Why CrossFit is the Workout of Choice for Entrepreneurs

Image courtesy of http://www.maritimecrossfit.com/

There’s a running joke about CrossFit. “How do you know that someone is into CrossFit?”, “Because they won’t shut the fuck about it” :). All joking aside, it’s not that far from the truth – and rightfully so. CrossFit is the type of workout where you pretty much bring yourself to puking without killing yourself. Yep, in the first three sentences of this blog post, we’ve already dropped an f-bomb and talked about puke. Now, let’s get to the point and talk psychology.

CrossFit is becoming the workout of choice for entrepreneurs. It’s a well-known fact that VCs like to bike, but for some reason (that you probably expect and understand), entrepreneurs can’t get away from the extreme stuff. We love intensity, and that’s why we seem to love CrossFit. It’s measured, competitive, and mentally engaging — just like running a business.

1. It’s Productive

“I do CrossFit because startups are stressful!” said Manpacks founder Ken Johnson in an interview. “And without much of a time commitment (one hour, 3 to 4 times a week) you can stay in really good shape. I used to run to the gym before lunch every day, but my routine was getting so repetitive. With CrossFit, the workouts are always changing — one day, I’m climbing ropes and doing handstand pushups, the next I’m doing Olympic lifts heavier than I ever thought possible.”

Entrepreneurs love CrossFit because the startup-mode thrill — it’s brutal, exhausting, and heavily dependent on your community. And it’s damn worth it. Just like the pain you go through to build your business.

“We carry so much more energy throughout the entire day after a workout,” said the company’s co-founder Jonathan Hefter in a Techcrunch article by Gregory Ferenstein.

2. It’s Measured

Entrepreneurs love putting pressure on themselves to achieve tangible results, and that’s what CrossFit is all about. Your progress, improvements, and setbacks are tracked on a chart. You can’t get away from it. Seeing this data in front of you will push you harder to perform better. At the end of the day, you’re ultimately tied to a number. It’s a workout that completely complements the entrepreneur’s psyche.

3. It’s Openly Competitive

Entrepreneurs thrive on competition, but with CrossFit, you’re not competing against others — you’re competing against yourself to be better than your best. You’ll see everybody’s scores, but your focus will be 100% devoted to yourself. Entrepreneurs thrive on this motivation because they’re always setting new ridiculous personal challenges. What feels better than winning and beating them?

4. It’s a Tough Mental Game

Sure it hurts, and sure you want to puke your guts out. Sure you don’t think you can’t go any harder or faster, but guess what? You always manage to do it. More than anything, CrossFit is a mental game, and it’s up to you to beat it. And then there’s the whole peer pressure thing. Because you are doing the same workouts as everyone else in the room, you push yourself harder and further than you would normally. Who the hell cares if you’re tired it won’t kill you? The reality is you’ll pass out before you die.

5. It’s Social

“I love the sense of community built around CrossFit,” Johnson said. “Everyone shares a common drive to push themselves beyond personal limits, and people notice when you’re slacking off — I’ve gotten emails from instructors asking why I hadn’t been to class in a few days. The community is definitely a motivating factor.”

Classes are about 10 to 15 people at a time, and you’ll see the same people often. You’ll get to know them well. You’ll cheer them on, and they’ll cheer back at you. You continuously support each other to push harder, and afterwards is even better because you’ll hang out and catch up on life. You’ll be so sick to your stomach from the intensity of the workout that you’ll never want to talk about CrossFit again. But somehow you do — because you’re obsessed with it.

“Extroverted people are social people and CrossFit is very much a social fitness class!” says Marc Hébert, co-owner of Maritime CrossFit. “People are encouraged to ask questions, to interact with their classmates, and to cheer on others during workouts. It is this team dynamic along with a personal competitive nature that keeps people motivated and addicted to CrossFit.” You leave every class not only in muscle pain and feeling great, but with new friends. This, leads to discovering that …

6. You’re Sucked In

crossfitIf you don’t go to class, your instructors and peers will hunt you down – typically using Facebook in a very public way. You’ll never hear the end of it. You have to go back. Even if you just had the flu. Even if you just had a baby. No matter how hard life gets, you stay committed. You have no choice. Being accountable to others is how great Entrepreneurs build their companies – by having customers, employeees and investors.  CrossFit is no different.

