#096: CrossFit – CEO Don Faul (TYR Wodapalooza 2023 Series)

Thursday March 30, 2023

Constantly varied, functional movements executed at high intensity. That’s CrossFit. Simple in definition. Complex in the way it’s changed the fitness industry. CrossFit’s not a sport. It’s a lifestyle that has dominated the way elite athletes train, all the while crowning the Fittest on Earth. 

Don Faul became the CEO of CrossFit last fall and at the tail end of his 120-day assessment, he sat down with Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff for a conversation live from the TYR Wodapalooza stage. Don shares his transition from Recon Marine to tech, to wearables, to fitness. They cover the fundamentals of the sport, how it has advanced the way we think about our health, how to become CrossFit certified, and Don’s vision for the CrossFit brand in 2023 and beyond. 

Follow Don Faul on Instagram at donfaul. Get involved with CrossFit at Follow Jessie Graff on Instagram and Facebook @jessiegraffpwrClick here or use code JED for $10 off your first order of Modballs. Subscribe to us and follow @jedburghpodcast on all social media.

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CrossFit – CEO Don Faul (TYR Wodapalooza 2023 Series)

Don, welcome to The Jedburgh Podcast.

Thanks for having me.

It’s an incredible day. We thought it was going to be cold because somebody said it was going to be in the 40s in Miami, but we are sitting here in the sun, and it is not in the 40s. It’s an incredible event at Wodapalooza. We are on day four. Jessie and I have been on the stage. This is our fourth day now. We’re incredibly honored to have that opportunity, and also to sit here with you.TJP - E96 Don Faul Crossfit CEO

You came into the job as the CrossFit CEO. We are going to talk about your vision and assessment. All things CrossFit and where it is going. We are also going to take it back a little bit and talk about your career as a Marine. I won’t hold that against you, your transition into tech, and then what brought you into CrossFit and athletics. You were a Force Recon Marine.

That’s right. If you can tolerate a Marine, that might be the only place.

I got something for you at the end, and Jessie is not going to let me forget.

I’m not sure if I want it.

Talk about Wodapalooza. It’s unique within the competition space for CrossFit. For a couple of minutes, what is the significance of the event and why is it important to the CrossFit community?

It starts with community. One of the things that are so special about CrossFit is this incredibly unique and passionate community that we have. In moments like this, we have got a few moments throughout the year where members of the community, coaches, affiliates, and our athletes get a chance to come together and celebrate what we all love about CrossFit. We celebrate the competition.

This Wodapalooza is such a great example of that. I had the chance to bring my family down here. For some folks who have not seen and experienced CrossFit, there is no better way to experience the uniqueness of this community than at an amazing event like this. People can come together and celebrate what they love about this sport.

This is my first time at any CrossFit event and it is amazing. I’ve been having so much fun running around to all the booths and watching what the athletes are doing. It’s so impressive and so cool. I saw these two guys competing who both had their arms amputated below. It was so cool to see them doing pull-ups. It’s so inspiring here to see what people are doing and feel the energy. It makes me want to get involved.

You touched on a bunch of it. There are so many moments of inspiration that you get to see and feel firsthand. From the elite athletes out on the floor to the master’s division, to adaptive athletes, and members of the community. I met a woman from Johnson City, Tennessee. She’s 78 years old. She won a free pair of shoes by doing twenty calories on an assault bike. She got on the assault bike and knocked out twenty calories. The other day, she did 22 burpees in a minute. There’s a woman who’s 78 years old and she has four generations in her family doing CrossFit from a town in Tennessee. How inspiring is that?

TJP - E96 Don Faul Crossfit CEO

“There are so many moments of inspiration that you get to see and feel first hand.”

That’s amazing. I’m going to get my mom into this too.

I was going to have her call my dad and give him a little bit of a pep talk. We will see.

We were joking about the Marines, but talk about that service. You went to the Naval Academy and made that decision early on in life. It’s a defining moment for so many. We talk about people who go on later in their life to do truly amazing things at executive levels of well-known companies between college athletes and those who have served in the military. We see so many who excel throughout their entire career and their entire life. Talk about the decision to go into the Marines and Naval Academy, and then what you learned from that you have carried forward with you throughout your career.

