Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Reebok and CrossFit: The Road Less Traveled?

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both..."

CrossFit has a reputation for being the "anti-globo-gym". Methods implemented in CrossFit, and in their "boxes" (gyms) are vastly different than that commonly found in any given chain-type gym. Treadmills are rarely found, and elliptical machines are virtually non-existent, yet the results CrossFitters see are second to none. CrossFit truly is a vehicle in "Forging Elite Fitness". While this philosophy is a catalyst that makes CrossFit truly special, there's something more..

CrossFit started roughly a decade ago. Steadily, and  while staying underground, the CrossFit philosophy forged and molded proverbial monsters. Equipment, while essential, was secondary. CrossFitters would improvise equipment and rummage to build boxes - whether it was building squat stands from 2x4s, hanging pull-up bars made from steel pipes, or making medicine balls from old basketballs and sand, people became fit. Very fit.

CrossFitters would work out where they could find space. Garages, warehouses, basements, and driveways, some very confined (ergo the nickname "box") were common improvised gyms. WODs were (and are still) posted daily. People are free to follow the Main Site, or to make their own programing - doing all sans the bells and whistles of that found at the globo-gyms. Fitness is what mattered. that's it.

Today, CrossFit is becoming more and more popular (I hesitate, to say "commercialized - less lack of a better term). To support this claim, CrossFit, recently consummated a groundbreaking partnership with Reebok.

Reebok is propelling CrossFit to a whole new populist level. Amongst other things, Reebok is sponsoring CrossFit events - including the 2011 CrossFit Games (renamed the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games), is developing a clothing line (Delta) which will be their "top of the line" - geared toward CrossFitters, "implemented CrossFit values" in their business model, and even opened their own box on their New England Corporate campus - named Reebok CrossFit One.

This partnership is obviously bringing more money, publicity, and notoriety to CrossFit. All good things, right?  

"Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back."

This is obviously a business venture for Reebok, and rightfully so - CrossFit has huge potential for their company in so many different ways! For example, CrossFit has 130k+ fans on Facebook. This is a HUGE pool of potential customers. Furthermore, the comradery
and unity felt in a CrossFit community is a unique force to be reckoned with. I don't blame Reebok for wanting to gain from CrossFit, but in their zeal, a major element of CrossFit may be lost.

CrossFit gyms aren't put in warehouses for the look. The "bare bones" ambiance is not a gimmick. Boxes look like this because CrossFit is about the programing, period. The bells and whistles make unneeded white noise that easily get in the way of true fitness potential.

This year, the CrossFit took revolutionary steps to actually find the best competitors in the world for the CrossFit Open. It didn't matter if a competitor had a state of the art box, or a piece meal el cheapo box comprised of yard sale junk, Craig's List fodder, and DIY projects from Home Depot. It was all about the WOD, not the sponsorship "If there's a guy in nowhere Idaho that is a monster, we'll find him."

"Then took the other, as just as fair, and having perhaps the better claim, because it was grassy and wanted wear..."

To be candid, when I heard about this partnership, I was cautiously optimistic. I saw the amazing potential, yet also saw immediate threats to the CrossFit I know and love. I was excited to see CrossFit being viewed in such high regard, yet with such a close partnership, the "corporate influence" is bound to (even if unintentionally) infiltrate the status quo. Now, I fear that the status quo may be uprooted. For example:

  • The CrossFit Games was subtly, yet oh so noticeably was branded as the "2011 Reebok CrossFit Games".
  •  The "Delta" clothing line is to be the "top of the line" from Reebok, yet "price would be reflected in the quality".
  • While Reebok CrossFit One looks like a typical box, the look seemingly was made for that reason - to look like a typical CrossFit box. This is a multi million dollar company with top of the line facilities, yet their Crossfit gym appears "bare bones".
  • Last, but not least,  traditional CrossFit attire has been taken off of the online store. It's been replaced exclusively with Reebok attire. Furthermore, athletes at the 2011 Reebok Crossfit Games will not be allowed to wear their affiliate attire, but Reebok a "uniform". (This set off a firestorm on the 'net.)

Let me be clear; I'm certainly not advocating the dissolution of the Reebok / CrossFit partnership, nor am I condeming Crossfit HQ or Reebok. These two businesses undoubtedly  have a vision of the future, and a path to accomplish these goals.  However, the simple fact of the matter is that the draw to CrossFit has been that it has different from it's inception, it is different than any other athletic community, and it should remain different in it's future endeavors.

I simply hope that those "grassroots" CrossFitters aren't forgotten in the path chosen by Reebok and CrossFit, and the essence of what makes CrossFit great will not give way to Reebok-CrossFit, Inc.

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference".

Ricky Bobby's Sponsor

A Bit -O- Full Disclosure: 

1) I have a home gym which is all but fully furnished - and spent less than $400 for everything in it. Yes, I am one of those who used Home Depot for DIY projects, and Craigslist to build my home-gym.

2) My favorite two pair of gym shorts, and my favorite warm-up pants are all Reebok. Furthermore, while I normally wear Vibrams when I work out, my alternative pair are Adidas - the parent company of Reebok.

3) Excerpts from The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost were used.

4) The photo is a screen grab from Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

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