So, if you are lacking in the workout department, it’s time to consider something new and exciting to rev your startup engine. CrossFit is the workout of choice for entrepreneurs for a reason. Now, it’s time you join a gym and get fit! WOD will quickly become a part of your daily lingo and you won’t shut up about it.

Have you tried CrossFit? What has it done to change your life?

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  • Russell Greene

    Great article. Just a quick note: It’s CrossFit, not Crossfit. Thanks!

    • http://twitter.com/danmartell Dan Martell

      Thx Russell, I’ll update now.

  • http://twitter.com/heatheranne Heather Anne Carson

    Love this, and love Crossfit. Completely agree about the use of data + competitiveness. Almost got my T2B yesterday and I can’t wait to get back to nail it this time. 😉

    • http://twitter.com/shawn316w Shawn W

      You will get it! I remember trying to get mine kipping and one day, after trying for couple of weeks, they came to me!

  • http://www.facebook.com/pierre.boivin.52 Pierre Boivin

    Great article!!

  • kareem

    Love it, Dan. I think there’s one other key reason why people seem to love CrossFit: it’s rare that as adults we’re faced with difficult, but achievable goals on a regular basis (see Heather’s comment above about getting her Toes To Bar).

    Whether it’s hitting a beautiful power clean, getting a muscle up, handstand push up, kipping pull up, 200 LB deadlift, etc, the extent to which you can push yourself and keep seeing success is basically unlimited.

    You end up doing things you never thought you could, which is insanely addictive.

    Aside, that’s why I started http://www.SocialWOD.com – I love the gym owners and athletes who go in every day and try and be better than they were yesterday. Plus a growing market + 10x better solution = win 😉


    • http://twitter.com/danmartell Dan Martell

      Kareem, you’re totally right … most adults aren’t faced with those situations later in life.

  • http://twitter.com/RossHudgens Ross Hudgens

    Well said! I love CrossFit, and I’ve never connected it back to being entrepreneur – until now. It’s a great secondary place to set goals for oneself and keep getting better, as a entrepreneur and person, my number one fear (weirdly?) is a lack of improvement.

    • http://twitter.com/danmartell Dan Martell

      Thanks for the comment Ross .. progression is key in every aspect of life.

      Measuring is how you know you’re getting better.

      The $$$ side of things isn’t the goal, it’s how entrepreneurs measure their skills.

  • http://twitter.com/arctictony Tony Haile

    It’s interesting (as both a crossfit guy and ironman triathlete myself) that I actually find many more similarities between long endurance work and entrepreneurship than crossfit. A lot of people can push themselves for 25 minutes and be done, far fewer can do so for 12 hours. With endurance work, there’s conservation of resources and knowing when to kick in to a higher gear; you can’t go flat out on the swim and have nothing left for the run. There’s the long mental game with your opponents and the fact that much of what you do won’t happen with other people there to cheer you on or push you. If I had to invest in an ironman or a crossfit fanatic, I know which one I’d choose.

  • http://www.quantifire.net/blog Will

    Hey Dan! I LOL’d when I read “they won’t shut the fuck up about Crossfit” joke. It’s true. So I’ve drank the kool aid. I don’t care. The reasons I chose Crossfit versus sticking to the gym or any other fitness regimen is first and foremost the community, the support of your peers, the mentality of “constant and never ending improvement”, the variety of the workouts in both strength and conditioning, the fact it is very much data driven, and you’re always humbled when your ass is handed to you after your workout 😀

    At CrossFit Toronto, I’ve was delighted and surprised to identify a few entrepreneurs who’ve come out of Y-Combinator, another one who’s incubated at Ryerson DMZ and a few other entrepreneurs in “non-startuppy” industries. It doesn’t surprise me how attractive Crossfit is to entrepreneurs.

    Much like what Ross and Kareem have said, everytime I step through the doors of my gym, I see it as an opportunity to challenge myself and go and work towards the next milestone, whether the muscle-up or handstand push-ups. You’re pushed harder and harder – and that resilience and tenacity will spill-over to other facets of your life as well.

