#122: Retention, Great Coaches & Doing Hard Things – NCFIT Founder Jason Khalipa & Wodify CEO Brendan Rice (CrossFit Games 2023)

Wednesday October 11, 2023

Joining a gym is often the most important decision and commitment we make on our fitness journey. Which gym we choose can make or break our attitude and our results. But what makes a great gym? What keeps us there and brings us back day after day? What are the keys to retention for both the gym goer and the gym owner? Wodify is the leading customer retention platform in the fitness industry. NCFIT was an early adopter and continues to put technology at the forefront of the gym experience. 

For this episode, Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff invited Wodify’s newly promoted CEO Brendan Rice and NCFIT’s Founder & the 2008 CrossFit Games Champion Jason Khalipa for an early morning coffee on the back of the US Army Fitness Truck at 2023 NOBULL CrossFit Games.

Transforming the gym business has been at the center of the Wodify and NCFIT missions. Brendan and Jason share their keys to creating a customer experience and generating results through training the best coaches, never shying from doing hard things and focusing on the athlete over everything else. Brendan also shares his vision for Wodify as he takes the helm leading with curiosity, investing in the team and maintaining Wodify’s position at the leading edge of innovation and fitness technology; a set of values that has allowed the company to expand into the Jiu-jit-su community. Jason is one of the best coaches in fitness and explains his keys to becoming a great coach; plus he got the call to announce the games on ESPN! 

Learn more and read the transcript on The Jedburgh Podcast Website. Subscribe to us and follow @jedburghpodcast on all social media. Watch the full video version on YouTube. Then hop into the cold plunge and do hard things! Transform your gym experience today at www.wodify.com.

Listen to the podcast here


Retention, Great Coaches & Doing Hard Things – NCFIT Founder Jason Khalipa & Wodify CEO Brendan Rice (CrossFit Games 2023)

Welcome to The Jedburgh Podcast. Jason and Brendan, thanks for coming to join us. I’m super excited to have you guys both on. Jason, it’s been a while.Wodify CEO Brendan Rice and NCFIT Founder Jason Khalipa join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on the Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.

It’s good to catch up. The last time I saw you, we were in Florida for the Jacksonville event. You had that badass jeep there. That thing was so sick. I loved it. They were recording episodes inside this tank Jeep.

I saw some videos.

It was a 1944 World War II truck.

Do you still have that?

The one you saw was an ambulance in ‘22. We have gone to a Dodge. That was made by Land Rover. We bought an American and went to a Dodge. It’s an open back. You have the option to have this canvas top or open it up. That one sits in my garage, leaking oil all over the place. We’re going to talk about a couple of things. We’re going to talk about the games. We’re here. ESPN started the coverage. You’re famous.

As opposed to before?

This time, you’re more famous.

The ESPN thing was so interesting because some people knew about it and some people didn’t. The deal took a while to come to terms with the lawyers. Last minute, they announced it. They announced it on Wednesday and they started it on Thursday.

It’s so exciting.

Hopefully, more people will watch it. Hopefully, a lot of people watch it. I told you guys it’s prime time right before the UFC fight. If you ever wanted to get exposure to the sport of fitness and CrossFit, that’s the opportunity. That’s cool.

There’s a lot of crossover between fighters and CrossFit, right?

Yeah. It’s on the fringe. I do a lot of jiu-jitsu. Jiu-jitsu and CrossFit are right there. You got the MMA crew that’s right there, too. It’s this bubble of life’s hard stuff.

We’ll call it punishment. Brendan, congratulations. You took over as the CEO of Wodify.

Thank you.

We were honored to meet Shah, your former boss or the Chairman of Wodify. He joined us on episode 103, the first episode from Sandlot JAX 2023. Ameet came down from Philadelphia and Denver. He spent some time with me in the back of the truck. We talked all about Wodify and his journey from a janitor on Mars to a tech mogul, but fit tech, and what he’s doing in that space. Congratulations to you, but you’re in the hot seat.

Wodify CEO Brendan Rice and NCFIT Founder Jason Khalipa join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on the Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.

I appreciate it. Thanks. You got back-to-back Wodify CEOs. I’m really excited to be here.