I went off to the Naval Academy when I was seventeen years old. I grew up in a little town in New Jersey. A big part of what drew me to the Naval Academy and service, in general, was the opportunity to give back. That was a big part of it. My parents reinforced to me and my brothers from an early age that it was important to give back to the community and country. The notion of service resonated.

The other piece is I looked at that experience as one where I would benefit from an incredible richness of life experience. I didn’t know at age seventeen that I was going to be a military service member, but I knew that I would get a chance to meet some incredible people. I get a chance to learn incredible things about leadership and teamwork that would carry with me for the rest of my life. I showed up to the Naval Academy not knowing anything about the Navy, the Marine Corps, or service in general. I was thinking I wanted to be a pilot but I didn’t have the eyes for it.

Everybody wants to be a pilot when they go in.

I was the original top gun generation back in the day.

The greatest sequel ever.

While there’s a lot that unites us across the different services, every service has a slightly different culture. There’s something unique about it. When I got to the Naval Academy, we had the opportunity to be exposed to the Navy and the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps is part of the Department of the Navy. From the first minute I spent time with the Marines, there was something about the ethos and the culture that resonated. A lot of it is in and around this notion of servant leadership. In the Marine Corps, leaders eat last. A lot of this is similar to the other services, but you sleep in the dirt next to your Marines. You do the same job as your Marines.

There is this shared notion of purpose and service. The clear understanding is that as a leader, your job is to work for and support your people. That resonated with me at a deep level. In terms of the lessons and takeaways for me, I could go on and on. One of the things that are unique about military service is you get exposed to leadership at a young age. I was 21 when I graduated. For some reason, they think it’s a good idea to put a fresh 21-year-old in charge of 30 to 40 other human beings.

TJP - E96 Don Faul Crossfit CEO

“As a leader your job is actually to work for and support your people.”

It’s so eye-opening. I tell these stories about walking in after graduating from Ranger school. As an infantry officer and walking into my platoon, head held high, your shoulders back, and you got your Ranger tab on. You walk into the room and then nobody looks at you. At the end of the day, you are still a Second Lieutenant. You don’t know shit. Everybody has been there for years and now you have to figure it out so quickly. Where do I fit in and how do I add value to these guys?

I had exactly the same experience. I was a young, naive, and overconfident 21-year-old who had spent four years thinking that I learned all this about leadership. I had never actually led anyone in any meaningful circumstance. You get humbled quickly. The folks who are successful are those who are willing to listen to others, humble themselves, and do the work. That was at age 21 for me.

There are so many lessons and things I learned from my Marines that they taught me. That was something I took with me throughout my career. I have had a weird career. You drop into a new environment and community. Those lessons I learned as a 21-year-old about listening, learning from others, and understanding your job to serve and support others have been so beneficial for me throughout my career.

You talk about the interesting career that you have had, because then you go from being in the Marines, getting an MBA, and then going into tech, which is quite the polar opposite of where you were.

I was an infantry marine. I spent some time in the reconnaissance community. My first job after active duty was working at Google. If you can imagine an environment that is more extreme on the other side of the cultural divide. I remember walking onto the Google campus and it felt like I was at a carnival. The campus with all of these amenities, X number of cafeterias, and ping pong tables. It was a real culture shift for me. It took me some time to realize that. A lot of the things that I had learned in the Marine Corps, even though the environment was different, were extensible. The lessons about leadership, bringing people together, and being part of a team were incredibly valuable.

The important thing too there is you started to adapt to start to understand tech, which you were able to then bridge into the wearable space when you moved on from the tech industry.

As I came out of the Marine Corps, I got a chance to get exposed to the technology industry. There were a lot of things about it that were different that I loved. The technology industry, the rate of change, and the focus on innovation. We used to joke in the Marine Corps that the Marine Corps’ mentality is, “It has worked for 275 years. Why would we change it?”

