, we affiliates aren’t seeing that we should be thinking about when we’re outfitting a gym or growing?

Greg: 00:30:42 – I’ve mentioned this other places and so I don’t know who’s probably tired of hearing it or not, but the dumbbell thing, I can’t get past that. The difference between a ring man and a parallel wire man in terms of strength is due to that independent axes of the rings, and the dumbbell-barbell analogy is perfect. Perfect. There is no comparing the strength of—and you know, I was in the era of specialists, so there were guys that did the rings and only, most competitors were that way. A small percentage of gymnasts where all-around guys, when I was a kid, small percentage. And sport hasn’t been improved because of it. I don’t think. I don’t think it’s been good for it, but whatever. You know, it’d be like, imagine going out into track and field and everyone go home except the decathletes, you know, it’s kind of interesting. But there was never any doubt as to how much stronger the ring men were within the parallel bar and guys, and dumbbells would do something similar, too.

Chris: 00:31:48 – So those were self-indulgent questions cause I just like that stuff.

Greg: 00:31:54 – Let’s stay with the list; presses to handstand. There’s not enough done with it. And there’s a progression of presses from a bent leg, bent arm, bent hip to straightening arm, hip and leg and then grade out nicely and they’re all learned the same way in the negative and the strength that you get out of that. If people would spend more time with dumbbells, commit to a long-term path to the power presses, the planche press, there’s a straight arm, straight body press, you’d probably get—for sure be able to do on parallel bars before the floor. And straight-body bent arm press and then straight arms, straight leg press, bent hip. Anyone can learn those. But it takes years. But it takes a little bit of playing with it all the time. A bigger deadlift, more dumbbell work, and those presses to handstand can be a shortcut to better Olympic lifts at our level of expertise and exposure than a lot of the training that we’re currently doing, I believe. I’m pretty cocky, confident of that, too. Dan Bailey claims to have tested this theory and it paid off. I don’t know how or what, but he had let me know that it was working for him He’s a good dude. I think he wanted me to feel good. That all Games athletes can’t get in a push-up position and then slide those hands down and arch the back and drive that up to a handstand is a mistake for them. It’s a mistake. What happens in these presses-to-handstand, one thing is the likelihood of you falling out of a handstand again just plummets, because if you can get that low—and you’ll learn it in the negative. So the way to learn a straight body, a straight leg, no bend at the hip, so just straight body and bent arm press is to get into a handstand and lower into that ever more and more slowly, more and more slowly, more and more slowly. And then one day you can finally reverse it. But what you get practice at is your body being three inches off the ground and you driving it back to a handstand is the practice you’re getting. And so you might stumble just like you would on your feet, but the likelihood of having to put your hands on the ground or in this case your feet on the ground goes real low, real low. Then there’s the strength component and the balance component. It’s wonderful. And there’s another piece too. These presses require—like the straight arm, straight leg bent hip press-to-handstand; we used to call it the stiff-stiff, so it’s a straight-arm straight-leg press to a handstand, requires that you be pretty flexible and pretty damn strong. And I’m talking about gymnast standards. It’s a good but not a great, you know, it’s a B move. It’s a B move. But if you’re not flexible, then you have to be very strong. And if you’re extremely flexible, you don’t have to be as strong. But in the end, it requires significant flexibility and strength and it’s just a great tool. That’s another one. Every one that’s been doing CrossFit for two or three years should be able to do that.

Chris: 00:35:47 – That’s interesting.

Greg: 00:35:48 – And if we’re not, you know, that’s my shortcoming.

Chris: 00:35:53 – How is it your shortcoming?

Greg: 00:35:54 – Well, it would have been nice; there’s another Journal article that could be written out on these progressions. I’ve done it for in-house staff. I’ve made that material and just never thrown my name on it. Doing other stuff.

Chris: 00:36:06 – Yeah. Busy. You can’t do everything.