Jason, I want to ask you. We last connected on episode 54. You are the former CrossFit Games Champ and World’s Fittest Man in 2008. You also played 2nd in 2013 and 3rd in 2014. You also had your 2019 event that we talked all about where you had the Red Bull before and almost died.

It was the 2009 event.

What’s it like to come back to the games as a broadcaster and a spectator and not as a competitor?

I had that question. It’s interesting. I competed professionally in CrossFit from 2008 through 2016. At that point, my daughter got sick and I pivoted away from the sport. When I went back to the first regionals or first games, there was a part of me that missed it a little bit. My daughter got diagnosed with leukemia. It was because of that that it wasn’t even on the fringe if I was going to continue competing. It wasn’t even a thing. It wasn’t even a debate.

Since it was so strong, like, “I’m out,” it never drew me back in. When I come here, I don’t have goals or aspirations to be back on that floor. I’m good with it. I compete in jiu-jitsu and other things, but this chapter was amazing for my life. It was because of how abruptly it happened with Ava getting sick that it never drew me back in. It’s easy for me to be at these events.

You brought up Ava, and I want to point it out. You announced, if I’m correct, shortly after we last spoke that she’s doing great.

The way leukemia works, in girls at least, is you get treated for 2 and a half years, and then after you get treated, 5 years after that, you’re considered cured. She had been treated for 2 and a half years, and then she hit her 5-year mark months ago. We got back from Europe as a family. We went there for a month, celebrating her being cancer-free. Her statistical likelihood of getting cancer is the same as any of ours sitting here. It’s a big deal. It’s a huge cliff.

It’s a long journey for you and the family.Wodify CEO Brendan Rice and NCFIT Founder Jason Khalipa join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on the Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.

We learned a lot.

She works out with you, right?

Every day. I was talking to a gentleman. This is something for any parent to think about. It was factory reset. When you get a PlayStation or an Apple computer and do a factory reset, you then get to figure out what apps you’re going to put on and what inputs you’re going to put on. With the kids, they’re at a factory reset when they’re born. You get to control the inputs you put in. If you don’t input the right way, there are other outside forces that start to lean in.

Since we’ve instilled this idea of fitness and health in our children, Ava never thinks that lifting weights is a bad thing and that she’s going to get bulkier. It’s a part of her lifestyle. She works out with me in the mornings. We’re trying to work still that balance where we’re always being aware of not being too crazy on fitness and not being sedentary. That’s what we do. It’s good.

I see so many brands here and so many activations. You made the transition during this time as well from an athlete to a business owner and an entrepreneur. You then, with NCIT, had to find the value proposition and then scale it globally. You’ve done a phenomenal job in that. I always talk about the experience that I had going to see you in the gym. You know that was the kickoff, and I don’t think I ever told you, about my commitment to doing all of our episodes in person. It was from going to see you.

You never told me. That’s cool. It’s because of the connection.

You and I had spoken before I went out. We were like, “Do we do it in person?” You said, “It’s so much better in person.” I had done maybe ten or so at that point. That was also at the back end of COVID and everything. I’d done a small number in person and I always felt that way. You said, “Come out to California. It will be fine.” I was like, “Sure.”

We went to California and did the one episode on the way home. I said, “At all costs, whatever it takes, we’re going to do these things in person.” That changed everything that we’ve done on this show for the better. It has made it a staple of doing these activations, going places, and being able to tell the true story of our guests and create a meaningful relationship that’s not transactional. Thank you for that. That’s why I bring it up.

I’m not a Wodify CEO, but I’m doing my best.

Talk about the transition into entrepreneurism as a gym owner, some of the opportunities that you saw, and why you said, “This is something I want to do.”

When I first got into CrossFit and I won the CrossFit games, I won $1,500. It wasn’t a thing. There was no fame. There was no fortune.

There is celebrity status now.

