Why The CrossFit Industry Succeeds

History: Internal vs. External Motivation

Since the beginning of time, man has relied on intensity and movement in the survival of the fittest. Our ancestors moved with urgency out of pure necessity: to eat, to avoid danger, to migrate. But these motivators don’t exist for modern man, so how do we justify  intense movement and optimal physical performance? For nearly every human being there are both internal and external motivators pushing us to do better.

For those who are intrinsically motivated, the drive to better oneself is often born out of education. They seek new ways to eat for optimal performance and explore different worlds of movement out of sheer curiosity, a curiosity born of choice, not necessity. Rooted in integrity, self-discipline, and ongoing exploration, internal motivators stand the test of time.

On the other side of the fence are the external motivators. They come in many familiar forms: friends, spouses, coaches, societal pressures, social media, bikini season, etc. These motivators have the potential to be highly effective in the short term, but far less stable in the long run.



The Issue

All the external motivators in the world cannot be successful without internal drive. The big box gyms count on this, in fact, their business models depend on it. Gold’s Gym survives on the money made from members who sign up, but never show up. According to Statistic Brain, 67% of people with a gym membership never use it.

Big box gyms sells memberships on the marketing ploy that getting fit is as easy as jamming out on the elliptical for 20 minutes while watching Sports Center. And for the internally motivated, that may work, but for everyone else, $19 a month is a small price to pay for the ego-boost that comes with owning a health club membership - even if you never set foot inside the building.


The Solution

The reason the high-intensity industry has been so successful is precisely because it meets at the intersection of internal and external motivation. For most people, both motivators are needed to be successful and meet their goals.

But the high-intensity participant is still a different animal than the average gym rat. These individuals are not seeking to merely appear “toned” (or at least they would never readily admit to it). At the end of their day, the perception of being “in shape” is of far less significance than the measurables: time, weight, reps, distance, and the critical external motivator - how you ranked among your peers. Unlike big box gyms, membership rates are high because these establishments actually want you there. Without you, other members lose a spotter, motivator, and potential competitor.

The Verdict

So how appealing is this workout regimen, really? The numbers say: very. From its founding in 2000 to the year 2005, there were less than 15 CrossFit Affiliates, based mostly out of California. Flash forward to 2014, affiliates number well north of 10,000. This is Starbucks-level growth (and, in case you haven’t noticed, Starbucks is still pretty popular). But these numbers don’t even reflect the amount of "CrossFit-based” off-brand fitness regimes, competition series, CMCs, and those going it alone in garages worldwide. Visual learner? Check out this chart.

The CrossFit and other high-intensity regimens that continue to combine intrinsic and external motivators can expect to be successful and popular for a long time to come, because they draw on both sides of human nature and our own desires to impress ourselves as well as others. The only problem now is the amount of competition between affiliates and brands. This is a topic we’ll discuss in more depth in future blogs, but for now, sufficed to say, you must consider your branding, your outreach and your marketing at every step. You have to find a way to stand out from the crowd of over 10,000 affiliates and growing. Keep checking in on our blog to find out more, or contact us today to start talking about how to set your brand apart and find those people looking to jump off the elliptical and into something more physically and mentally fulfilling.