Think back to the day you first walked into CrossFit Committed. Do you remember your first impression? We all walked in with different expectations, different reasons for being there and different goals. However different our original motivations may have been, we are all still here 3 months, 1 year, 3 years or even 5 years later. Why? Results? Maybe. It is clear that CrossFit works: we are getting stronger and fitter. Arguably though, understanding the concept and with enough discipline, you could go workout on your own and also get results. So what do we have at CFC that keeps people coming back? How does someone who once “hated” exercise suddenly find himself or herself working out 5 times a week? How does the seemingly most shy and quiet member end up finding their voice, making friends for life and dominating the dance floor at our parties?
One word: Community.
For the purposes of this article we are going to define Community as: “A group or groups of people with enhanced social connections who are mutually engaged in an activity, common interest or pursuit.” We of course know that what is built and maintained everyday in the gym (our community) is so much more than just this definition. Throughout this article I hope to shed some light on what it is that makes OUR community so special.
To understand where we are, we have to understand where we came from. To that end, I did a short interview with Joey to get a better idea of just how far we’ve come. As most of you know, CFC started just over 5 years ago with a small group meeting in local parks to do WOD’s with whatever equipment Joey could drag to the park that day. Then came the location on Soukenicka, which for those of you who were not with us at that time was basically a two-room apartment where the class limit was 8 people and we were not allowed to drop bars!
I asked Joey what his first real milestone was, the first moment where it became clear that this idea of having his own CrossFit gym might actually be viable. He says that he had set a goal of 45 members, that number meant that he could quit his second job and focus only on the new business. That happened at the end of 2011 and from there growth continued. As I write this article we have 285 members. 285 people from different backgrounds, different countries, different careers, different ages, speaking many different languages, but whom have all found a home at CFC.
So before we go any further, let’s learn a bit more about our community as a whole.
I received 148 responses to my survey and found out some pretty interesting things.
- 80% of the respondents are between the ages of 21-40. There is a pretty even split of close to 40% 21-30 and 40% 31-40.
- 57% of respondents are from Czech Republic, another 26% from other EU countries and only 9% from the U.S. (The Americans must just be loud because I was sure we had more than 9% American members!) We have 40 countries represented at CFC!
- As far as careers go our members really run the gamut of possibilities. Just over 10% of the respondents are still students, while 20% are in the technology sector, 15% self-employed, and 18% sales and marketing. We have teachers, health-care professionals, government workers and just about every other career you can think of as well.
- As for our relationship status, we are pretty evenly spread: 36% of the respondents are currently single, while another 33% are in long-term relationships and about 30% married.
- Only 30% of the respondents have children.
These are pretty basic statistics, but show us that our membership comes from many different places and are in various stages of life and career paths.
The rest of the survey was just fun for me to get an idea of how pervasive CrossFit is in the lives of our members. So…
- 75% of respondents have 5-10 pieces of CrossFit “gear”. Only a few of you admitted to owning more than 20 pieces (6% to be exact) I’m sure Fittest appreciates your business.
- 28% of respondents have been members for more than 2 years, but another 26% only 3-6 months. I think that is a mark of a healthy growing community!
- 55% of respondents attend 3-4 classes a week, while 27% attend 4-5. We did have a few respondents that are hoping for Sunday classes because 6 classes a week just aren’t enough. It’s called a REST DAY people…
- As for the most hated movement, I was apparently very wrong in not putting “burpees” as an option as a large percentage of you put it in the other category. Of the options listed however, thrusters were our big winner with 20% of the respondents calling it their most hated movement.
So how has this group of people turned from 285 individuals into a strong community that supports each other, laughs together, cries together, celebrates weddings, graduations, and births of babies, anniversaries and any other thing worth celebrating together? How did a giant, drafty warehouse start to feel like a second home? How does an hour of suffering with others turn into the hour many of us most look forward to all day?
There has been a lot of research done on the strength of community. It is clear that human beings are social animals. We are born dependent on nurturers for every aspect of our survival, we are wired to attach to, and connect with, other people from the very beginnings of our lives. An important aspect of community is that it provides social support, which results in personal and public benefits to the members.
CrossFit in particular offers an immediate connection. In a community based around mutual desire for positive change in ones’ life (whether it is a healthier lifestyle, being fitter, being stronger) the likelihood of attracting like-minded individuals is high. CrossFit attracts and inspires people who understand and appreciate the power of group support and a shared commitment to positive change.