It was like Ninja Warrior many years ago, whenever it was. I never did it for money or fame, so I had to find something else to do. I opened a gym early on. As we grew, we wanted to scale. Business is tough. You have to evolve. You have to grow. Our business has evolved and grown in a variety of different ways. We have a clear path of where we want to go in the next five years, but that’s changed over the last couple of years. I started the company in 2008. When I won the games, I also opened my first gym. Over the years, we scaled, did corporate wellness, did this, and did that. We have to keep reinventing and growing. That’s my mindset from an entrepreneurial perspective.

Can you tell me a little bit about getting into jiu-jitsu coming from being the fittest man on earth, going into something and being brand new, and what it’s like taking on a new challenge and being a beginner again?

Everybody should be doing jiu-jitsu. If you’re not doing jiu-jitsu, you should be doing it.

I hear that a lot. I’ve been wanting to get into it.

Coming from CrossFit, I was at the tip of the spear there in terms of fitness, health, etc. Going and learning a new skill is so valuable. It makes you a better coach. It makes you a better human being. It humbles you. Jiu-jitsu is such a phenomenal form of fitness and a form of self-defense because it’s a gentle art. It’s like a game of chess. When you’re in the match, you’re present and focused. You learn to be a beginner again. It makes you very humble. Anybody who’s an expert in their craft who doesn’t go out and try and learn new skills is missing out.

Wodify CEO Brendan Rice and NCFIT Founder Jason Khalipa join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on the Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.

Let’s talk about Wodify for a minute. You’re in the hot seat. The journey for you started when you decided out of college. You went to Wisconsin, so you spent time here in Madison. I’m jealous. The sun was coming up over the lake. I’m like, “This is a nice place.” You started a mattress company, running around in shirts that said, “Come sleep with me.” You’re the CEO of Wodify. Did you ever end up sleeping with anybody because of the shirt?

It was purely a marketing thing. I started a mattress company back when buying a mattress online was something people didn’t know they could do. It was an experience in entrepreneurship where I, over two years, made every mistake you could make. It was super humbling. I learned things the hard way. Coming out of it, it was an interesting dynamic where I felt like I had all this unique experience, but I started looking for new opportunities. My resume didn’t make any sense. I didn’t have a ton of digital marketing experience or sales experience. I had to find a company, fortunately, it was Wodify, which I did that valued entrepreneurial skills in a bigger company environment. I won’t bore you with the mattress stories, but it’s a wild industry.

Wodify had a value proposition. You have to solve a need. The need, which was initially identified by Ameet, was that you have these athletes who are coming into the gyms. They were CrossFit athletes primarily. They have these prescribed workouts. On the other side, you have the gym owners. The gym owners have to facilitate the workouts, but they’re doing it on paper.

You’re finishing workouts and they’re saying, “Keep track of your scores. In a couple of months, you might do the same workout. Maybe we’ll never see that workout again, but we might want to refer back to how you did on certain parts of it.” Ameet saw that opportunity and said, “Let’s create a platform by which they can interact and then give them that opportunity.” Talk about the growth of that, the initial concept, and then how that has benefited NCFIT and Jason’s company.

The problem we were solving was retention. That challenge you described was a real challenge. The reason we were successful is it created value, which was retention for gym owners. It started as a side project. This little gym in Cherry Hill, New Jersey put up a screen on their wall and had their athletes start recording their scores.

Wodify CEO Brendan Rice and NCFIT Founder Jason Khalipa join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on the Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.

We went to gyms like NCFIT early on, CrossFit Mayhem, and these gyms around the country and said, “Let us install TVs and try this thing in your gym. If you guys like it, please tell people about it.” You can see a heat map of our early sales around California and different areas of the country where we did that because we were helping with retention. We were proving if you do CrossFit for 2 or 3 months, you might not see the numbers change on a scale, but you can show people with data that you’re improving, you hit a PR, or you’re getting better.

[bctt tweet=”If you can show people with data that they’re improving, you just hit a PR.” username=”talentwargroup”]

The story of how we grew from there was listening to our customers. We had some customers who were like, “I love this, but if you guys can’t build the ability to reserve classes and process payments, that’s what we need.” We built out the platform from there and kept listening to customer feedback which led us to deeper partnerships with NCFIT and new products we launched.