Greg: 00:36:08 – And the big deadlift. So these are my things. There’s presses-to-handstand—and I’ll outline these. I’ll send that to you. I’ll give it to you. I’ll show you the progression. It’s fun to play with. Presses-to-handstand, more dumbbell work, and a bigger deadlift. A bigger deadlift. There’s that point in your clean where you—you know, at 225, I slipped right under at 230, like, I’m stuck. What happened was the weight got too heavy. And if you have a 325-pound deadlift, you’d be happy with your 225-pound clean, because that’s all you—any weight you clean with good technique comes off the floor in a very unintimidating manner. And so these monster cleans belong to people with monster deadlifts. And we had the best time—Strawson, Dire Minds guy, used to make a weightlifting videotape, training tape that cut out all the nonsense. It was just lift, approve, cut, lift approve. So in an hour tape, you could watch hundreds and hundreds of lifts. And I’ve watched these things with Tony Budding for hours. We’d just sit there and loop this thing. And then I started noticing things like it was really significant to notice the change in countenance, the expression of the athlete and to watch hair, what it was doing. If your hair all of a sudden stands straight up, what’s that mean?

Chris: 00:38:05 – Moving fast.

Greg: 00:38:05 – You’re fucking going down, man. Only one direction, and that is down and fast. And where you marked against the lettering, is it a poster on the wall? You know, just started doing some looking at vectors and watching this stuff and you came away with a world-class understanding of what’s going on in these lifts. That was really fun. The successful clean, the load comes off the floor with relative ease and as soon as that torso rotates to perpendicular, which is the cause of the scoop or the double knee bend, the bar is still rising, but you’ve rotated the torso forward. And at that exact instance, there is a significant change in the countenance of the athlete. And the next thing you see is the hair go up. And what has happened is that these people have pulled the trap door on a moderate weight that they were accelerating handsomely, and then as they exploded on it at the moment of full after-burner, the knees get sucked up and they’re shot underneath the bar, bow-and-arrow style. Imagine if we put, you know, find the max weight you can possibly shrug. Then add 10 more pounds and tell you to shrug it as hard as you can and then I pull the trap door. You’re going to beat the weight down. It’s bow-and-arrow-like, and that’s exactly what’s happening in that lift. That’s exactly what’s happening in the lift. Get me a bigger deadlift and the balance of the press-to-handstand is going to translate to bar control in the jerk. Promise it. Promise it. And we’re going to get some other things along the way that we might not have gotten committing all that time under the barbell and the barbell alone.

Chris: 00:40:15 – Very interesting.

Greg: 00:40:18 – This is fun. It’s old school.

Chris: 00:40:23 – Yeah, it is. I

Greg: 00:40:24 – You know, there are people I can have these conversations with, I’ll tell you one that I just saw the other day. Romanov.

Chris: 00:40:36 – Why Romanov?

Greg: 00:40:37 – I don’t know why. Make myself sound good here. I just, I really like talking to Nikolai; he’s a good dude. He’s sharp. He’s thought about a lot of things. He’s kind of a hard-science guy too.

Chris: 00:40:54 – I just met him at the Games, but you know, the hard-science guys like Mel Siff haven’t always been kind of open to everything you’ve said, right?

Greg: 00:41:02 – Yeah. Mel thought everything was bullshit. And since 99.9% of shit is, he was right a lot. So that’s, you know, that’s OK. And I really enjoyed him. I enjoyed his spirit. No one benefited from Mel not being here. And Ed Burke. And Jim Fixx. I think I have it right. You might look this up, the guy that wrote the cyclist’s Bible for nutrition. My problem with exercise is medicine, it’s not that I don’t think it works. That is that you can exercise away fat. My problem is if that allows me to them to consume more product and I’m talking about Coke or Pepsi or anything like that, and that is the excuse to do more exercise to burn off more product, now I don’t like what’s happening. Now what I’m doing is I’m running more product through the system, doing what? Glycating, inflammating and creating oxidative stress. Exercising or not, it’s doing that, and we don’t want that. So if you ever make me pick between the eating and exercise, I would rather you eat right and don’t exercise then exercise and eat like shit.

Chris: 00:42:34 – And at what point is it the box owner’s responsibility to say to a client, “I’ve got a problem with how you’re training”?

