An Open Letter to CFHQ

Below is the full text of the letter we sent to CrossFit, Inc.’s Affiliate Support this morning, June 17, 2020.

Dear Sir/Ma’am,

We are the owners of Underwood Park CrossFit in Fort Edward, NY. We became a CrossFit Affiliate in September 2014. We opened our gym because, like for so many others, CrossFit changed our lives and we wanted to bring that same gift to our community. We have continued to re-affiliate each year because we have valued being a part of something bigger than ourselves, and because we deeply believe in the CrossFit methodology.

However, we have found less value in that affiliation over the last several years. That has culminated this year in a sense of disappointment in CrossFit Headquarters’ response to the COVID-19 Global Pandemic. At a time when affiliates need help unlike any other moment in CrossFit’s history, Headquarters did little of substance, especially when compared with brands and companies like O2, Driven Nutrition, Uplaunch, Level Method, Healthy Steps Nutrition, and Two Brain Business, who all exhibited tremendous effort to help gyms both financially and tactically.

To have that period followed by the revelation of Greg Glassman’s treatment of the owner of Rocket CrossFit, Headquarters’ silence about systemic racial injustice, Greg Glassman’s increasingly inflammatory behavior, and subsequent allegations of a culture of secrecy and inappropriate power dynamics at CrossFit Headquarters has been enough to make us seriously consider de-affiliating from CrossFit, Inc.

We have decided to keep our affiliation for the time being.

It is however deeply important to us that the brands with which we align ourselves also align with our values. We are only one small affiliate, and we are under no illusions about the scale of the impact our actions have in the broader CrossFit community. Nonetheless, in good faith, we care about being open and transparent with you. Our affiliation agreement expires in September. In order for us to renew, we would need to see the following:

  1. Greg Glassman’s selling of CrossFit, Inc.
  2. CrossFit would need to be led by an impartial board of directors, not employed by Headquarters.
  3. CrossFit Headquarters would need to demonstrate tangible action toward growth and transformation of company culture in the areas of inclusion, power dynamics, and transparency.

We send this letter, certainly hoping that it will be heard and considered, but primarily because we deeply believe that when there is harm felt in a relationship, the harm should be clearly stated, and the desired amends clearly stated as well. This, we do here. Thank you for your consideration.

Yours,

Michael Plank and Lauren Grogan, owners
Underwood Park CrossFit

How I found UPCF

I found CrossFit in early 2010.

I had done the classic 3x/wk bodybuilding, 2x/wk cardio routine for years. That worked great throughout high school and into college. But after college, my metabolism slowed down, I knew nothing about nutrition, and those workouts from Men’s Health magazine weren’t cutting it anymore.

A friend of mine invited me to go to the local gym to do a workout he found on this website called crossfit.com. It was the “Filthy Fifty.” Fifty reps each of 10 movements. He’d been doing CrossFit for about a year. It took him 22 minutes to do that workout. It took me 100 minutes. It was horrible. And I was hooked. Over the next year, I got stronger, faster, and leaner than I ever had been. I learned about nutrition and it took things to the next level. And all of that is great. But it’s not why we opened a gym.

I started doing CrossFit with a group at our church and learned quickly what people all over learned: doing hard work like that alongside others builds powerful relationships. I saw people who had known each other for years, but never beyond a wave or friendly smile, build relationships with each other that are strong to this day, nearly a decade later. And as I went and visited other gyms, I encountered the same things. And it hit me: these gyms are what churches used to be like. The gyms I found didn’t care about who you were, they cared that you were ready to work hard and get better. The fitness they taught was inclusive – grandmothers and collegiate athletes worked out next to each other. It was people in community with each other. They celebrated with each other, mourned with each other, held each other accountable, loved each other, and brought out the best in each other.

THAT is what Lauren and I wanted to build. We wanted to build an inclusive community of meaning and belonging where people could grow in body, mind, and spirit. So with unbelievable naivete and wide-eyed innocence, we set out to open a gym. We wrote grants to the church and they supported our efforts of building a community of meaning and belonging like that and we opened our doors in October 2014. We started with 3 members in MacIntyre Park while we finished renovations, which were all done on Christmas Eve Day 2014.

That first year was tough. As much as we loved CrossFit and the community we found, we had a hard time building it. It wasn’t until we hired our first business mentor that we learned how to systematically build a community of welcome. And from there, we fell in love with what we do. What guides every decision we make is our desire to make our community better.

We want people to come in our doors and find a place where they are welcomed and seen and valued. But we want it to be a place where they are challenged to be more a year from now than they are today: to be fitter, yes, but also to be kinder, more thoughtful, more grounded, more grateful. We believe that fitness builds community, and through community we can build a better world. The stronger our community, the stronger its members. We are here for you. We get up and go to work for you. We do our own learning and growing and improving for you. Because we love you. Just as you are. And too much for you to stay the same. We’re almost 6 years in. But our story is still just getting started.

What the Heck is ‘Accessory Work’?

You’re going to be hearing that term a lot soon: ACCESSORY WORK

I mean, you can pretty much figure out that it means
“extra stuff,” but why?

How many of you remember your first CrossFit “warmup,” sweating buckets, panting like a dog in the summertime, hearing the coach say, “Ok now that we’re done with the warmup…” and then thinking “Wait… you mean we’re just getting STARTED??”

Rigorous warm-up, mobility, strength or skill, a brutal workout, and, starting in a couple of weeks, accessory work too.

But it’s not because we’re sadists (promise!). And it’s not because we like seeing you try weird things (most accessory movements are weird).

See? Proof.

