Podcast Special: Diversity in CrossFit Part 3

Cooler heads will prevail as I revisit the CrossFit hatred blog post I shared with you yesterday, and we’re back for part three of our diversity in CrossFit special series. 

Good morning and welcome to the WODDITY podcast for news about CrossFit. We are a daily podcast, Monday through Friday, doing CrossFit news in five minutes or less.

My name is Ben Garves and today is Friday, the 14th of February, 2020. Will you be my valentine?

Revisiting Sarah Gibson’s Blog Post

This is the third installment of my February series on diversity in CrossFit, but I want to start with talking a little bit more about what I said yesterday to Sarah Gibson, a blogger who had some very negative things to say about CrossFit. 

Let’s be honest: I went off. I, as a journalist and pundit in the industry, a coach, and advocate, deal with a lot of misinformation on a daily basis. Between the hit pieces from The New York Times, Outside Magazine, and faked studies from the NSCA, we have a huge black hole-sized chip on our shoulder and dent in our armor which just consumes good coverage and spews judgment and negativity back. 

I’ll talk about this on today’s diversity special, but even CrossFit’s legal battles against the NSCA and the damages the NSCA is found liable for won’t immediately repair our reputation. One thing I can do differently is to not be hostile to those who need to know better. 

So, let me try this approach when addressing Sarah Gibson: 

Sarah – I said some harsh things yesterday. I hope you can understand that I was frustrated. It became apparent very early on in your piece that you haven’t tried CrossFit, or if you did, you had a very poor experience which isn’t remotely representative of what it’s like to walk into one of the 15,000 affiliates around the world which are working to change people’s lives. I invite you to reach out to me at ben@bengarves-staging.mystagingwebsite.com. I’d like to personally take you under my wing and show you what CrossFit is truly about. It’s not about a cult, it’s not about making people cry, and it’s not about pushing yourself past what your body is capable of. It’s about functional fitness and health, good nutrition, and community. I hope you’re willing to give us a fair shake. Thanks for listening. 

Diversity in CrossFit, Part 3

Now, let’s talk about diversity. In the first part of this series we had Marcus Lowther, a gym owner, talk about how he feels CrossFit has a data problem and a visibility problem more than possibly having an actual diversity problem. In the second episode, I spoke about my experience with diversity in affiliates and how a lack of acknowledgement of racial, cultural, and gender diversity could cover up diversity issues, even for those who have the best of intentions. In this episode, we’re going to talk about things CrossFit is actively doing which are great for diversity in the sport and in the affiliates. 

At the very forefront, CrossFit has doubled down on efforts to grow the brand overseas. They talk often about their efforts to expand affiliates in China, one of the fastest-growing fitness markets in the world with an obviously-large population. In fact, an article by the South China Morning Post in March cited the number of affiliates in China had grown to over 120. It’s estimated the cost of China’s impending healthcare crisis could be in the tens of billions in the next ten years. 

Contributing to the growth in markets like China are CrossFit’s re-emphasis on health, which has always been the driving factor for the company’s growth, but had been shadowed by the public growth of the CrossFit Games. Along with that is CrossFit’s National Champion initiative, which is now in its second season. CrossFit has made it possible for any athlete in any country with a CrossFit affiliate to earn an invite to the CrossFit Games by being the fittest male or female in that country in each year’s CrossFit Open. In smaller and less active countries, this provides great incentive for new affiliates to open, more people to join them, and each country to build a sense of national pride around their country’s participation in the sport of fitness. 

While not necessarily a diverse country, you can look at the way the small population in Iceland has quickly become a CrossFit phenomenon as an example of how quickly a group of people can be inspired by fitness. It could be an athlete in the Philippeans or Ghana who inspires a decade of CrossFit Games podium finishes, like Annie Thorisdottir did with Katrin Davidsdottir, Sara Sigmindsdottir, and the nation of Iceland. 

The gap between the average person seeking better health and physical functionality and an opportunity to compete on the world’s largest stage has never been smaller. Take Mackenzie Zangata from Zambia, who has earned an invite to the CrossFit Games after finishing 41,563rd in the world, or Jack Karo Jr. from Papua New Guinea, who finished 89,395th. 

These are leaps and bounds in diversity, being fueled by dreams and inspiration. And, we know these are things that wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for changes in policies at CrossFit.

Thanks for tuning in to the third installment in the series. We have a few weeks left, so don’t forget you can submit stories about your experiences with diversity in CrossFit in either written or recorded format to ben@bengarves-staging.mystagingwebsite.com

And that’s it for news about CrossFit for Friday, February 14th. Thanks for listening. Please be sure to rate, review, subscribe, and share. For WODDITY, I’m Ben Garves. Chat tomorrow.

By Ben Garves

Ben Garves is a digital product expert, author, entertainer, and activist. His portfolio of thought leadership in digital marketing and web experiences has included major clients like Microsoft, Google, Twitter, eBay, and Facebook. He’s also a freelance health and fitness journalist with over 400 stories written since 2018, a podcaster with 200 episodes to his name, and runs a YouTube channel with over 100 fitness and activism-oriented videos and live streams. Ben has founded the Fitness is for Everyone™ initiative to raise awareness about social injustice in both racial inequality and socioeconomic disparity in access to quality fitness and nutrition options around the globe.