An aspect inherent to CrossFit is the High Intensity of our workouts. This aspect also strengthens the bonds in our community. Connections grounded and created in a shared physical struggle are connections that have a special meaning and power. Being vulnerable in our struggles to improve ourselves and supporting others in their vulnerable moments just adds additional “glue” to the bonds between members. “What vulnerability?” you might ask. Think about the feeling at the end of a particularly long met-con. How many people in your life outside of the gym have seen you fall to the floor in exhaustion? (much less did it WITH you and shared the experience). Think about your last max lift attempt. How many people in your life outside the gym have seen you push yourself to your physical limits? We are vulnerable in each other’s presence every class. We watch each other succeed and fail, we support each other through the best WOD ever and the worst WOD ever, awesome performance days and the days where it’s all we can do just to show up. These experiences form bonds between us that I would argue are completely unique to the CrossFit environment.
This is powerful stuff, and it comes with some implied responsibility for each member. You have to accept becoming a part of the community, which implicitly means that you are willing to give as much as you receive from your participation.
To a certain extent the leaders of a community can guide and direct the growth and hopefully the community will reflect the values of its leaders and members. Joey’s goal is for all members to feel equally respected and valued. He wants the person that comes to the gym for the first time to feel just as at home there as everyone else.
This notion of the gym as a second home was repeated more than once in the survey responses. 10 respondents mentioned either “home” or “family” as their favorite thing about CFC. More than 50 respondents mentioned “the people” in their answer. We have been able to create something bigger than the sum of its parts. That is community.
We cannot minimize the amazing positive impact being a part of this community has on our members’ lives. Here are a just a couple of the answers that were especially touching and give a glimpse into the power of our community.
“Besides my Mom’s house, this is the only place where I feel like I’m home, surrounded with people who really care about others. This place just helps me feel happy, balanced, grateful and also helps me to love myself a little bit more”
“The overall supportive spirit that makes me believe that I can do whatever there is in the WOD and push myself as much as I can.”
“That good job you hear at the end of the WOD and the high fives are SO nice. Small things are the essence of life.”
“This makes me able to forget my worries and my troubles for awhile and do something meaningful for myself.”
“I feel at home and it’s like a huge extended family.”
I know there are some of you out there for whom the community might be a secondary thing. You may be saying “enough of this touchy-feely stuff Jaime!” I get it; we all had some goals when we walked into CFC for the first time. Likely we did not seek out CrossFit as a means to make new friends, or to become part of a community. However, that community is likely what keeps us returning and what helps us perform to a higher level each time we are in the gym.
Coach Glassman (founder of CrossFit) says, “We all give more of ourselves in the presence of others, ALWAYS.” Working out in a group format allows us to feel the support of others, but also the pressure of the group pushing us to perform to our highest potential. Our potential is limited mostly by how we think about the possibilities and what we tell ourselves about our limitations. The community earns the right, through constant support and shared experience to override the voices in our heads that tell us our limits. The community constantly pushes us (whether through support or just our own competitive nature in front of others) to realize that our potential is actually limitless. Therefore, we can argue that we perform better and will ultimately be able to achieve MORE because of the community aspect of CrossFit.
Whether you came originally to CFC to get stronger, lose weight, run faster, or be fitter the odds are that you’ve been drawn into our community. As a coach I have had the opportunity to watch friendships grow and strong bonds form between our members. As well as being able to form some amazing friendships of my own!
While the close-knit nature of our community can be somewhat explained by the science of human relationships, there is definitely a unique quality that is difficult to define. If you’ve been to any of our events you have felt it. If you hung around after open gym and had a meal in the café, you have felt it. If you finished a WOD but stayed and cheered on the people who were still working out, you have felt it. If you’ve been to any of our rather epic parties you have most definitely felt it!
Whatever that “it” is, we are lucky to have it. Our community is made stronger every day, in every WOD when you guys support, encourage and push each other. I’ll end this article by saying that our community is made better for having each of you in it. I hope you are getting everything you expected (and maybe some things you didn’t expect) from our community and I hope that you are giving back even more!
**The inspiration and some of the information for this article came from the book “The Power of Community” by Allison Belger