    • http://twitter.com/danmartell Dan Martell

      Glad you liked the opener 🙂

      Thanks for the comment.

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  • http://twitter.com/tak_lo tak_lo

    Great post Dan – I had never heard anyone connecting CrossFit with entrepreneurship, but as an Army veteran we’ve been drawing parallels with CrossFit for a while now. Initially many soldiers and vets were a bit cautious about getting into it, but the gains through efficiency and the cross-training aspects made many a convert.

    I think there’s a broader connection between entrepreneurship and military experience as well. For me, points 4 and 5 of this article stand out – the ability to “improvise, adapt, and overcome” is a genuine skill drilled over and over in practice and in battle. And the social/community aspect cannot be ignored – vets always try to help out a fellow vet, regardless of branch. A call out to TechStars and Taylor McLemore who organized the inaugural TechStars Patriot Boot Camp (http://www.techstars.com/risingstars/events/) on trying to connect these parallels.

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  • http://about.me/trib/ Stephen Collins

    I turned to CrossFit in May after nothing else satisfied me any more. I’ve now got far better fitness, am leaner, eat better, made new friends, realize the job I’m doing is unsatisfying (so I’ll begin looking this week), have greater clarity about what I care about and am focused on those things.

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  • Kirk

    I bought in hook line and sinker. Every day I crossfit I find myself more prepared for the days challenges in the small business that I work for.
    Evidently there is a lack of any physical challenge any more, especially among young adults entering the work force. Not their fault really, the competitive spirit has been missing from schools for the last 15 years.
    I would not say that Crossfit is only a competition with yourself like this piece does. I feel that you are challenged and competetive with your peers and the clock. Fifty year old women in my class are just as competitive with me, just on scaled levels. Either way it puts back in our semi primal state of mind doing what humans were developed to do; Work hard and survive.

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  • Matt Williamson

    Hi Dan. I think these are all great points. I think many of us entrepreneurs are driven by results and CF seems to deliver those (I take it a bit further because of my work: http://www.crossfitintrepid.com/2012/07/30/from-the-intrepid-vault-the-data-junkie-and-blood-work/). I also like the fact that I do not have to make a daily decision about my physical training — the trainers are in charge. Entrepreneurs are constantly making choices/decisions about everything (especially early in a company’s life-cycle), so it is nice to be able to outsource a portion of the day and “train like a thoroughbred”. One last thing is that there are not many environments in which you can completely surround yourself with highly motivated people that are putting in the hard work to to improve themselves on a daily basis. As an entrepreneur, you want to build a company full of people with these qualities.

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  • http://twitter.com/chris_cav Chris Cavallerano

    Really enjoyed your article Dan. Much of the experiences you describe are not only true for Entrepreneurs but anyone willing to embrace their true intrinsic motivation. I lay out some of the psychological underpinnings in this CF Journal article…


    Drop a comment if it moves you but its clear you and the folks at Maritime CrossFit are already inspiring the fire in yourselves and others… and that is truly amazing!

    Shine on, shine bright!

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  • http://twitter.com/stuartma Stuart MacDonald

    With respect you are all missing the point. Entrepreneurs like CrossFit because it’s new. That’s it.

    • http://about.me/trib/ Stephen Collins

      Define new. CrossFit has been around with that name since the mid-2000s. People have been working out like this for a great deal longer.

  • Hoon Kim

    Great post, Dan. I’ve been doing crossfit and startups for 3 years, and they both reinforce each other, physically and mentally. Not giving up on a WOD == being resilient when things are tough at work. Like they say, “it never gets easier, only better.”

  • crossfit wanker

    Are you serious? Cross fit is the best example of how stupid people can get. Pay 200 bucks a month to do calisthenics in a warehouse – priceless. God bless America and its idiots who cross fit.

  • Danielhales

    I love the sense of community built around CrossFit,” Johnson said. “Everyone shares a common drive to push themselves beyond personal limits, and people notice when you’re slacking off — I’ve gotten emails from instructors asking why I hadn’t been to class in a few days. The community is definitely a motivating factor. Gym Watford