Greg Glassman is the Chairman and founder of CrossFit. He sat down recently with Craig Richey, of the Team Richey YouTube Channel. In the 45-minute interview, Glassman gave us a much better look into CrossFit’s changes.
First, let’s address a misnomer: Greg is often referred to as the CEO of CrossFit. He’s not. That role is currently held by Jeff Cain. Glassman confirms this, along with the CrossFit website.
You should watch the entire interview. Yes, we love Team Richey and think they’re the future of opinion in the sport. True, we learn of Glassman’s love for iced tea and the fact that Pulp Fiction is his favorite movie. Why is this interview so important to see? Because it displays Glassman’s passion for health and fitness. It captures the man trying to save the world and build a business, not the man portrayed in some circles as a killer of the CrossFit Games.
1. How did CrossFit get its name?
Glassman points to the old belief that fitness was best-measured through cross-training. On biking, swimming, and running log distances:
“They’re mechanically different and they’re great. They’re great. But to hold that up as some pinnacle of cross-training, it doesn’t hold water.”
The word “CrossFit” was used to define an alternative to old-style cross-training that focused on true fitness.
2. When Glassman was a gymnast, he used Fran to train.
“I used Fran to prep for the Gymnastics season for conditioning,” Greg Glassman recalls. He laughs about using and old (now defunct) Sears Roebuck and Company barbell set and door-jamb pull-up bar. “I was doing Fran as a conditioning tool for a ring routine. It was either keep moving, or get the best time.”
3. How did CrossFit become a business?
CrossFit started when Glassman was training in a Family Fitness Center in Santa Cruz. As a contractor, he was charging twice what other trainers were, but still garnered most of the gym’s clients.
From there, CrossFit shared some space with a Jiu Jitsu gym.
“That was a very healthy relationship for us. We got to rub elbows and make friends with almost everybody in the MMA community. Except maybe on the business side of it. But the athletes, for sure.”
4. What kind of music does Greg Glassman listen to?
He doesn’t turn away any music genre. Using country music as an example, he says: “When in Rome, and everything. When driving across the country, I enjoy it.” Glassman continues, “I don’t want to hear the music that was playing when I was in high school. I know a lot of people do. You know, whatever the #@&k was playing in high school they’ll play that for the rest of their lives. I’m not that guy.”
5. Does Glassman think the 2019 CrossFit Games changes are for the better
He has a genuine belief that 2019 will provide a better experience for everyone. Speaking directly to Craig Richey:
“I appreciate that perspective, to the extent I’m going to tell you I’m glad you feel that way.”
“The Games have been improved,” Glassman starts. “Eight regionals. Some of which were kind of ghost town-ey. The idea of spending two million dollars and being in a stadium where the Olympics were held, to send someone to the Games that lives a hundred miles south of San Diego. It’s a little weird to me, you know?”
Glassman is likely referring to Brenda Castro of Mexico. Her top-finish in the 2018 Latin American Regional in Brazil sent her to the CrossFit Games. Castro is a member of CrossFit Tigran, less than a three-hour drive to the Texas border.
“And why are there no Chinese people in the Games on the regular? Or someone from India, or Pakistan, or Columbia? I had a different vision for the games. A democratized Games. I have affiliates holding competitions…nobody can say the word ‘CrossFit’? That’s nuts. So, we fixed that.”
He went on to comment on the goal for the format changes:
“At the Games we can see who was thirty-fifth in the world, and thirty-sixth, and thirty-seventh. I don’t care about that. I’d like to see who the fittest person in the world is. Maybe the second or third. And I’d like to know who the fittest in Brazil is, the fittest person from France, the fittest person from Kenya.”
6. Why did CrossFit change the Games format?
Glassman cites how CrossFit is a harbinger of health, not of competition. “CrossFit is what’s happening in 15,000 boxes. It’s not what we think in our heads. Any of us. And it’s certainly not the image on the landing page.”
He points to the work of CrossFit affiliates as an example. “So many more people have lost 100 pounds than have made it to the Games.”
Why shift away from the Games? “It was neither health, nor money, this other thing,” Glassman said of the Games. “And so we’re running a business making people healthy, and the Games are obscuring both realities. This is a business that does what? It makes people healthy.”
7. Why were the CrossFit changes such a surprise?
Glassman knows they were, but doesn’t think they should’ve been. “I’ve been on the road for five years delivering the message. I think there was a perception that the CEO lost his mind. He was off on this soda bull$#!t with the Games continued to do its thing. The Games is the sideshow and the soda thing is the business. And here we are. That was always the case.”
8. Does Greg Glassman like the CrossFit Games?
“I love the Games…I love training people. But training someone? That’s not watching people exercise…No one’s box is kicking a$$ because of the number of people [watching the CrossFit Games].”
9. Who are some of Greg Glassman’s favorite CrossFit Games Athletes?
“Annie Thorisdottir,” Glassman starts. He tells a story about trying to teach Annie in competition warm ups how to perform a muscle up. She wasn’t able to get one, but went out on the floor anyway. With the motivation of the crowd at her back, cranked out ten repetitions of the difficult movement.
Among other notable athletes, Greg points out a legend. “Rich Froning is a gracious, gracious man. He’s close to my heart.”
10. What does he think about Jillian Michaels?
“I’m glad someone asked. I met her at one of Bob Harper’s book signings. She was wonderfully gracious and complimentary. She was on top of the world and things were going great. But I guess people look at their social media and numbers and it matters to them. I know that she’s seen better times and kind of lives in that pop media space.”
12. On Jillian Michaels’ relationship with Pepsi-owned SodaStream:
“I know of all that. I’ve kind of had someone peek at it to see what the current relationship with SodaStream is. You went there. I didn’t. Are we looking and wondering if that’s what this is? She acts like it. She acts like it.”
Greg Glassman thinks Jillian Michael’s criticism may be hurting her brand and helping CrossFit:
“Sometimes there’s something so obviously deficient in your critics’ delivery, and their quality of thought, the strength of their argument, that you feel comfortable to just keep letting them do what they’re doing. At a more profound level, the more she runs her mouth, I think, the better we look. There’s one meme going around of her doing something with a kettlebell that may be the single most dangerous thing that has ever been done in a gym. She’s not a serious trainer. She’s not a serious thinker.”
13. How does Greg Glassman feel about the CrossFit community?
“That part is really important. The making of friends. The fact that there are people there with their grandmas.”
14. On CrossFit being a place for obese and senior members:
“Those who’s needs have been under-met? We’re catering to a group of people that no other gym concern in the world honestly wants in their gyms. These are people that are very senior and people that are mass-challenged. Dramatically so, in most cases. We’ve tucked them under our wings and we’ve had some move from that class into the regular morning class. That’s a graduation worth crying over. Look around. There’s crazy cool things happening here. Around which, we’re all very proud. And we’re proud of the Games athletes, too.”