CrossFit: A ‘Holy War’ Against Big Soda? I’m Calling Bullcrap

What bullcrap. CrossFit founder and CEO Greg Glassman told a crowd at a gym “We’re in a holy was with Big Soda.” Really?

Because I thought CrossFit was a for-profit company, not an advocacy group. I thought Glassman was a salesman, selling $3,000 “boxes” to gym operators and $1,000 seminars to teach operators how to use the CrossFit exercise brand. I thought CrossFit was a $4 billion brand. From Forbes:

CrossFit gives away its exercises for free in a video of the day. The sell is the results of the workout, not marketing verbiage. There are now 11,000 CrossFit gyms, or “boxes” worldwide, up 22-fold from nine years ago. Its adherents have turned CrossFit into a cult whose brand generates some $4 billion in annual revenue and CrossFit, Inc. rakes in perhaps $100 million, by my estimate.

Yup, I was right.

So why is Glassman pretending like he gives two shakes about soda and hiring K Street lobbyist firm the Podesta Group to fight what they are calling “the corruption of the health sciences” where drink companies help fund research into diseases.

David Marin, former staff director to the House Oversight Committee, wrote in an email to The Hill, “A big part of the problem has been the corruption of the health sciences; groups promoting bogus science to advance their business goals.”

“That corruption has public health consequences,” he continued.

Glassman is trying to get states like California to pass nanny state bills such as the one former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg pushed through taxing “sugary drinks.”

This is total bovine excrement of the highest order. It’s nothing more than pandering to CrossFit’s ever-growing cultish customer base by demonizing soft drink companies.

But CrossFit is deeply involved with selling health as a lifestyle, because they make money on it. That’s what they sell, the idea of health–and if it benefits them, they work with some very unhealthy partners.

There are also the Reebok CrossFit Games, televised on Walt Disney-owned ESPN , that produces a little money but a lot of brand awareness. Last year, 209,000 people start the competition during the “Open” season with 125,000 spectators checking out the Games throughout the weekend. Prize purse: $2 million.

Walt Disney World sells more than 75 million Cokes a year. But since ESPN helps Glassman sell his exercise cult, they don’t get lobbyists working against them.

In order to keep his business growing, and himself paid, Glassman has to find new ways to motivate his customers and stay relevant, although he faces his own scientific “corruption” problems.

Its highly encouraged autonomy is what is causing CrossFit’s recent legal challenges, and widespread scrutiny is exposing that the fitness company may be plateauing. In November 2013, a group of scientists from Ohio State published a study of 54 CrossFit participants in Franklin County, Ohio who had signed up for a 10-week training period at an affiliate gym. The study claims that of the 54 participants, 11 dropped out, with nine of the dropouts claiming “overuse or injury for failing to complete the program.”

Interestingly enough, there is no government regulation on becoming a physical trainer, though it fully involves the physical and mental health of participants. Various states have attempted to introduce legislature that would require trainers to be legally licensed, but no national requirements have been instated.

With CrossFit corporate as his backbone, the affiliated Ohio trainer slapped a lawsuit against the scientists involved with the study as well as the NCSA, claiming its allegations were “sloppy and scientifically unreliable.”

This is rich–really rich. CrossFit has the temerity to sue scientists who reach conclusions that may hurt the brand, which is based on an unregulated (good!) market where people buy because they become part of the “community.” But they hire K Street lobbyists to stop companies like Coca Cola and PepsiCo from funding medical research.

This is no “holy war.” It’s nothing more than hype.

About the author

Steve Berman

The old Steve cared about money, prestige, and power. Then Christ found me. All at once things changed. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

I spent 30 years in business. Now I write and edit. But mostly I love. I have a wife and 2 kids and a dog and we live in a little house in central Georgia.

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