Technology was exactly the opposite. It was this notion of challenging the status quo, and we can always be better. Fail fast. That was invigorating for me. I learned a lot from that. That time and experience in that industry led me to an opportunity where my experience started to come full circle. If you had asked me about my passions growing up, it would have been sports, fitness, and training.TJP - E96 Don Faul Crossfit CEO

I got a chance to embrace a lot of that as a Marine where physical fitness is a huge part of being qualified for the job, and then I made this little foray into technology. That led me to a company called Athos. In my last job before CrossFit, I worked at a sports performance technology company. Our product used to be tested on Ninja Warrior. We would use it to look at muscle activation. It was cool. That was an amazing opportunity for me to take two passions of mine. Even though those parts of my life felt very different and disconnected, they came together in a meaningful way.

I played with some of those in physical therapy. I wish I could have played with it on Ninja Warrior because I would be so interested to see which muscles are being used out of balance. They were amazing in physical therapy from a knee injury seeing which muscles were dominant and which shouldn’t be, and then learning more about how to correct them. That was so much fun.

Talk about the transition to CrossFit for a second. In August 2022, you come into the role of the CEO of CrossFit. What was the opportunity that you saw?

Had you done a lot of CrossFit before that?

I had. My CrossFit journey started in 2014. I played sports growing up. I described myself as an aggressively mediocre athlete in high school. My enthusiasm outpaced my ability and skill.

[bctt tweet=”Sometimes your enthusiasm can outpace your ability and skill. ” username=”talentwargroup”]

You could go far with a lot of hard work. I outmatched skill at that level all day long.

My lipidosis overcame my lack of skill with extra effort. I played sports growing up. It has always been a passion. I got a chance in college to play rugby. I love that. When I was in the Marines, I was active. I got into triathlon for a long time. On the back then of 10 to 15 years of a lot of sports, and a lot of wear and tear from the Marine Corps, I had some pretty meaningful back problems. I had a shoulder injury. I had heard about CrossFit. It was totally up my alley, but I was a little nervous. I was worried about my back injury. I had heard people talking about how CrossFit might be dangerous. I got into it a little bit later than I otherwise would have.

Fortunately, I had a good friend of mine in 2014 who said, “Let’s go give it a shot. Let’s walk in the gym and see what the experience is like.” At this point, I would have said before that first workout that I was in good shape. I was running 6 to 7 days a week. I was lifting, doing the Globo Gym thing, and I walked into that workout and got humbled. I came in dead last in the workout. I came in dead last for the first month and six weeks. Everyone in the gym was crushing me.

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“I walked into that workout and got absolutely humbled. I came in dead last in the workout.”

My buddy and I had opposite reactions. He was like, “Screw this. This is not for me.” I’m like, “You complete me, CrossFit.” From that first moment, it resonated with me. Fast forward a year, and the back problems I have been dealing with for fifteen years are largely gone. The emphasis on mobility and core strength was life-changing for me.

CrossFit has given me a second lease on being an athlete. I thought those days were behind me, and now I have got a level of fitness that allows me to do all sorts of things that I thought were off the list. I got involved in 2014. I have been a diehard member of the community. I love it. When I got a call about the opportunity, my eyes lit up. This was a dream job for me. On top of the passion and enthusiasm that I brought to it, CrossFit has changed my life. I have seen it change. The boxes I have trained at and the boxes I have dropped into, I have seen have an incredible life-changing impact on hundreds of other people.

I’d say millions of other people.

Firsthand for me, I saw hundreds of thousands. When you zoom out and think about what’s happening then in the 13,000 gyms we have around the world, there are millions of people. I thought to myself, as incredible as the impact it had, there are 1,000, 10,000, or 100,000 people who are sitting on their couches thinking CrossFit is not for them. We all know that’s not true.

If you walk into any CrossFit affiliate, you are going to see young, old, fit, or unfit folks who have a history of injury, folks who are healthy, or who are suffering from metabolic disease. All of whom, their life has been changed by CrossFit with the most welcoming and inclusive community you are going to find anywhere. That is what got me excited. That’s what keeps me excited. An opportunity like this can reach tens of millions of people in a way that is profoundly life-changing for them.

