WE ARE PHASE ONE: An open letter to decision-makers from a CrossFit affiliate

I understand that choosing anything other than phase one for my CrossFit gym is based on the misperception that what we do is similar to big-box (or globo) gyms. It’s not your responsibility to know the difference but it is mine to inform you, because of the impact it may have on the community you govern.
By Monica Hilton
May 3, 2020
WE ARE PHASE ONE: An open letter to decision-makers from a CrossFit affiliate

Dear Decision Maker,

I own a CrossFit gym. Before you delete this letter and move onto the next plea, note that your decisions are currently responsible for the health and well-being of my members, their family members, the people they’re in contact with and therefore ultimately, this country. This is not something I take lightly and I ask that you don’t either.

Under the President’s plan for reopening America, gyms were included in the first phase, which was logical based on the inherent nature of our business: Making people healthy.

I understand that choosing anything other than phase one for my CrossFit gym is based on the misperception that what we do is similar to big-box (or globo) gyms. It’s not your responsibility to know the difference but it is mine to inform you, because of the impact it may have on the community you govern.

First, let me tell you about CrossFit and why what you’ve heard may not be entirely accurate.

The basics (from the CrossFit.com website): “CrossFit is a lifestyle characterized by safe, effective exercise and sound nutrition. CrossFit can be used to accomplish any goal, from improved health to weight loss to better performance. The program works for everyone – people who are just starting out and people who have trained for years.”

If you’ll allow me to interpret, that sounds like the type of people you’re aiming to have in your community: healthy people (with stronger immune systems) who take care of themselves, along with taking care of others, but we’ll get to that later.

CrossFit gyms (called “affiliates”) are not franchises. We’re not given a blueprint for how to run our business. From operations to marketing, we figure it out on our own. The people running CrossFit gyms are small business owners in the truest sense, making ends meet out of a passion for making people healthier.

The workouts we do within our CrossFit gyms are carefully planned out and designed with our members’ improved strength, endurance and flexibility in mind. When people walk through our doors, they don’t wander aimlessly to various pieces of equipment like a treadmill or circuit-training machine, trying to figure out what to do that day. They work with a qualified and experienced coach in a class setting that is capped in capacity in order to give each member the attention they need to achieve results.

To further emphasize this point, our business model is primarily built around the group classes that we offer, which means we are in control of how many people are coming into the building at any given time, at what time frames they’ll be arriving/leaving, and what they’ll be doing while they’re there. During this unprecedented time we live in, of seeking control in the interest of safety, this is a key talking point. 

All of these things, in comparison to a big-box gym, are vastly different. There, you could potentially find hundreds of people in the space (versus our cap of 20 people) moving back-and-forth to whatever equipment is on their individual workout plan for the day (versus our coach-lead direction, which allows us to know specifically what equipment is used and make sure it’s cleaned after class).

One other significant point is the additional amenities at a big-box gym. Very rarely at a CrossFit gym will you find tanning beds, locker rooms, pools, steam rooms, saunas, etc. Most don’t even offer childcare or showers. We’re very creative and streamlined with the use of our square footage and most of it is designed for class space because, as I mentioned above, fitness is our main focus.

Moving to my second point, if you were to inquire at any big-box gym about connection, you’d likely find that it’s an inviting marketing tactic to boast about the community. While it’s true that any group can be a community, what you’ll find at my CrossFit gym, and at most around the world, is the closest thing to being a family without actually being related. 

Why is that relevant?

We take responsibility for one another, in and out of the gym. 

Inside the gym’s walls, we look out for each other. Sometimes that means helping a new person navigate their way through their first class. Sometimes that means the entire class cheering for the last person to finish the workout. And every time, it means people keeping the space clean and safe for others. 

Now more than ever, cleanliness and safety is paramount. In addition to the small business owner I hire to clean our gym on a consistent schedule, our coaching team shares a cleaning schedule and our members take responsibility for the equipment they use in class. Each and every person in this gym family plays a part in our combined safety. 

I’ve been a member at several big-box gyms, which allows me to be confident in saying that a majority of members there do not take the time to wipe down all of the equipment they used that day. Whether for a lack of caring or the time it would take to wipe it all down, it’s simply not part of the culture. Often there are other members anxious to use a machine they just finished with, or the sheer number of stations they used is just too numerous. The bottom line is, it may be recommended or encouraged by the gym, but that doesn’t mean it gets done. 

Outside of the CrossFit gym walls, my gym family has spent the last six weeks connecting with one another via Zoom calls, working out together virtually, encouraging each other with cards, gifts and supportive messages. As you’ve probably experienced, quarantine is a mental challenge as well as a physical one, and these people are here for the other members of their gym family.

I call it being a good human being, and I suspect you’d like as many of them as possible in your community. 

From the outside, we are “just another gym.” You may look at us as those crazies who like to lift stuff up and put it down, or talk way too much about our workouts on social media. It’s annoying, we know, but it’s also how we connect with other people who share our interest in being healthier every day. 

However, the truth is we are nothing like those other gyms. I recently heard another affiliate owner refer to CrossFit gyms as “healthcare facilities” and while I initially thought it was superfluous, I realized that in the true definition, he’s right: We are a facility that provides care for people’s health. From fitness to nutrition and the well-being in between, we are here to make people healthier.

I wholeheartedly respect the decisions you’ve made to keep our communities safe, and I don’t envy the position you’re in when we, as citizens, have differing views of how this worldwide pandemic should be handled daily. With that in mind, our health is the greatest asset we have in our ability to help ourselves and others.

I ask that you consider this request to let CrossFit gyms reopen our doors immediately. Some of our members may decide to continue sheltering-in-home for their workouts and others will start to attend classes with us in a safe, sanitized and socially-distanced environment, with limited class sizes and above all, their safety as the priority.

On behalf of the CrossFit community, known for being tight-knit, generous and willing to go the extra mile, thank you for your time and consideration toward our quest to make the community you serve as strong and healthy as possible. 


Monica Hilton

Together We Rise CrossFit

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