Ten years ago, I was standing in a transition zone for a local triathlon when I had my first exposure to CrossFit.
Although I was a powerlifter by then, I still loved cycling, and had remained friends with a lot of local endurance athletes. The job was easy, and most of my day was spent talking to people.
One kid - a soon-to-be soldier - had been peppering me with questions about training for almost a year. He'd been interested in sport science throughout high school, and would frequently stop by the shop where I spent my daytime hours selling treadmills to talk about periodization, squatting, and high-rep workouts. He was just a kid, and so when he asked if I'd tried CrossFit, I didn't take him seriously. I feigned interest - it sounded too military to appeal to any non-Joe - and passed it off as an early-internet fad.
I should have appreciated that the appeal of CrossFit, to this kid, was the military component; that's what got him stirred up, and so those were the points he emphasized. Rope climbs and weighted runs didn't have much appeal to me then. Had I looked, I would have seen deadlifts and back squats, because those were the points I'D find most relevant. My loss.
In 2005, this kid had the purple cow: he was doing CrossFit.
By 2008, he wasn't alone. There were thousands of people worldwide doing CrossFit. Most of the 'gurus' had heard of CrossFit, at least - Dan John and Mark Twight were talking about it, and making names for themselves at the same time, '300' was apparently the result of CrossFit and not retouching....but there were few affiliates.
We signed up as part of the 'second wave' - if our annual Affiliate Fee is any indication - and, for a time, were the only CrossFit Affilate around. We had the purple cow, now.
Imagine the scale of change in those three years: from answering the question, "What IS CrossFit?" to our clients and to ourselves; talking about the program; defending it, primarily, against the 'fad' label. These days, we're lazily linking professionally-shot videos, talking about top athletes as if they were NBA superstars, talking about 'the season' and 'the Open' as if we'd been doing it all our lives. Reebok's driving trucks around, flying helicopters, making shoes. Three thousand OTHER Affiliates means that our purple cow now has a lot of friends....
What's next? Consider that, with the further saturation of the market, potential new clients aren't just going to 'try CrossFit.' They're going to look for the CrossFit:
- that's most convenient
- that's cleanest
- with the best coaches
- that's most complementary for "their" sport
- that's most competitive
- that's least competitive
- that has the most women
- that has the most men
- with the hardest programming
- with the easiest programming
- where their friends already go.
Which one are you?
CrossFit HQ gave birth to the first purple cow: the program, for free, on an internet blog. They handed you a clear process to achieve the second purple cow: "Here's how to own a CrossFit gym. Here's how to coach the way we do." The next purple cow is up to you.
Be prepared to find a way to be different in a field full of the same cow.