I have been curious about getting into CrossFit for a while. There are so many people who have told me that I would be good at it, and I am terrible at lifting. My initial instinct was, “I’m not going to be good at it.” I’d heard so many rumors about injuries. I have had a lot of injuries and so I have been very tentative about approaching a CrossFit gym. I also feel like I could benefit from it through cross-training. What parts of CrossFit benefit athletes? If you are performing in a sport and you are already competitive in something, how can you utilize CrossFit as a tool to get better at your sport?TJP - E96 Don Faul Crossfit CEO

It’s an important question for us because as we think about the next year, 2 years, or 5 years for CrossFit, our number one focus is exposing more people to the life-changing impact of CrossFit. We have a lot of misperceptions that exist that limit people, whether it’s concerned with injury risk, “I have to get in shape before I try CrossFit.” We heard that quite a bit. We know these things aren’t true, but we need to do a better job of showing people like you how, given your goals and lifestyle, CrossFit can be life-changing as well.

There are a few things that are unique to CrossFit. I had the same concern and misperception. The first is we have the best coaches in the world. We play an important role and it’s important to us. One of our jobs at HQ is making sure that we do a great job of educating coaches. When their members walk into the box, whatever history, limitations, or constraints they have, they got an expert coach that is standing next to them. They are guiding them through that journey that can help them achieve those life-changing results while being careful and thoughtful about how they scale the movements and exercises to account for whatever history and limitations they have.

What qualifications do those coaches and owners need? What do you check for when you are determining whether someone is qualified to be a CrossFit coach or affiliate owner?

On the coaching side, about a third of our team roughly is focused on training and educating coaches. We have an entire system. It starts with a level one certification. It’s a two-day in-person course where we talk about the fundamentals of CrossFit. It’s the fundamentals of health and fitness and how CrossFit helps you realize gains in all of those domains.

There’s a two-day in-person course. We then have, for coaches, the opportunity to continue their education. L2 is next. It focuses on the fundamentals of managing a class and group fitness. Helping coaches cue. Helping them manage the relationship with a class classroom of athletes. We have level 3 and level 4 where it’s about giving coaches exposure to the finer points of world-class coaching.TJP - E96 Don Faul Crossfit CEO

There’s a whole bunch of work we do with those four-core levels of CrossFit coaching. On, we also have a wealth of other areas in and around coaching, everything from education around nutrition to recovery and the aerobic side of fitness. We have some of the top experts in the world in those domains creating content for CrossFit coaches.

What focuses in that training on injury prevention and building a foundation that’s going to make you balanced so that you are not prone to injury, not just as you are lifting but in daily life in your sport? How is CrossFit helping or how is that training?

The core foundation and principles of CrossFit are around functional movements. These are constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity. That is CrossFit. The core belief is that the best way to train for life is focusing on functional movements that you use every day. That could be used every day whether you are picking your kids up, getting them ready for school, or whether you are training and playing any sport.

TJP - E96 Don Faul Crossfit CEO

“Constantly varied, functional movements executed at high intensity. That is CrossFit.”

Fundamentally, every sport is grounded in healthy and functional movements. A lot of CrossFit starts with teaching the importance of functional movements, and for coaches, how to cue proper movement. When we think about the efficacy of CrossFit and what matters, there are three fundamentals in terms of a great coach. There’s CrossFit is exceptional in terms of its efficacy.

How do we help you reach higher levels of fitness in terms of efficiency? CrossFit is the fastest way to make progress and gains, and that’s grounded in the focus on intensity. Finally, safety. Safety is the third part of the equation, and that’s about the proper balance between proper form and functional movement and intensity.

What you will see in great coaches is they are on the floor all the time watching and cueing their athletes. If their athletes are pushing a little too hard and their form starts to degrade, you will see those coaches intervene immediately, cue the athlete, and maybe regress the movement. First and foremost, it’s about proper healthy movement.

What about those people that you were talking about who are like, “I need to get in shape before I go to CrossFit?” If you have no fitness background and you are wanting to get healthier, what is that experience like for them?

Most CrossFit gyms around the world or most boxes will have some introduction to CrossFit. Some call it an on-ramp course or a fundamental course. That could be a week or two weeks where you will have a coach teaching the fundamental principles of CrossFit. The basic movements that you will execute as part of it. From there, a new CrossFit member will enter and starts a traditional CrossFit class.