That sounds like such a game-changer to me because I’m so motivated by beating my own records. With CrossFit workouts where you’re doing something different every day over time, you’re not going to remember what your numbers were on the first try.

It was remembering your numbers. A huge part of the early success was the social engagement. CrossFit is competitive. People like going to class and seeing how they do. If you go to the 5:30 class every day, you’re competing against the same 15 people. With Wodify, suddenly, you see the entire day. You see the 5:30 class, the 6:30 class, and the evening class. You see everyone’s scores. You can like and comment on people. That social engagement was a huge part of how we grew so fast.

That makes it way more exciting.

Jessie and I went to Wodapalooza and had the chance to be on the stage there. He invited us and sent us to the CrossFit level one trainer. We had a chance to go do that in San Diego in February 2023 and then become fully immersed in the whole programming.

The seminars are probably the best things. If you look at CrossFit as a business, the part of the business that’s the most streamlined and well-executed is probably the seminar staff. I worked on seminar staff for years. They do an excellent job with their level one. It’s the best two-day weekend seminar on the planet.

Wodify CEO Brendan Rice and NCFIT Founder Jason Khalipa join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on the Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.

It was great.

Hopefully, you guys liked it.

I loved learning the definitions of fitness because I am such a specialist. A lot of people assume that I am good in a lot of different areas, but seeing all the different nine areas of fitness, it was?

There are ten general physical skills. What Greg Glassman did interestingly is he defined what fitness is and work capacity across broad time and different domains. When you think about that, you start plotting it. Even if you never plot your metrics and your power output, it’s all theoretical. The concept is powerful. Take the hopper model. You guys learned about that. In the first ever CrossFit games, they took ping pong balls, put them inside of a popcorn hopper, and rolled the dice. Whatever came out, people did. They wanted to see who performs statistically the best across all those events is the fittest.

Realizing and naming the specific categories is more motivating to be like, “I’m lacking in these areas. If I want to be well-rounded, I really need to focus on these other things that maybe hadn’t occurred to me to be important in my training.”

I could be wrong on this. The gentleman who created the Dynamax med ball also created this concept of ten general physical skills. It is power, speed, endurance, flexibility, and all of those ten. CrossFit utilizes that as a part of their explanation.

You brought up the training seminars as being one, if not the best, training seminar out there. I would agree with you. The level of professionalism amongst the coaches was unlike anything I’ve seen in a very long time. Talk about training coaches for a minute because you’re training coaches in your gyms. Wodify has launched the Wodify Workout Marketplace in order to enhance the training of coaches. Talk about the importance of the coach in the programs. We see a lot of them running around with coach bands here. Why is it so important?

Here’s the thing. What happened with our business is by design, we needed to do this. In 2008, we started one location. We then started to expand locations. We went from 2 and 3 to 4 in the Bay Area. When you’re in the Bay Area and you have an attachment to, let’s say, 30 or 50 coaches, it’s easy to control the quality.

Wodify CEO Brendan Rice and NCFIT Founder Jason Khalipa join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on the Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.

We signed a major corporate wellness deal with Western Digital and it took us globally. We had locations at that point in Mexico, Singapore, Thailand, China, Malaysia, and Japan. As we expanded, and this is in 2012 or something like that, we started saying, “How do we keep consistency across all these locations?” We started using Google Docs to send out like, “Do it this way.”

Eventually, we went to Brendan. We were doing something on our own. I said, “Why don’t we integrate this into a platform like yours where coaches can see the coaching notes for the day like, ‘This is the stimulus. This is the goal. This is how you scale. This is how you adjust,’ in a daily video on how to perform it?” It’s similar to Starbucks. You make a better or worse barista at Starbucks, but you’re going to have a similar-ish experience. That’s what we were trying to strive for. Collaborating with Brendan on the marketplace, gym owners were able to click a button and get all the resources and tools that we were using for our gyms at a fraction of what it would cost them.

One of the things that I learned from Jason, too, is that it is a cool way to think about it. I was like, “What is the actual product of a CrossFit gym?” I’ll paraphrase something I feel like you’ve taught me, which is the product is what you experience on the floor. It is a combination of the actual workout itself and the coaching. Coaching is perhaps the more important or most important part of that.