 

IT’S BECAUSE WE WANT TO TURN YOU INTO A BULLETPROOF ATHLETE

Accessory work rounds you out.

Can CrossFit give you everything you need? Yes. Absolutely. IF you move perfectly.

But if you don’t… if you’ve got a desk job… if you’ve got a nagging injury… if you haven’t gotten around to mobility homework… if you’re still trying to balance working out, nutrition, kids, job, etc…

You could maybe use a little extra core work. Or some help getting your back strong enough to maintain good posture. Or some extra grip strength to bang out a few more pull-ups or deadlifts.

So that’s what we’ll give you.

Accessory Work will be programmed Monday-Friday and will never take more than 5-10 minutes.

It will be an optional, but highly encouraged, add-on for you at the end of class. We’ll clean-up, get scores up, high five, and then it’ll be accessory work time.

It’s going to give you what you need to eliminate weaknesses, prevent injury, rehab old injuries, and get you to be the best athlete you can be!

Get pumped!

Intensity is Everything

When people try new restaurants, I often ask them how they liked it. If they did like it, you know what a lot of people say?

“It was great! They give you so much food!”

But I’ve been to enough restaurants that give you enormous portions of terrible food to believe that more does not equal better.

Greg Glassman, founder of CrossFit, wrote in 2007 that “Intensity is the independent variable most commonly associated with maximizing favorable adaptation to exercise.”

It’s something we (myself included) forget a lot in the CrossFit world. We’re so caught up in the “more is better” mentality that we think Volume (how much you train) is the route to fitness. More workouts equals more results, right?

We see the elite CrossFit athletes doing 4 or 5 workouts per day. They do strength, then a metcon, then olympic lifting, then a run, then a metcon, then more lifting maybe… And we think that since they do it, we should probably do it too.

But the amount of training they do is not what makes them great. And more workouts, or longer workouts aren’t going to make you great either. What makes you great, is Intensity.

Going all out twice a week will get you way farther than doing a light workout 5 times a week.

Here are the 5 hardest workouts I’ve ever done… They left me dizzy, I couldn’t speak, I barely knew my name, I think maybe I saw Jesus:

  1. The third time I did Fran (21-15-9: thrusters @ 95lbs, pull-ups)
  2. The first time I did 12.4 (AMRAP in 12 minutes: 150 wallballs @ 20lbs, 90 double-unders, 30 muscle-ups)
  3. The second time I did 10x100m sprints with 90 seconds rest
  4. EMOM x 20 minutes: 50′ sled drag @ 200lbs
  5. “Gwen” 15-12-9 of clean and jerks, touch and go only

Total work load across ALL 5 of those workouts is less than 40 minutes.

If you can do an 8 minute AMRAP and then go for a run, you didn’t go nearly hard enough.

The answer, the secret, the key to amazing results isn’t volume, it’s intensity. It’s not doing more, it’s going as hard as you possibly can.

What’s Your “Why”?

All over the internet right now, motivational sources encourage you to find your “Why.” (I’ve encouraged people to do it too).

The thinking goes that if your WHY – your reason for doing what you’re doing – is big enough, you can overcome any HOW. It’s good advice. And I believe that it’s true.

Here’s the problem… it’s overplayed. And like anything overplayed, it loses its meaning.

And so I have facebook friends (and I bet you do too) who post up a picture of their baby or their parents and they say “Finally starting my fitness journey. This is my WHY!”

…and then a week later, or a month, or two months they’ve quit working out.

Now, I’m not questioning their love for their children or their parents, and if you’ve done that, I’m not questioning yours either. But I will say that if you can quit your journey at all, especially if it only takes weeks or months, then it wasn’t really your WHY.

A WHY that can overcome any HOW is more than a 20-second instagram post.


Finding your WHY – your real WHY – is painful. It can be scary. It’s difficult. Because you have to take an honest look at yourself, and when you do, you sometimes find things you don’t like. But it’s also how you find that thing that really can drive you to achieve the impossible.

Because overplayed or not, a real WHY is powerful. A real WHY can overcome any HOW.

It just has to be real.

Patience is a Virtue

Do you know how amazing life is right now?

You can literally touch your phone in the right places and a car will show up wherever you are to take you wherever you want to go.

You can say things, like “Alexa, order me shampoo” to what is basically just a speaker and two days later whatever you wanted will show up on your doorstep.

I had a delicious strawberry the other day. It’s the middle of January.

We can get almost anything in the world that we want, and we can get it pretty much immediately.

So it’s no wonder that when everything else is like that we get discouraged if we don’t immediately lose 20, 40, or 60 pounds in 6 weeks… or 6 months… or 2 years. It’s no wonder that we start looking for another quick fix, or secret training program, or supplement because we still don’t have that 6-pack even though we’ve been at it since 2016. It’s no wonder that we almost quit when we don’t have snatches down even though we’ve trained for 3 months. But the truth is that it takes time.

That’s Lidia Valentin with a 124kg (273lb) snatch. She’s been competing for 14 years.

This is Mark Bell. He’s a world-class powerlifter and is jacked. He’s been lifting for 28 years. And in between he looked like this…

This is Ernestine Shepherd, 77 years old in this picture, here, she’s twenty-one years into her fitness journey.

Good things take time. We want weight loss and jacked abs and cool skills today. But we can’t have them. And that gets frustrating, I know.

But guess what? The time is going to pass either way. Whether you get discouraged and quit for something else, or show up with consistency and dedication for slow, measured progress, the years pass in the exact same amount of time for everyone.

You might as well be patient and buckle in for the ride.