One of the beauties of CrossFit is we talk about CrossFit being infinitely scalable. What that means is any CrossFit workout can be adjusted to be performed by any athlete independent of their level of fitness or maybe mobility restrictions. If you are doing a movement where the average athlete is doing a barbell clean or a barbell squat, maybe for a new athlete regress, that’s just doing a bodyweight air squat.

TJP - E96 Don Faul Crossfit CEO

“Any CrossFit workout can be adjusted to be performed by any athlete independent of their level of fitness or maybe mobility restrictions.”

Principles and fundamentals are the same, and it can be a scale to meet the athlete where they are. That’s one of the things that’s unique about CrossFit. You can walk into a CrossFit class and you can have a games athlete doing the exact same workout as a brand-new member of the community. That’s a big part of what creates this unique connection within the community.

You don’t have to be in a level 1 or level 6 class. Even if I’m high-level in gymnastics and low-level in lifting, I can be in one class that’s for everyone.

If you talk to folks, whether they are new in the community or they have been around for 10 to 12 years, what you will see is everybody is working on something. Even elite athletes will tell you that there are movements that are more challenging for them. There’s a woman named Annie Sakamoto, a long-term CrossFit legend. We did a piece with her where she demoed a workout where she did essentially a pike to a handstand. Annie is about as deep an expert in CrossFit as you can get. This was a new movement that was a weakness for her. She’s been in the community for eighteen years.

That’s my weakness too.

There’s a long list of weaknesses on my list.

Is pike to handstand like an L-hold press or is it standing?

It’s standing on the floor on a handstand.

Standing or sitting on the floor?

It’s standing. I would love to demonstrate it but I can’t. I will embarrass and/or injure myself. It’s essentially a stand. I’m sure it’d be a layup for you, but it’s a good example of this piece of content. She took 25 days to teach herself this and demo it for a new workout for us. That’s one of the things that’s cool about CrossFit. It doesn’t matter what level you are at, there’s always another level to challenge yourself. There’s always something you are working on.

The thing I love about competing in Ninja Warrior is that there’s always a borderline-impossible challenge. That’s what keeps it inspiring. I’m always going to be reaching. No matter how good I am, they are always going to come up with a new challenge that’s going to make me better in pursuit of that.

It’s similar to CrossFit.

Four months into the job and we talk all the time about building businesses and transitioning into executive roles. We talk about entrepreneurs having to figure out how they are going to lead organizations. Your assessment period is over. A few people have told you that, so you don’t get to walk around anymore and say, “I need my 90 to 120 days to figure out what’s going on.” What is your assessment now after your first 4 or 5 months? What’s your vision now leading the organization into 2023 and beyond?TJP - E96 Don Faul Crossfit CEO

We are on this. We are going to communicate our vision more to the overall community. We will probably do that starting with the affiliate community. They play an important role in what we are going to be focused on in the long term, and then how that comes back to our goals for 2023. As I think about reflecting on what I have learned over the last 4 to 5 months.

Coming into the job. The biggest priority for me was I had experienced the community as a member, but I knew there was a lot to learn. I spent a lot of time. I have been traveling a bunch, meeting with a lot of members of the community and a ton of affiliate owners here in the US, as well as outside the US. I’m meeting with a lot of athletes and some of our partners who play an important role in the space to understand where are we, and then what role can and should we play at CrossFit headquarters in bringing the community together.

What I’d say at a high level is we have an enormous opportunity to continue to grow the number of people around the world that we touch with CrossFit. In the first decade or fifteen years of CrossFit, we had a lot of growth, but there are still a lot of people who could benefit from CrossFit that are limited by some perceptions.

That is the most important role we need to play at CrossFit headquarters. We need to continue to invest in building the brands. We need to invest in storytelling. One of the things that we have been good at that was a big driver of growth historically was lifting up the everyday stories that are happening in these gyms all around the world to show people what’s possible with CrossFit.

