CrossFit...the word itself is divisive in fitness circles, immediately calling up either impassioned praise or accusations of some level of fitness cult-dom. The mantra of constantly varied, functional movement at high intensity hits a home run with some while striking out with others.
As a bona fide CrossFit geek approaching five years of cult membership spanning multiple gyms ("boxes" in CrossFit lexicon), I am admittedly Exhibit A of the annoying CrossFit advocate type. For me, and many like me, this approach to fitness is a meaningful and important part of my day and a fulfilling way to develop on both personal and physical levels.
Interestingly, my CrossFit community contains a disproportionate number of CEOs, entrepreneurs, and executives. Demographics are undeniably a part of this - these groups are often more financially qualified to invest in this type of training. But there are other significant factors at play here that make CrossFit attractive and fulfilling for business leaders, namely:
Accountability Breeds Results
In a CrossFit gym, the results of your workout are written on a whiteboard for all to see. Whether the goal of your workout was an effort for time, for total weight, for distance, or whatever the measurement...it's there, on the record. This creates both accountability and competition. You don't phone it in when you know everyone is watching.
Inevitably, you'll find someone you like to chase (and someone will be chasing you) - and while this level of competition makes the daily work fun, you quickly realize that in every challenge, it's ultimately just you versus you.
This type of activity is intense enough to require your complete attention for the one hour you are present in the gym. It's a complete physical and mental effort.
As awful as that may sound to the uninitiated, it's actually a great way to clear your mind and step away from your work identity for a little bit to focus completely on yourself, and what your body and mind are capable of doing.
Grit is Good
CrossFit gives new challenges to chase every day. Unlike monostructural exercise programs like running, cycling, and the like, CrossFit programming varies between gymnastics, endurance, strength training, skill work (rope climbs, jump rope double-unders, Olympic lifting, etc.), speed, and other modalities to breed a well-rounded athlete. This means that you will not initially be great at a lot of what you're asked to do.
Pushing yourself to develop strength and skills in areas where you're not naturally gifted (even if it's outside of the office) helps you push past your own belief systems around what you're capable of doing. It breeds fortitude and mental strength.
Over time, this type of thinking becomes a pattern that carries over to how you approach business. On a daily basis, you learn how to quiet the voice of doubt and embrace the voice of possibility and capability.
Community Brings Support
Any CrossFit geek will quickly tell you how much the support of the member community has played a part in his or her progress. We push each other in friendly competition, celebrating our wins and consoling each other in our moments of discouragement.
It's respect, stewardship, and camaraderie - the same characteristics that help strong teams thrive in the business world.
Variety is the Spice of Life
A hallmark of CrossFit programming is the varied nature of physical challenges to master.
Not knowing what you'll have to tackle on any given day brings a sense of adventure to fitness that closely parallels the necessary mindset of an effective entrepreneur or executive. It's an adrenaline rush, whether that's because you're killing it at something you excel in, or because you're dialing in every resource available to your body and mind in an effort to perform and improve at something that's not yet in your wheelhouse.
Just as in running a business well, in CrossFit, you're never simply going through the motions. You're pushing, failing, analyzing, fixing, pushing more, and growing. This process develops thought and behavior patterns that carry over into our general way of thinking and will serve any executive or entrepreneur well, inside or outside of the gym.