Why Are CrossFit Gym Memberships More Expensive Than Other Gym Memberships?
Interest in obtaining CrossFit gym memberships has sky-rocketed in the last few years. That rise is not attributable to any single factor; rather, it is due to a combination of many things, such as the increased publicity of international CrossFit events, the current state of global health/fitness awareness, and the proliferation of data-based results that are trending towards performance-oriented training (and seeing positive aesthetic benefits as a consequence thereof). In other words, people like what they see when it comes to CrossFit—even if they do not quite understand the nuances of the training methodology—and the quantity demanded for CrossFit gym memberships indicates just that.
The predecessors to contemporary CrossFit gyms were much more humble than the warehouse-like facilities that have popped up in recent years, filled with their monstrous gymnastics rigs and thousands of pounds/kilos of the latest in lifting equipment. On the contrary, the original CrossFit gyms were humid, dank old garages on the American West Coast (“boxes”) where local CrossFit disciples would congregate to program new workouts and throw-down in the hopes of testing and refining their revolutionary new training paradigm. Since the good old days, which actually lie less than twenty years in the past, those sparse accommodations have had to expand and gentrify to meet the demands of the widening CrossFit consumer base.
The challenge of expansion has been met by entrepreneurs and CrossFit faithfuls the world over. Thousands of privately owned strength and conditioning enterprises have become licensed CrossFit affiliates. Competitive market theory would suggest that pricing for CrossFit gym memberships should moderate over time, as the supply of facilities has increased to meet the surging demand. Yet, CrossFit gym memberships remain somewhat expensive, relative to memberships available at franchise or “globo” gyms, like X-Sport, Planet Fitness, etc. The question lingers, still: why are CrossFit gym memberships more expensive than other gym memberships?
In addition to the more obvious answers (like gym upkeep), several other important factors contribute to CrossFit gym membership pricing. Below, I will address how things like instruction, movement focus, programming, community, and accountability all affect the “menu” pricing membership options available to contemporary CrossFit participants.
Long gone are the days of the inherited rusty barbells and homemade wooden boxes, comprised of mismatched spare slabs of plywood and porch parts. Instead, the CrossFit gyms of 2019 are using durable barbells of the highest quality steel that cost up to and beyond $1,000 per parcel. And that’s just a small fraction of the equipment made available for almost constant daily use by “CrossFitters” and strength athletes at CrossFit gyms. Membership pricing must reflect the cost of equipment, its maintenance, and its safe use. We cannot forget about costs like rent, safety accommodations, and insurance, which ownership passes onto consumers in the form of monthly membership dues. Nevertheless, what I am going to categorize as “gym upkeep” is only a tiny part of answering why CrossFit gym memberships seem to cost more than other gym memberships.
Equally as relevant as gym upkeep, consumers also pay for quality personal instruction from qualified coaches. Although CrossFit gyms typically adopt a group training environment, participants still receive constant individualized instruction—from the rookie members to the most experienced athletes. Many other gyms have adopted the hand-off, “do-it-yourself” mentality, and anything beyond that constitutes personal training, which can cost $50-$100 (or more) per session! (A couple personal training sessions each month quickly add up.) By contrast, the atmosphere found at most CrossFit gyms is that of personal training in a group setting. That is, although training takes place in a class context, all workouts are performed under the watchful eyes of at least one coach. Moreover, that is the case every day—not just once or twice a month.
CrossFit gym members, however, are not just paying for any instruction; they are paying for quality instruction with respect to functional movement. CrossFit owners and coaches employ a comprehensive GPP-style (“General Physical Preparedness”) training methodology that emphasizes movement mechanics capable of helping participants in their everyday lives outside of the gym. The results prioritized at CrossFit gyms are performance-based; whereas, at other gyms, the focus is on aesthetics, achieved by means of expensive machines that isolate and sculpt, versus coordinate and enhance.
The reason this affects membership pricing is because many adults’ functional movements are plagued by corrupt mechanical patterns developed by years of inactivity, lazy coordination, and/or sport-specific overexploitation, among other things. These habits take deliberate attention from objective third parties and tens of thousands of reps to break. Recreating proper functional movement takes a lot more than a mirror. Furthermore, the compound weightlifting, powerlifting, gymnastics, and endurance exercises utilized to develop these functional movements require an additional level of expertise and instruction unlikely to be found at other gyms. The reality is that fancy machines come with instructional diagrams and how-to manuals, which can only get users so far; CrossFit gyms come with living, breathing, knowledgeable coaches that see to members’ specific needs and invest in their goals.
Not only do CrossFit gyms keep members safe with constant technical instruction, they provide participants with clear training directive on a daily basis. Members at other gyms are left without direction and have to fend for themselves amidst the multitudes. Even if someone’s “arm” day is approached with a rough game plan, what is to say the necessary equipment will be available on-demand? CrossFit gyms avoid this dilemma and save members time, stress, and mental energy by telling participants exactly what to do and when to do it, and provide them with the instruction and equipment to do so. This leads to balanced long-term results because CrossFit programming also forces clients to do the exercises they do not want to do, but need to do, in order to get better and stay safe.
Nonetheless, it is not simply the mechanical aspects of the CrossFit training setting, or the guidance, that clients pay for in their membership dues. CrossFit gyms also provide members with direct access to a supportive network of likeminded individuals, families, and coaches, all striving for self- and communal-improvement. At “globo” gyms, members can be treated with indifference by staff and apathy by other members—intimidation, even. CrossFit gyms, on the other hand, are breeding grounds for positivity and encouragement, both of which contribute profoundly to improving performance and self-imaging. And the impressions created in such settings carry over to advantageous situations outside of the gym, as lasting personal connections are made and friendships develop.
This environment also creates a sort of social accountability mechanism. Members at CrossFit gyms enjoy the supportive, collegial atmosphere at the gym, so they invest emotionally in their gym and its members—their “fit fam”. The result is that participants are much more likely to show up to the gym on a regular basis than if they had to rely exclusively on their own initiative. This is a less known but incredibly valuable service.
In light of these diverse services, CrossFit gyms remain unique places in the modern fitness world. As such, they will continue to offer “menu” pricing that reflects those services, as well as consumer demand. At the end of the day, CrossFit gyms are not just buildings filled with fitness equipment, they are communities of living persons aspiring to be their best selves, and therein we find the true value of a CrossFit gym membership.