Greg: 00:42:42 – I did all the time. I mean, I would never fire a client for that. And that’s the language I use and clients have been fired but not for that. You can eat any way you want. And I had a guy that’d come to me, never took any of my nutrition advice, George. And George worked out one day a week and that was his hour with me. That’s it. That’s all he’d do all week long. And the son of a bitch, I was disappointed in the fact that he was getting results and he had for years, and there’s part of me that wished he wouldn’t come, but I wanted him to come more. I always asked, “Did you do anything this week?” “No.” “What’s the last thing you did?” “That thing we did last Friday.” And so, you know we just kicked the ever-loving shit out of George. Just beat him up bad. “Why are you doing this to me? You treat me like you hate me.” “I train like you’re not going to do anything for a week. That’s what I’m training like.” I go, “Come one more time, I won’t charge you.” “I can’t do it. I don’t have time. I don’t have time.” And I’m like, “Jeez, George—” and I’m making deals like, “if you come twice, we’ll go a third as hard.” No deal. No deal. Son of a bitch. And he was fat and getting skinnier on one hour of exercise a week. Everything else I have to believe was held constant. He’s certainly wasn’t undoing it with food. He was making progress.

Chris: 00:44:05 – And was it food?

Greg: 00:44:09 – I don’t think he changed anything except that hour. I think he was shooting me straight. That’s all you’re going to get, I’m giving you an hour a week, you know? And he’s still alive. I looked him up recently, wondering about that.

Chris: 00:44:21 – Did you call him?

Greg: 00:44:27 – No. You know, I think I left a message. I think I left message in a law office. Yeah, I did call.

Chris: 00:44:36 – So a client wants to come into my gym. They want to come in one time a week. You know, your response to that client is absolutely.

Greg: 00:44:45 – Yeah. Cause I think I’m going to get you into more involvement than that.

Chris: 00:44:51 – But saying no is not going to get you—

Greg: 00:44:53 – No. It’s just a start. Look, I just want them to come in once. I want you to come a second time, I hide that behind my back until we’re done. And I’m not going to mention it during the suffering. I don’t want you to make a rash decision while you’re at max heart rate. And afterwards, after I’ve told you how that was fucking amazing, I mean for the beginner, look what you did, that was some of the best PVC work I’ve seen this week. OK, so I’ll see you Wednesday, and tricky me, I’ll lead with that assumption that you’re coming back. I didn’t even give you a chance to say no. Wednesday, same time, high-five. And I might call Monday night. I’m not gonna call you Tuesday ‘cause it might be your chance to say, “Hey, I got something come up, I’m really sorry.” You know? And so I’ll just call you Monday and tell you how good that was, and that you’re going to be really, really sore, but don’t listen to it.

Chris: 00:45:56 – Is there a nutrition talk in that first—

Greg: 00:45:58 – Always, yeah. It was always there. Always there. Barry Sears was a part of my and early CrossFitters’ lives. I mean, he came around at the gym, you know, we traveled with him. A bunch of us had involvement. I know he and his brother very well. And he’s a friend, Barry’s a friend, and we were working with him prior to him writing the book. And the book did wonderfully well. It’s been a big, big piece of this whole movement.

Chris: 00:46:52 – OK.

Greg: 00:46:54 – You know, and you can like, listen to me and like all right, you’ll accept that. You know, I think maybe we’ve not made a big enough point of it and I’ll just sit right here and accept that. But we are in discussions about dusting off a nutrition cert. I had a problem with some of our nutrition friends, and it was this: What we posted on the website was a workout, not a hyper-theoretical discussion of exercise stimulus and response. There was no Krebs citric acid cycle because that has no fucking relevancy. It’s important to biochemistry but not to exercise science. And so for William Kraemer to make sure that the Krebs cycle is in his book while he squats at a smith machine is insanity. It’s to be not in the field of exercise science. You’re pretending to be doing science while you exercise. That’s not exercise science. What was I talking about? Started hating on that bastard for a second.

Chris: 00:48:13 – Nutrition.

