By Callie Oettinger | Published: February 18, 2011
I visited a CrossFit “box” last week.
CrossFit came on our radar two years ago, when it referred thousands of CrossFitters to Steve’s site, via one small mention on the CrossFit site. Between that first link and last week’s visit to one of their “boxes,” I realized how much I’d forgotten—and then had to refocus upon—the fundamentals.
Here’s how things went down:
I checked out CrossFit’s site.
Bruised ego trying to do “pistols” exercise listed on CrossFit site.
Gave up on CrossFit exercises.
Tried to find human at CrossFit Washington, D.C., corporate office. Left voice messages. Sent e-mails. Didn’t hear back.
Told everyone who’d listen about proactive CrossFit. Lots of talk. No action.
Wrote article for Steve’s site, about power of reaching out to certain people and groups. Linked to CrossFit.
CrossFit linked back. Tons of people visited Steve’s site, including Camp Pendleton CrossFitter P.J., who left a comment:
“We focus on constantly varied function movement to produce the best overall general fitness possible; why shouldn’t a pursuit for constantly varied, functional marketing work just as well?”
Agreed with P.J.
Went back to CrossFit’s site. Skipped exercises. Pulled up corporate contact info.
Same drill. Called corporate office. Sent e-mails. No reply. Frustrated. Stopped trying.
Ran into Kamran Popkin on Twitter. E-stalked Kamran and found article about him, written by Olivier Blanchard. Read Kamran’s Fight Club-inspired rules for Swag Club. Thought about CrossFit. Replaced Swag Club with CrossFit. Kamran’s Swag Club rules with Crossfit spin:
1. You don’t talk about CrossFit.
2. You don’t talk about CrossFit. (Unless you need great CrossFit.)
3. The search for great CrossFit is over only when you say “Wow – that nails it!”
4. Only two guys to a fight. Unless we need help, then we bring in the big guns. We know a guy.
5. One CrossFit project at a time.
6. We work with no ties or socks. Even on Sundays, always workin’ but never stressin’ the work.
7. The quest for great CrossFit goes on as long as it needs to.
8. First projects are often the start of a great relationship. Or the end of a bad one.
9. Great advice @CrossFit is always free.
Went to rule #3. Searched for CrossFit.
Found this on CrossFit’s site:
“In this 2005 open letter to CrossFit trainers, Coach Greg Glassman discusses the importance of virtuosity, defined in gymnastics as “performing the common uncommonly well.
“Unlike risk and originality, virtuosity is elusive, supremely elusive. It is, however, readily recognized by audience as well as coach and athlete. There is a compelling tendency among novices developing any skill or art, whether learning to play the violin, write poetry, or compete in gymnastics, to quickly move past the fundamentals and on to more elaborate, more sophisticated movements, skills, or techniques.
“What will inevitably doom a physical training program and dilute a coach’s efficacy is a lack of commitment to fundamentals. . . .
“It is natural to want to teach people advanced and fancy movements. The urge to quickly move away from the basics and toward advanced movements arises out of the natural desire to entertain your client and impress him with your skills and knowledge. But make no mistake: it is a sucker’s move. Teaching a snatch where there is not yet an overhead squat, teaching an overhead squat where there is not yet an air squat, is a colossal mistake. This rush to advancement increases the chance of injury, delays advancement and progress, and blunts the client’s rate of return on his efforts. In short, it retards his fitness. . . .”
Clueless about squats and snatches, but know about jumping from basics to fancy stuff.
Had forgotten about fundamentals in search for CrossFit. Went to big phone number and e-mail addy on site instead of going to local CrossFitters—had forgotten about building relationships and looked for quick help instead.
Contacted CrossFit near home. Human answered the phone.
Rambled about Steve and CrossFit and asked if I could visit.
Co-owner said sure, come on by.
Trekked over at 9 am. Drove in circles trying to find it, tucked away in a corner, back between storage/warehouse type buildings. Had to squint to read size-of-a-business-card door sign.
Didn’t look friendly. Doubted choice to visit.
Walked in. Loved it.
I was met by two firefighters who were working out.
They were friendly and happy to share information about CrossFit.
When I asked the co-owner how he shares info. about CrossFit, he said they don’t do any advertising. No outreach to the masses.
“I’m not an elitist,” he said. And then he pointed to his friend, who was still working out, and said that if his friend brought someone in, he knew the person would be the same quality and have the same interest as his friend. If he marketed to the masses, he’d get people who weren’t committed. It was better to encourage word-of-mouth sharing through certain people and groups, than to market to the world and deal with people who visit for a promotion and then take off. He wanted to work with people who wanted to be there.
He verbalized the strategy for Steve’s outreach.
There’s a lot of change in publishing right now, with everyone trying to outreach, out-promote, monetize. All sorts of crazy circus moves are on parade—click here, post there, walk ten miles on your hands, do two spins on your head, and then you’ll be entered to win a prize. These promos ask readers to do a bunch of stuff, and then they’ll get—or be entered to win—a prize. There’s no relationship building. It’s all costume and makeup fakery. There’s a big production just to get people to do things. No caring. All about getting.
Here’s what we’re doing:
We’re going to share information about Steve and his work—kind of the way the CrossFit co-owner sat with me for 30 minutes (see Swag Club/CrossFit Rule #9).
We’re going to be honest and tell readers that we need help. We hope they’ll share and buy the books. We don’t have any prizes to offer in return, but we will:
1) Respect Steve’s readers. We’ll share with you and hope you’ll share with us in return. The entire team is interested in learning about different readers and getting to know them. *It’s hard to contact everyone, but we’re trying to reach out one-by-one.
2) Provide stories, articles, series, books, whatever it is, that are of interest, and listen to and respect the feedback offered in return.
3) Say thank you—and show our thanks—over and over and over again.
Those are our fundamentals. Sometimes we’re great at them and sometimes we crash and burn.
Above all, we’re looking for virtuosity—”performing the common uncommonly well.” There’s nothing sexy about calling and e-mailing and getting to know people. It isn’t flashy or high-tech. It’s basic stuff. It takes time. It’s also the coolest and most important thing we do. Nothing beats getting to know readers. It’s fun to meet new people and wonderful to have the opportunity to say thank you. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! And while we take care of the fundamentals, we’ll try new things, as P.J. commented. We’ll look for new ways to connect and share, to respect and to say thank you.
And, yeah, it would still be cool to talk to CrossFit’s Coach Greg—and the person posting the WOD links. Why? We want to give them a proper thank you and ask if there’s a way we can work together.
The CrossFitter I visited asked if I can still do cartwheels. I can. If it takes a few cartwheels and maybe even a backbend to show that I’m serious about doing what it takes to connect with CrossFit myself, I will. Just need a little help hooking up with Coach Greg and more of the CrossFit team.
(One more thank you: to Kamran Popkin. Thank you, Kamran, for inspiring this post and for writing this post, for your unconventional approach, for your kindness and for your humor.)
UPDATE 2/22/11: Jeff Tincher is the co-owner of CrossFit Fairfax, in Northern Virginia. He was beyond generous with his time, when I dropped by in the middle of his work out. He didn’t have to spend time sharing his passion for, and the history of, CrossFit with me, but he did—and I owe him a huge thank you for doing so! I wanted his permission before I ran his name and “box” in the post, hence the late addition. We didn’t reconnect until after the post ran. (I e-mailed him to ask permission and should have picked up the phone.)