We have gotten away from that a little bit over the last couple of years. We are going to make a big push on that front. Storytelling and service of reaching new people, and alleviating some of these myths that exist about CrossFit. We created a campaign called The Magic of CrossFit, and it’s all about telling that story. Priority number one for us is how we play an important role in shaping the brand and reaching new people. Fundamentally, getting more people to walk in the front door of their local affiliates and give CrossFit a chance. We know if they do that, the affiliate owner and the coach is going to take it from there and our job is done.

The second thing we are focused on is our partnership and relationship with affiliates and gym owners. We have an incredible community of men and women all around the world who have dedicated their lives to changing other lives by opening a CrossFit gym. One of the things that we have heard in the conversations we have had is that we can do more to strengthen that partnership and support our affiliate owners.

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“We can do more to strengthen that partnership and support our affiliate owners.”

One area we will be investing in is giving them more tools to help them with the business side of running a gym. Not to generalize, but the vast majority of our affiliate owners open a gym because they are passionate about coaching and changing lives. If you are going to run a successful gym, you got to run a successful small business as well. We have an important responsibility to make sure they have the resources they need to build a great business and to make good decisions on that side.

The third area for us is about coaches. We believe we have the best coaches in our industry and the world, and these are the people who are changing lives. It’s not us at HQ. It’s the coaches who are waking up every day who are investing the time with people to help them with their CrossFit journey. We are going to make it easier for our coaches to access and invest in continued education. Our CrossFit level one is incredible. I encourage you guys to do it if you haven’t done it yet.

We might have to do it before next year.

Do you hear that? Let’s get that on the record. We will talk about L1. I love it. Thanks for making that commitment. There’s a lot more. As great as the L1 and L2 are, we can make it easier for coaches to engage in education. A lot of our education now is a 1 or 2-day in-person course. It’s a reasonable time and an investment of money.

We want to make it easier so that as a coach, you can take a few minutes every day or every week to learn a little bit more about your craft. Learn a little bit more about how you can help your members on their journey. That’s priority number three for us. Last area but not least, all of that work needs to be empowered by making sure that internally, we have a strong and vibrant culture at CrossFit HQ.

Our team and our community over the last 3 or 4 years have been through an incredible amount of change, and change is hard. We are focused on making sure we have incredible people on our team, passionate and talented. We want to make sure that we are doing a great job at the leadership level internally. We’re putting our team in a position where they can do their life’s best work. That’s an important focus for us as well.

I hear so much about the culture of CrossFit already. How can that be even better? That’s one of the things that I hear is so amazing about CrossFit, but you are seeing even more room for improvement there.TJP - E96 Don Faul Crossfit CEO

There’s one area I would point to specifically. I view our responsibility at CrossFit headquarters. We have the benefit of this incredible community to look around at members of coaches, affiliates, and partners who love CrossFit and want CrossFit to be successful. Our job at HQ is to provide a clear vision that makes it easy for all of those folks to work together to make CrossFit bigger and better.

I think we can do a better job of leading and communicating of what is our vision, where we are going, and what role we are going to play. What role are we expecting and asking our affiliate owners, coaches, and partners to play? We are all rowing in the same direction, to use an overused cliché. We have incredible talent, energy, and enthusiasm that exists in this community. Our job is to harness it so we are all moving in the same direction.

The higher-level goal that we are all working in service of is changing more lives. If we can do that, everyone here benefits and so we need to do a better job of communicating that vision. We need to be better partners in reaching out to members of the community and supporting them. That will be a big shift that you will see from us. It’s being a great partner in listening, communicating, and understanding how we can work with these other amazing members of the community.

[bctt tweet=”The higher-level goal of CrossFit is changing more lives. It’s being a great partner in listening, communicating, and understanding how we can work with these other amazing members of the community. ” username=”talentwargroup”]

When you talk about your level 1 and level 2, are those certifications or courses?

They are certifications, so level-1 certified coaches. There is a certain level of accreditation as well. There’s a ton of work that we have done in and around our coaching program to invest in that.

How does that compare to another certification like a certified personal trainer? Do people usually come into your CrossFit level-1 already having other certifications?