Greg: 00:48:13 – Oh. And so what I didn’t want was theoretical nutrition. And so what’s the equivalent of do this workout? It’s this is a meal plan. And so when we’re talking about this recently, it caused young Leif to say, well then what we want is cooking classes. And I said, yeah, that’s exactly right. You know, we need to show—we’ve done exactly that. You remember we did that in San Diego? Where we cooked, we barbecued Zone meals? Do you remember doing at the Lucas gym? No, it wasn’t there. It was that day. Yes. So we’re gonna revamp, do some experimenting, but I really don’t want to run down the rabbit hole of—here’s what I want to avoid. There used to be a thing that was done by Amway, I believe, and it was this weight-loss pill, and the little bottle had you do an hour of cardio and then take one. And the guy promised it worked. Yeah, it does. What’s working is that you’ve been fooled it was working. But the only thing that’s happening here is the cardio, an hour of cardio. And the pills, just you getting ripped off. Well, you can do that with CrossFit too. I can have you do CrossFit while holding this lucky poster. And when I look at the lucky poster, or have you wear rock tape or do ice baths, or there’s all kinds of shit. And so people are wanting to differentiate themselves by adding their third element to the mix or their unique something or other when they have nothing to offer in that regard. And I listened to someone recently on a podcast that—

Chris: 00:50:26 – If it was me, you can say that it.

Greg: 00:50:30 – It was OPT.

Chris: 00:50:32 – On my podcast?

Greg: 00:50:33 – Uh-huh.

Chris: 00:50:33 – OK. Here we go.

Greg: 00:50:35 – Man, you know? He’s been that for a long time, but I get it, it’s hard to differentiate yourself when the essence of the whole thing has been given to everyone and we all sit in possession of roughly the same skillset. Do I know something magical about training Nicole doesn’t? No. Do I think there’s some magic extra factor? Well, you know why I think not? If chromium or fish oil or ice baths or Rock Tape were important, I would expect to have seen people that did what I wanted and didn’t get results but for lack of Rock Tape. Or something. What’s with the non-responders? And then it might turn out they don’t eat right for their type or—but when I get a non-responder I got a noncompliance, and there’s only a couple of things I have to look for: Compliance—are you here and are you trying? And the rest is food. I got really, really fucking good at seeing what people were eating. And the best way to do it is have them write it down, and no one can, for long, fake write shit down. Rini Van Avery tried. But you get caught. You get caught.

Chris: 00:52:05 – So how much of your time, or how much of a CrossFit coach’s time in a given week is supposed to be spent going through nutrition plans?

Greg: 00:52:13 – If you haven’t convinced me that you’re eating right and moving in the right direction, and I know shortly after starting your meal plan, if I see any kind of a failure to thrive, but more importantly, I see changes in physiology, either moving in the right direction and that next to never happens, or we don’t keep getting leaner and leaner at some point. And once you’re there, I’m not going to talk to Nicole about food so much. Jimmy a little more, me a little more, you know, until I get what I want. Till I get what I want. As a trainer, I’m always out there on the floor looking for anything you do that’s not perfect. Someone asked once, you know, it’s so much better to teach if you point out the positives. And I was like, OK, let me think about that for a minute. You know what I’m saying? Fuck you. Like I’m gonna tell you, it’s not like that. It’s not like that. Perfect technique means you’re not doing anything stupid. You know, it’s all the things I don’t want it. I can’t help it, you know, come to full extension, you’re not. It’s a negative thing. Stop it. You’re pulling with your arms. Quit that, you know, look straight ahead, not up. You teach gymnastics this way. I teach you to do tricks by getting you to pick up some behaviors and then we real quickly get into the “stop this shit.” The thing I asked you to do may not even be capable. You know, I want you to, with your left hand, reach under your right armpit and I want you to touch yourself in the center of your spine, OK? As soon as you pull back on those rings, I want you to look underneath and with that hand I want you to drive these fingers and touch your spine. And I’m like, I’m trying to initiate a spin, right? Cause what you’re doing isn’t getting it there. And then it comes to the point where you go, OK, listen, next time up, here’s where you’re going to do Jason. Something fucking different. OK? Just you get up there. I don’t care what it is, but I want to see something different. You spend so much time like that. So much time like that. Training to people to do things is taking out the non-perfect parts until what you’re left with something around which you have nothing to say, and Nicole knows this from the training certs, where you know, you get out there in the middle and when we were first doing Level 1s, oh my God, did you have to work. There’d be 15 things I’d have to tell you, 20 things I’d have to tell you. And then you roll the clock forward 10 years and man, there are people who get groups here like, OK look, widen your stance slightly I think, no, put it back where it was. I mean, damn, there’s some great movement coming through the door, which is really neat thing to see.

Chris: 00:54:54 – It’s pretty amazing.

