Why Is CrossFit So Expensive?

CrossFit has two major barriers that prevent many people from trying it.  The first is that the average person has heard of CrossFit, but doesn’t understand what it is, or how it’s different from other forms of training.  To explain CrossFit could take one sentence or a hundred, but I have a more dedicated article on that here.  Understanding a little bit about it is essential to the second barrier, cost.  No matter how many times I explain CrossFit and its benefits to people and no matter how enthusiastic they seem about it, for many, they look at the monthly membership fees and all of that goes out the window.  This is unfortunate, but a little more explanation may help to ease those fears.

CrossFit has a couple of key factors that make it a better quality product, and thus worthy of a premium price tag.  These are related to its coaching, atmosphere, and quality of service, as well as some city dependent factors.  

Coaching and Programming:  CrossFit classes are considered to be small group personal training.  This means that a small number of people come together at a single time to share in the cost of personal training services.  This lowers the cost per person and allows the trainer to help more people, a win win for a skilled trainer and his clients.  The beauty of CrossFit programming is that the movements are applicable to any fitness goal.  A trainer is able to use the same daily workout for all the clients and scale that workout to the individual client’s ability level and needs.  As CrossFit founder Greg Glassman put it, “The needs of Olympic athletes and our grandparents differ by degree, not kind.”  This is a key point, because in reality almost all CrossFit gyms post their basic workouts online for free.  There is no charge to access them, so an experienced individual has access to an abundance of programming.  However, most people are not knowledgeable enough about exercise to be able to get the most out of them, so there is a need to have an exercise professional interpret them in order to complete the workouts safely and effectively.  

These workouts are also complete.  CrossFit classes are designed to compliment each other, not only within a single session, but throughout the week, month, and year.  Within a single workout there is a warm-up, movement preparations and practice, skill/strength development, metabolic conditioning (aka metcon, workout of the day, or WOD), and cool down.  All these parts are essential to safe, well-rounded fitness program, and yet are rarely seen in any commercial gym or traditional group exercise class.  Beyond that, a week’s worth of classes are designed to have complementing movements so that members don’t repeatedly train muscle groups that haven’t had a chance to recover from previous workouts.  Further out still, coaches will program concentrations on specific skill or strength exercises, to make sure members are getting adequate practice and time to improve upon them.  All these factors speak to the value of working with highly trained fitness professionals.

Atmosphere:  One thing that seems to be highly important to success, and yet almost completely overlooked in the world of fitness is social support.  Talk to almost anyone who has had any measure of success with maintaining a physical practice and there’s probably some social support network behind it.  A new mothers running group, a husband and wife that go to the gym together, a kids soccer team, a bunch of bros at the gym, a fitness challenge, yoga, pilates, spin, bootcamp classes, even workout DVDs all are forms of social support.  They engage others to form a group of people all working towards the same goal and use each other to motivate, compete, hold accountable, and simply be around other people.  Humans are social animals, and crave the interaction with other people.  CrossFit communities have naturally developed to take this to the next level.  CrossFit is hard, there’s no doubting that.  That’s why it gets results!  But there’s something about doing the same workout alongside others who know exactly what you’re going through that makes it feel much more doable.  This kind of friendly competitive atmosphere helps us to push to be the best we can be.  You might find your motivation in being the fastest person in your class, all the classes, or faster than your friend.  You may find motivation in being a little stronger than the last time you did an exercise, in completing a skill based movement for the first time, or working through the progressions to be able to complete it.  Whatever goals members hope to achieve, even if it’s simply trying to find a fun way to stay active, they can find a way to stay motivated and enjoy improving their fitness in a CrossFit gym.  Even for those that don’t think they would like a group setting, you are able to come in and be motivated by what others have done and are doing, even if you choose not to directly interact with them.  Do not underestimate the power of a like-minded group of people in keeping each other accountable towards their goals.  CrossFit preaches an accepting environment that says come as you are, do what you can, and always keep trying to improve in all areas of your life.  This is the driving force behind it’s success.

Quality of Service and Other Factors:  In this section, I want you to think about what you really want out of your experience with fitness.  Now think about what it is that you’ve actually gotten from other gyms and fitness programs.  Doubtless, you have certain fitness goals that you would like to achieve, weight loss and muscle gain probably being the most common answers.  What if I told you that you could lose fat, gain muscle, not get bored with doing the same thing every time, and have fun doing it with people that could become very close friends?  This is the norm in a CrossFit gym, rather than the exception.  This is what keeps people talking about it, doing it, and finally getting what they want out of fitness.  CrossFit is an investment in yourself.  Yes, it can seem like a lot of money, but it’s also a commitment.  Do you think you’re more likely to make time to go to the gym if you pay $150/month or $10/month?  You only get one try, so wouldn’t you rather pay the money now and have a strong healthy body to use your whole life?  The alternative, unfortunately, even if you’re not obese, is a slowly deteriorating body and mind that leaves you with a much lower quality of life in your middle and senior years.  Obesity only serves to exacerbate that even further.  Do yourself a favor and invest in yourself now, because sooner or later you’ll have to pay.

Beyond that I want to make sure to mention prices are also a function of location.  It’s not really possible to compare the prices of one CrossFit box to another, so try not to make that a deciding factor.  Yes, a box in New York City will be more expensive than one in the middle of nowhere.  Rent is more expensive and space more limited in some locations than others.  Most of the time, you will get what you pay for too.  If a certain box has the lowest price in town, it’s probably because they don’t think their coaching and service can match up to the others, so the only way they can compete is on price.  Almost every box has some sort of free trial program, so take advantage of that, and use that to help determine if it’s worth the price.  

Ways to make CrossFit more affordable: Let’s take a look at some numbers that make the price seem more manageable.

Here’s two common things that people will spend money on.

Coffee $4/day * 30 days = $120/month

Eating Out 18.2 meals * $10/meal = $182/month

Even if you only reduced these expenses by half, you would have made up enough money for a CrossFit membership.  Now let’s look at some of the hidden costs that could await should you choose not to live a healthy lifestyle.

Hidden costs

$44,820.00: Average cost for heart bypass surgery

$10,000: Average cost per year per person for treating complications related to diabetes.

$10,000/12 months = $833.33/month

$1,500.00: Average cost more per year obese patients pay for health care

$1500/12 months = $125/month

$147 Billion: Direct and Indirect costs America spends each year on obesity

$147,000,000,000/318,900,000 people = $1307.62 per year/12 months = $109/month

These are only a few small examples, but I hope you can see that the benefits far outweigh the cost.  Invest in yourself. Come as you are.  Do what you can.  And always keep trying to improve in all areas of your life.