Most don’t. Most of our coaches come from the CrossFit community. These are folks who have experienced CrossFit and are passionate about it and want to pursue that as a career. We do have some who come from those other domains who have other certifications as well. The biggest distinction first and foremost is our CrossFit methodology is incredibly unique. It is the foundation upon which everything here sits and exists. That is very different from the philosophical approach of a lot of these other certification programs.

TJP - E96 Don Faul Crossfit CEO

“I think the higher level goal that we are all working in service of, is changing more lives.”

The other thing that’s different is the emphasis on hands-on development and coaching. If you look at a lot of the other certification programs, most of it is reading out of a book, taking a test, and answering a bunch of questions. We know that is important but insufficient. If you want to create a great coach, you have to know the interaction you have with your athletes. Your ability to cue, observe, listen, and manage in a group class or dynamic is incredibly important as well. That’s a big focus of our education program.

How does that class work? I have been taking a lot of different certifications from a textbook and answering questions online, but I have been feeling like that’s the piece I’m lacking. Now I’m working with clients, practicing and realizing, “This is my first time looking at a person doing this rather than the person in the textbook or me in the mirror.” How are your classes working that you are teaching people? They are in person then.

They are in person, so that is a big emphasis. We do have an online version for level-1, but the vast majority of our folks who go through it go through the in-person level-1 course. That’s a two-day course. We do it at CrossFit gyms all around the world. I’m going to send you a link to the ones in LA. The best way to answer that question is to experience it.

What you will see in that is there are no PowerPoint slides. We have these extraordinary members on our team we call our seminar staff who are experts in their domain. They are doing a mix of teaching. We do it on a whiteboard and we walk through the fundamentals, and then there is an in-person demonstration and cueing.

You get involved, you do some instruction, and you will break up into small groups, and then the coaches themselves will watch you perform the movements. You start with, “Let’s see you perform a basic squat. Let’s see you perform a push press overhead or a strict press overhead.” You will see these experts coach and cue you, and then you will have an opportunity to watch other athletes do the same. Our level-2 is where we get into hands-on coaching. You then are watching another athlete coaching and cueing them, getting advice, coaching, and feedback directly from our seminar staff.

They are watching me watch someone else and telling me if I’m cueing them incorrectly.

That’s exactly right.

We talk about vision and mission. You use those terms here. In two sentences, where’s the brand? Where’s CrossFit in five years?

In five years, CrossFit is the largest force for health and performance globally. That’s a big statement. Let’s zoom out for a second to the sad state of affairs. Despite the fact that our society has never been more technologically advanced, and that we have never had these levels of wealth, humanity is getting less and less healthy.

TJP - E96 Don Faul Crossfit CEO

“In five years CrossFit is the largest force for health and performance globally.”

All of the trends are problematic and bad here in the US and globally. The answer is not more drugs, sadly. We see that all the time. We know what the answer is. The answer is fitness and nutrition. The answer is CrossFit. The reason CrossFit has been so revolutionary in this space is it works better than anything else. You need to do nothing other than walk around a venue like this. Have you seen a collection of humans who are healthier and happier than the folks you see walking around here? It’s astounding. Imagine this type of impact on millions of people in every country all around the world.

I will add one more to your list there and I will say that we have never been in a place where we have been more divisive, but you take something like CrossFit and you build community. You not only have the health and fitness component, but you are creating a safe place for people to come together and build meaningful bonds, communities, neighborhoods, and networks that will impact more and more people throughout the world.

I couldn’t agree more. I think we learned a lot coming out of COVID. COVID was hard. One of the most important things we learned is humans need interaction with other humans. Community fundamentally is critical. It’s important for our mental health. The answer is not staring at a screen and working out by yourself forever. That can be a good part of your routine, but it’s not sufficient. It’s the bonds that are built through community. I guarantee you walk into a CrossFit box, nobody cares who you voted for. You have this instant connection. It is humanizing in a way that is important and powerful.

[bctt tweet=”COVID was hard. One of the most important things we learned is humans need interaction with other humans. Community fundamentally is critical, it’s important for our mental health. ” username=”talentwargroup”]

We are all here trying to get stronger and better.