Greg: 00:54:55 – It is.

Chris: 00:54:58 – So if a client—or if a coach’s responsibility is to spend as much time on nutrition as it is on exercise, then—

Greg: 00:55:06 – Well look, cause listen, listen, there’s a couple things going on. I’ve got an hour with you and I’ve got the formalities of, you know, did your daughter take the SATs, is your dad still visiting, I know that’s making you nuts. OK, now they know where I’m really at. That’s all just the prelude to let’s get started. I’m going to talk to you about what we’re going to do today. I’m going to let you know kind of what my standards are, what I expect, what I think you could do, one way or two we might go at it and then, and then immediately, you know, how are things? How’s the eating going? I’ve got an hour and I’ve only got a couple of things I can do; I can explain the exercise to you, I’m not going to lecture you on exercise physiology. I never did that ever. And I got the small talk out of the way. The very next action item frankly is the eating, because that’s the part I’m not seeing. And I can ask you in between sets or reps or all during the warm-up, certainly during the cool-down. I brought in handouts more often than not. And they were almost always on nutrition. Almost always. I was a hyper-insulinism warning zealot and it was a big part of what was happening in the box all the time. Why wouldn’t a trainer want to use that tool to leverage every rep of every exercise? It’d be stupid not to.

Chris: 00:56:41 – So how do you do that? You know, a lot of affiliates now are running classes with 20, 25 people. How do you do that in such a big group environment?

Greg: 00:56:51 – That’s a lot of people. I’ve done it and can do it, but it’s hard. They better be of—I don’t mean of similar capacity, they better be all well initiated. I can’t have five of those people there that they’ve been here a couple of weeks now. Or I’m not going to be able to handle it.

Chris: 00:57:23 – On the nutrition side and the exercise side.

Greg: 00:57:28 – Uh-huh. Everyone in my groups had been one-on-one with me.

Chris: 00:57:36 – Right.

Greg: 00:57:38 – Isn’t that true, Nicole?

Chris: 00:57:43 – And how did that progression look from one-on-one into a group?

Greg: 00:57:46 – I was doing group classes for my Jujitsu friends. OK. Cause I had just come in and you know, I had limited time and they got 30 students. So I’d set up stations and we’d do stuff. In my one-on-one training, I’m working, you know, 50 hours a week. That’s 50 hours and 50 clients. I always tried to keep Sunday free and rather than losing a client, some would go into Sundays and the quality of my life turned to shit. And I was coming off a period where I had gotten back where my Sundays were free and then I had some high-profile clients that I was very interested in. And so I started to double up, and it was a take a deep breath. We’re going to try and talk this person into this. But I remember saying that, hey, you’re paying me 75, you know, I can make it 50 and I think you’re gonna like her and let’s just start please. I need it. And if you don’t like it, we’ll go back. And they took me up on it. And so now I’m making $100 an hour to 75 and I found at once I could do as good a job, and I could do that three, four, especially if I expand on that kernel. But I can give 10 people all the one-on-one instruction they would care for in the space of an hour. And it very quickly gets to those that you don’t say much to, it’s because they’re not doing as much wrong. And so there was no one that would come out of the class and go, “I wish he’d said more to me.”

Chris: 00:59:45 – That’s huge.

Greg: 00:59:48 – Because you know, if we’re in a group and I’m all of a sudden now here with you. OK, come on. I think it was that way in PE. You hear the whistle and your name yelled, you know it was like, oh fuck. I don’t think I was—I made it fun though, right? Did we have fun? I talk like I wasn’t fun, but you know—there was a lot of laughter and maybe that’s what I’m calling fun is the fact that we were laughing. Often when there’s laughter, not everyone’s having the same fun.

Chris: 01:00:40 – Is that one of the hallmarks of a great affiliate then, is you walk in the door and you hear laughter?

