Where I Want CrossFit to Go

Keith Knapp
Apr 13, 2018 · 6 min read

We need to start with the fact that it’s no secret that I’m a fan of CrossFit. In fact, it’s no secret that any fan of CrossFit is a fan. It’s part of the culture of Fitness that when you get it, you share it. And, when community is at the core of the methodology, as it is with CrossFit, it amplifies that culture.

A quick online image search for “crossfit community” returns millions of results.

Despite being an avid fan, and despite having done some sort of WOD (workout of the day) at least once a week for a decade, I’ve never “belonged” to a CrossFit box. I’ve never truly been part of the community. I subscribe to the CrossFit Journal, I listen to every podcast, I follow CrossFit Health, I watch the CrossFit Games, I’ve read the CrossFit Level 1 Certificate Course Participant Handbook cover to cover 10 times (I’ll take the L1 someday), but I still feel like there isn’t an “arms wide open” stance that could activate and enroll millions more into the rapidly growing global CrossFit community.

I also feel like the brilliant affiliate-led business model that has resulted in more than 14,000 CrossFit Boxes being opened across the world, comes with a potential limit of delaying the dissemination of specific “corporate” or “HQ” messages that are part and parcel to the growth of CrossFit as more than a program designed to “Forge Elite Fitness.” Just this week, The CrossFit Podcast hosted Daniel Chaffey — a liaison to the burgeoning European CrossFit community — who said exactly this.

As noted, I listen to the CrossFit Podcast. Recently, @brookslaich was a guest on one of the best podcasts to date and brought some comments out nearly 3 hours into the conversation that I’ve really been pushing for. Specifically, he turned the conversation around CrossFit toward data. DATA in the fitness world is going to be a big deal, and it will change the way the entire healthcare, insurance, and medical system operates, in my opinion.

For some background, let’s step back a year or so to when CrossFit started talking more publicly about Health vs. Forging Elite Fitness. In the late summer of 2016, CrossFit Founder Greg Glassman, gave some lectures that resulted in the position that “We Have the Answer” to Chronic Disease, that CrossFit’s methodology is a cure. In those lectures, Coach Glassman asserts that doing CrossFit will help you improve health markers across the board and references the below “Sickness to Wellness to Fitness Continuum.”

I have absolutely every reason to agree with Coach. I’ve seen it play out in my own life. But, those who need CrossFit most, those already sick or trending toward sickness, haven’t seen anything play out like this in their life. They’ve likely tried every diet and “As Seen On TV” solution under the sun to change their life, but nothing has worked. Their questions, the voices in their head that keep them from taking the first step are saying; “Why should I believe CrossFit works? Why is this for me? Why is is different? What proof is there?”

What’s worse, is when these people visit with their doctor, they are recommended to stay away from CrossFit. Much of this is because of now proven fraudulent data that was published by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research several years ago. I have had the privilege of talking directly to executives who lead community health initiatives for major hospital networks about food and fitness as a way to cure, and I’ve literally heard from their mouths, “We don’t believe in CrossFit.” Their lack of knowledge about the benefits of the CrossFit methodology, when their job is to cure people, isn’t just surprising, it’s negligent.

They believe, instead, in prescribing drugs, FDA Guidelines, and American [insert disease, condition or organ here] Association recommendations. The corporate healthcare conglomerate, and the doctors trained and employed thereunder, are driven primarily by an avoidance of risk that is carefully managed by never stepping outside of the standard of care. Sadly, that standard of care is oft created by whatever data the leading pharmaceutical companies have used in creating their legislative and policy proposals. So, instead of being prescribed a diet of meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar, paired with constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity across broad time and modal domains (CrossFit) a person suffering from any given chronic disease who goes to a Dr. will more likely be prescribed with a drug designed to reduce some of the symptoms associated with their disease, which inadvertently causes more disease requiring more drugs.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This is absolutely not about demonizing doctors. I have friends and family who are doctors, and we NEED doctors. But, the process by which they are trained, both in medical school and via continuing education, needs to be improved.

So far I’ve said; 1) CrossFit is Great, 1a) the affiliate model is brilliant, but has a gap 2) The Medical Establishment needs to be forced to change. Next, I’ll push a little on the title subject: Where I Want CrossFit to Go.

CrossFit needs to take their message — the fact that they do have a cure — a step further behind the CrossFit Health campaign, following the lead of innovators like @samiinkinen and the amazing folks at Virta Health, to completely change the conversation about standard of care in the medical community. Virta Health is interesting because they’re collecting and publishing the data about their program in the same way, driven by the same rigor, that a clinical trial for a drug would. And, guess what? They’re proving that their diet only protocol is better than drugs.

From Virta Health’s ongoing Clinical trial of their application of a ketogenic diet and lifestyle coaching as a way to reverse Type 2 diabetes.

CrossFit needs to start collecting the data from their affiliate’s members that @brookslaich was talking about during his appearance on the podcast. Get the full blood work, do the microbiome testing, do the cortisol, cholesterol, and insulin sensitivity analysis, etc. Brooks was talking about how he was going to visit a private lab and spend thousands of dollars to do this analysis, but there are hundreds of small players in the personal health diagnostics space that could easily serve as partners for CrossFit in this endeavor. Companies like EverlyWell, which made an appearance on Shark Tank. Companies like InsideTracker, which already does work with some affiliates. Companies like Viome, uBiome, 23andMe, vDNA, Habit, and more. Given CrossFit’s recent partnership announcement with Strauss Brands’ Free Raised Direct, the precedent is set for corporate agreements that can enable people to more fully live and support the CrossFit lifestyle. If nothing else create the functionality to enable people to log and track those numbers themselves on CrossFit.com. I’m very confident that there are hundreds of thousands of CrossFitters that already track much of this data.

Finally, a massive improvement to the community platform on CrossFit.com, including improved profiles, better communications capabilities and more robust content distribution, to enable people to more easily digest the incredible wealth of knowledge in the CrossFit Journal — as it relates to their interests — and beyond, is needed. Peloton, EchelonFit and Nordic Track are doing some of this in a big way. Driving growth behind the “community” without the need for a box. There are at least tens of thousands of Garage CrossFitters across the globe (I ended up being the 1007th fittest among Garage CrossFitters in the world in The 2018 CrossFit Games Open), and enrolling them in a more powerful way through improved online community will extend organic word of mouth reach exponentially, which will create further uniquely attractive opportunities for affiliates globally.

Author, Keith Knapp, in his first ever year participating in The CrossFit Games Open, finishes 1007th out of more than 10,000 Male Garage CrossFit athletes.

When CrossFit becomes the data company it can, the roof will be fully blown off of the global corporate healthcare conglomerate. People will have the full proof they need and their doctors will be shoveling it to them. @CrossFit and @CrossFitHealth will become the standard of care.

Keith Knapp

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Father, husband, brother, son w/ passion for building brands, networks & things. Founder @OhioReclaimed & @kerfbykerf. @CrossFit, startups, branding, nutrition.