We are going to be supportive of each other. We are going to challenge each other. The essence of what creates this notion of shared adversity, we have all gone through that before. There is nothing that builds human connection than shared adversity and support through hard circumstances.

TJP - E96 Don Faul Crossfit CEO

“There’s nothing that builds human connection than shared adversity and support through hard circumstances.”

Even just looking in from the outside, one of the things I observe in the fitness industry in general that worries me is that so many people are focused on, “I need to get thinner to look a certain way.” There’s an outside perception of, “I need to look a certain way to be okay.” To me, the solution is to find goals that are not necessarily just aesthetically oriented but give yourself goals to achieve, “I want to be stronger, faster, healthier, and more coordinated.”

To have measurable goals that are not necessarily about your weight, I see a lot of that in CrossFit and I see how motivating it is. I know that for me, obstacles have changed my life. I like that this gives an accessible way for anyone to be like, “I have never done a squat, but I’m going to learn how to do an air squat today and someday I’m going to be able to lift more weight.”

Without question. I have three little girls. As parents, my wife and I are now thinking about what we want to expose them to in their life. We talk a lot and think a lot about how we expose them to challenges that allow them to build grit, perseverance, and pride in things that are meaningful and matter. One of the things that I love about CrossFit is it is a path to achieve all those things.

I say that as I think about my daughters for women, for example. Look at the women in our sport. They are amazing. They execute on a level playing field. It’s one of the things I love about CrossFit. The prize money, events, and podiums are the same. The greatest athlete in the history of our sport is Tia Toomey. It’s a woman. That’s an incredible thing or example for young girls and young boys, you name it.TJP - E96 Don Faul Crossfit CEO

We had Shaylin Laure. She’s impressive in all facets of her career, not only in CrossFit but in the FBI and the Army. She’s making an impact across all of those organizations. You got a lot of work to do.

The next couple of months, CrossFit Open is going to start in February, and the semi-finals later this year. You got the CrossFit finals in July. What are you most looking forward to over the next 6 to 12 months?

Reaching more people. To come back to it, as we have launched this new campaign, we have seen the response already. What you will see in this campaign is we are surfacing the stories of everyday people. We are getting people to give CrossFit a chance for the very first time. I’m very confident in a year from now, we are going to look back to the story that was told about CrossFit. With the energy and enthusiasm that you can feel here, people are saying without question, “CrossFit is growing and reaching more people. CrossFit the brand is on an ascent.” Most importantly, we are all doing it together as a community because it’s not just our job at HQ. We play an important role, but most importantly, it’s this entire community working together.

As we close out, I got the real test question for you. The Jedburghs in World War II had to do three things every day to be successful. They had to be able to shoot, move, and communicate. Those are core foundational tasks and habits. What are the three things that you do every day to set the conditions for success in your world?

The first thing for me starts the night before, so maybe I’m cheating a little bit. I’m a big routines guy. I don’t know where that came from. Maybe in the Marine Corps.

Your day doesn’t have to start in the morning.

Every night, the night before, I set an intention for the next day. The biggest thing I do is pack my gym bag. I get ready to go to the gym. I like to train in the morning. I’m up at 5:15 or 5:30 every day. The best way to start the day as we talk about is getting into the gym. I get a chance to get a workout in. I get a chance to connect with the community there. It’s important.TJP - E96 Don Faul Crossfit CEO

The next most important thing for me is at the end of the day, I sit down to dinner with my family. I travel a fair amount with this job, but when I’m home, we eat together. My wife carries the heaviest load and getting the kids ready for school and supporting them throughout the day. I usually cook dinner and then we sit down as a family and we talk about the day. We make that an important priority.

Set your intention for the day, pack the gym bag, work out first thing in the morning, and end the day by spending time with your family. I love all three of those. We got a couple more hours here in the event. I’m truly honored to have sat with you. We do have one challenge for you. We have something for you and we want to give it to you, but you have to pick if we are going to give it to you in that ice bath over there or in the sauna. As a Marine, I expect you to make the right choice.

I will take it. Look at you stack the deck. Are you doing it with me?

Yeah. We are both doing it with you.

Okay. Let’s do the ice bath.

Thanks. We will see you at the ice bath.


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