Greg: 01:00:44 – Oh yeah. I use levity—or the lack thereof, is my favorite preclinical harbinger of overtraining. So when I come in in the morning and “Hi!” and everyone’s like—or two people don’t even bother to turn around and say hi that normally would. What did we do last? Here’s what I want to do today. I just want to stretch. And someone turns around and like, because I’ve seen them cry, right? Like, oh. You could’ve said something. When the enthusiasm for the effort diminishes, the intensity’s likely exceeded the psychological tolerance of your crew. So Jason Highbarger used to watch classes for us when we would travel together. And pretty soon nobody wanted Jason ‘cause he’d thin your class for you. And one of his columns was whether you puked or not. I finally found on the board what would happen is he’d erase it but it ghosted. And so I was like, dude, look at this. This is what you did with my fucking people? And I actually thought he was trying to reduce the numbers to make it easy for himself. But I was gone for two weeks of a three-day-a-week class and it went from like 21 to 15, 12 like one of my workouts, you know? It was going to be 9-6-3 and done. And he had this fucking column up that said whether they puked or not. So he’s brought that value into the system and he’s going—we have a puking cloud as a mascot cause someone told me you could never have a successful business with that mascot. I mean that was a big part of it; made me laugh. And that’s not gonna make or break a business. That’s ridiculous.

Chris: 01:02:42 – So you know, CrossFit, to circle back to the beginning here, presents this unique entrepreneurial opportunity. It’s created 14,000, you know, 20,000 new entrepreneurs, 14,000 small businesses, whatever. What is our responsibility back to HQ?

Greg: 01:03:01 – I don’t know that there is one. I shouldn’t speak to that. I would probably let my affiliates answer that and they’d probably be moved to tears at what they perceive to be their responsibility. But look, I’ve got an organization of the willing, I’ve built an affiliation, an alliance that it would be important for me to be a part of and I would make damn sure that I’d taken $3,000 of my money and I probably converted that into how many clients that would be. And I asked myself would they pay it? And the answers I fucking would and I’d be proud to. Someone asked me recently about the value of affiliation. I said, if it’s in doubt, you’re the wrong affiliate. If each year you’re like, “I don’t know, I mean, what do I get for this?” Please. There’s no hard feelings, but it isn’t right for you if you wonder. Contrast that with—let’s talk about a couple of SEALs. Let’s talk about Mark Twight who was—in everything he did, it was the antithesis of CrossFit. Now, everything he does is—unless it’s changed again and he’s found someone else to poach from—it became CrossFit and he claims no loyalty. At his cert was another SEAL named Duffy Gaver and Duffy had been training celebrities certainly in a more CrossFit manner than anything Mark Twight had done. And it was very, very successful, probably the most successful celebrity trainer ever. And I know there are some that promote themselves as celebrity trainers but they don’t want to have a list like his list of clients and he won’t talk about it, which is amazing, but we all know who he has trained and it’s everybody. Duffy Gaver went and took the seminar, thanked us for the material and then went out on his own. Seven or eight years later, he affiliated and his essay was that he’s been using this method for a long time and he doesn’t fly the flag and his customers keep asking, isn’t this CrossFit? And every time they asked, he says he feels like a thieving douchebag. And so he says, I guess I gotta pay some money so I don’t have to feel like a thief, you know? And I was like, there’s a translation of that that makes me proud to stand alongside. What he’s telling me is that the methods are something that he’s profoundly committed to and that he doesn’t feel right standing apart from the people that brought that to him, that alliances mean something to him. Now it would be nice for someone to maybe feel a little better about that, but I get it. It works for me. And I would be like that too. I’m not going to scrape anyone’s name off of anything and pretend like it came from me. I don’t understand that. You know, when the Marines do CrossFit and call it something else and then say they can’t endorse a brand, their boots have a brand on it. Their weapons have a brand name on it. Their sunglasses have a brand name on it. Their helmet carries a brand name, but they gotta scrape the CrossFit name off of something and put something else on. You know—we might want to be careful with that. We actually have a very good relationship with the Marine Corps, but there’s been a faction of the Corps that was wanting to scrape the name off and call it something else due to a corrupt civilian influence.

Chris: 01:07:01 – That happened in Canada, right?

Greg: 01:07:03 – It happened in—discussion’s been had everywhere. You know, my problem is that to have adopted this methodology so completely for it to be so crazy different than what you were doing and to not feel compelled to tell whose material it is, lacks integrity.

Chris: 01:07:42 – Well, there’s a lot of that out there, right? Tens of thousands.

Greg: 01:07:44 – Of course. A bunch of things are odd to me. If I tell a joke, I’d like to tell who told it to me. I love attribution. Whenever I can do that, I will. If you and I were to open up a taco place, well one of the things we might do is call it Jason and Greg’s Tacos. But the very first thing I’m gonna do is fucking check Google. And if there’s Jason and Greg’s Taco anywhere in the world, we need another name. I can’t imagine wanting to use someone else’s name. Do you remember the guy that—the name even had this wonderful touch of irony. ForgeFit. It was a—I’m not gonna mention his name again, but I’m gonna write it down because I don’t want to return hell on this kid, ‘cause he actually told me that it would destroy his life, but this is the guy’s name. Well this guy puts up a website, ForgeFit, CrossFit Forge. ForgeFit. And he’s got pictures of Annie Sakamoto and even my dog. The guy doesn’t even get his own fucking dog. And what was he? An illegal affiliate was the deal. And told us basically to fuck off. And this is prior to having—Dell is our only lawyer was our only lawyer and maybe we hadn’t even met him, I don’t know what the deal was, but yeah, it was very early. And so we just put up on Google, showed the world, look at this guy, used his name and go, look what’s happened. Look what he’s doing. Well it took 15 or 20 minutes and when you put his name into Google, that came up first and after a while the thing was, he’s like, I can’t even get a job. And I felt bad for him, but I didn’t know what to do now. Like I wish you hadn’t stolen from us and then told us to fuck off when we talked to you about it. We’ve never—we’re really a bunch of really nice people. The whole crew. There’s no one mean-spirited on my staff. Not a one. Not even Dave.

Chris: 01:10:39 – No, that’s the misperception, though. So why isn’t the affiliate fee 10,000 by now?

Greg: 01:10:42 – I wasn’t looking for it to be a—it’s my least-rents model. I mean that’s the easy answer. I wanted as many people as possible to have this opportunity, and that isn’t consistent with how much can I get for it.

Chris: 01:11:08 – OK. So what’s the definition of a thriving box? I’m not going to take too much more of your time here.

Greg: 01:11:21 – Doing good, Bubba. Nicole helped me with this. Not saying you gotta come back, but she did. We were going to, with some quants SAIC we were going to quantify the work of our affiliates. And we were going to be able to identify best practices. There was a lot we could do and these guys were technologically very, very savvy. But what we couldn’t do was produce an algorithm that didn’t just on a cursory inspection create some decision-making, some ranking that we just weren’t willing to accept. And let me give you—I can speak very specifically here. It’s hard to—what about a box that is just looking for sick people? And the most reluctant to train and follow your advice, compared to a gym of a bunch of younger people. How do you compare to training a hundred people with good results, even impressive results, to training five that were in a horrible fix and now aren’t? You know, I just don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to rank it. So is your gym unsuccessful if there’s no sick people in it and there’s hundreds of people there and everyone’s happy and smiling? Sure, sure. How about if you only work with children? Yeah. Women only? Only the sick. A mixed bag. I always ask, are you growing? Because I like growth. I like growth. Not a lot, but some. Couple of new people every month. That’s more than enough. More than enough. I want to know if people are having fun, that’s really important. You’re not going to be successful without it.

Chris: 01:14:07 – Any other metrics or keys that you could point at that a successful affiliate would have in common with other successful affiliates?

Greg: 01:14:16 – Well, yeah, I mean, the successful affiliates earn more than they spend. And you, know, that’s important. I always did, but you know, I mean, the way to do that is to not spend more than you earn and keep working hard. There’s not a lot of mystery to that.

Chris: 01:14:41 – It’s algebra.

Greg: 01:14:43 – I’ve never done any kind of marketing or advertising or promotion or deal-making, nothing. You don’t get a discount with more sessions. Nothing happens good to you by paying up front. Cause I don’t want you to pay up front. I found the business of this to be exceedingly easy, but I also left it largely to Lauren. And with the simplest of tools and Excel spreadsheet, she did a marvelous job, a marvelous job. How many clients are you going to have? A couple of hundred? That could be done with a Number 2 pencil on a brown paper bag every evening. And you could use your iPhone for a digital backup in case the bag catches on fire. You know, is that ideal? Probably not. But will that make or break you? I don’t think so, but I think your attitude could. I like to ask people that come up to me all sunny face and happy affiliates. The younger, the more fun it is to ask how’s business? And they’re generally astonished at the question. What do you mean? I go, I know you’re cute. I’d work out with you. I’m just asking cause I think you’re a neat person. You can be incompetent and fun and do very well in this business. I’ve met those. And you can be competent and an asshole and struggle—I’ve seen that—and fail. If you’re an asshole and incompetent, you’ll never get off the ground. You won’t even get a training job in a gym. But, to be competent and to be pleasant, to be a source of inspiration, not just for this next rep, but in general, those people thrive. Those people thrive. And I like to tell the story about, you know, being it—I’m at Sonia Con’s, 50th birthday party and, you know, the lawyers aren’t there, the accountants aren’t there. Just a few of the sailing team is there. All the people they work with, they’re not there, but I am, I’m there. I went everywhere. I was part of that family. And then Nicole had that job and you were a family member. Travel with them, you know, like no one else. And at the end of the night, when all the professional people went home, you’d stay there for dinner if you want. There’s an intimacy in the client relationship that is unusual.

Chris: 01:17:58 – That’s the mark of a successful affiliate. Is that strong relationship?

Greg: 01:18:06 – You know, or is that just one of the perks of the job? I don’t know. Are you close to your clients?

Chris: 01:18:16 – Yeah, absolutely.

Greg: 01:18:18 – Do you socialize with them?

Chris: 01:18:18 – Yeah.

Greg: 01:18:18 – Are they your friends? Right, that’s who I play with. And I understand, you know, we marry those people and we fall in love with those people. That’s who you know.

Chris: 01:18:36 – Now, I’ve kind of been hoarding this episode for a couple of weeks. I’ve listened to it five times already and taken notes every time. I thought about editing it to highlight key points, but I wanted you to hear it in a free-flow state. There are a few things though that I really want you to take away from this episode. First that we’re not selling an exercise program. We’re selling a fitness program. That means nutrition needs to be a huge part, maybe 50% of your curriculum. We spent a lot of time on that because it’s so important. Second is that although it’s included in your curriculum, it’s not included in the price. Greg talked during this interview about how he would charge people for nutrition consultation, how he would encourage people to get on the nutrition bandwagon and the different types of plans that he would have for people.

Chris: 01:19:20 – That’s worth listening to again. Second, Greg referred to kind of an onboarding or like an incubation stage where a client spends time one-on-one before they get into a group class, and different people who were part of those days, you know, pre-2001 when they were training with Greg, have told me stories about going from one-on-one into being paired up with a partner into a group of three, maybe four. They weren’t brought into a CrossFit gym or you know what Greg was calling it back then, and just thrown into a group of 10 or 12. They weren’t even on-boarded with that intent. They were on-boarded as a one-on-one client and gradually introduced to a partner or a triple. I think that’s worth covering more than once. Third, what’s really important here is the way that Greg talks about people who have criticized him in the past.

Chris: 01:20:10 – There are people, and I’ve been witness to this, who have loudly criticized Greg’s methods, who have done everything they could to like discredit him. I brought up Mel Siff, but also, you know, William Kramer’s in that category. The Exercise is Medicine crew. The way that Greg talks about these people is that he doesn’t hold anything back, but he also doesn’t criticize them as people. He criticizes their methods. And he questions their methods because he’s doing so for the greater good. He’s trying to help everybody else in the world actually see results instead of just following along this path that doesn’t work. Greg is a genius in a lot of different ways, but his biggest genius is the ability to surround himself and rally support from very powerful people. Nicole Carroll, Jimi Letchford, both sitting at the table with me. The people who are closest to Greg had been there since the early days.

Chris: 01:21:03 – They came up with Greg, they were exercising at his gym and now they’re massive leaders in the fitness industry. This is not a mistake. This is not just luck. Greg is extremely adept at surrounding himself with the best possible people at the top, and that is what makes CrossFit go. Last week, I exposed you to the leaders of the media team except for Sevan, because I want you to know that CrossFit HQ is built by powerful people trying to do their best to change the world and create a meaningful career for you, the affiliate. I hope you enjoyed the episode. I hope you listen to it three or four times. I hope you share it with your friends, and I hope it helps you get a clearer understanding of what it means to be a successful CrossFit affiliate. Have a great week.


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