One of the things I enjoy doing whenever I travel is dropping into random types of gyms. It could be CrossFit gyms, but also Barry’s, Orangetheory, and all sorts of different types of gyms. I’ve seen the spectrum of coaching and how big of a difference it makes. I’ve seen Jason coach classes. Anyone who’s really good at something, they make it look very easy. You then go experience maybe a less experienced coach and realize how different of an experience you have in that workout. For us, being able to partner with NCFIT but be able to see the bigger picture of if gyms provide a better product on the floor by having better coaches, their business is going to be healthier. They’re going to have better retention and have all those other features. Coaching is a skill that needs to be developed.

Wodify CEO Brendan Rice and NCFIT Founder Jason Khalipa join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on the Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.

On top of that, it’s going to be good for the entire industry. I’m a big believer that we, as an industry, need to level up. If you go in for a CrossFit experience and have a crappy experience, you’re going to go tell five friends how much CrossFit sucks. If you go in and have the best experience of your life, you’re going to tell five friends how awesome you had it. Tools and resources like this are trying to help the industry.

What is it that makes a great CrossFit coach?

It is being able to give someone the experience they’re looking for. For a lot of people, it is an enjoyable hour where they feel like they accomplished something and they got a great workout in. What that means is you show up with a lot of energy and excitement. You give a few people personalized cues that they need, which might be a more technical adjustment on the movement or it might be like, “Great job. Keep going.” You keep the class moving and keep it exciting.

A great coach does three things to make sure that people have fun. 1) If you’re not having fun, you’re not going to retain people. They’re not going to be consistent and they’re not going to get results. You could do something for 1 day, 2 days, or 5 days, but if you’re not enjoying the experience, you will not come back consistently for a lifetime. Number one, you got to have fun.

[bctt tweet=”Make sure that people have fun. If you’re not having fun, you will not retain people.” username=”talentwargroup”]

2) You got to get in a good workout. It’s pretty straightforward. If you do seven minutes of burpees, you’re going to be tired. 3) Learn something new. No one cares what you have to say until they see how much you care about them as a human. If a coach can do those three things, whether you’re learning any skill, if you can have fun, learn something new, and get in a good workout, that leads to retention and results.

Wodify CEO Brendan Rice and NCFIT Founder Jason Khalipa join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on the Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.

One of the things that’s been said about you, and I’m going to put you on the spot here, is that you can walk into a room and have 5 people in it or 100 people in it and you’re going to give the same amount of energy to everybody in that room regardless of how many people are in there or what their backgrounds are.

I’m a big believer that everybody pays the same amount of fee to come in for your class. Everybody deserves a certain amount of touchpoints. If it meets a normal class, three individual touchpoints. The goal is I’m going to walk around. I’m going to go ahead and give Brendan some type of cue, which could be tactile, visual, verbal, or whatever, and then I’m going to continue to move around the class. I’m going to try and do that three separate times. From a macro theme, if you have a 100-person class, you’re talking high level.

You got to make sure you’re hitting those three points. How do I make sure that people have fun? I got to bring the energy. I got to bring in the excitement. How do you teach them something they haven’t done before at a macro scale? It could be something as simple as being like, “Try your feet 2 inches wider because of this.” All of a sudden, he walks away like, “I’ve never heard that before.” You trigger that third component, which is the education piece.

What do you look for in your coaches?

Safety. I have a history of overtraining. Knowing that I have a coach who can pick out any of my form errors gives me the freedom to trust them to let me push myself. If I’m worried that they’re going to push me and not see my form errors, then I’m not comfortable pushing myself. How do you manage a group of 100 people, give those correct form cues, and keep them from valgus knees?

To level set, there’s a prerequisite that if you’re a coach, you should understand the foundations and the fundamentals of movement. You should be coaching. A coach’s job is to coach. If you start the clock and you are on your phone scrolling Instagram, you’re not doing your job because you’re not engaging with that athlete from minute 1 to minute 60.

Wodify CEO Brendan Rice and NCFIT Founder Jason Khalipa join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on the Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.

Here’s a funny analogy. Imagine if you’re a coach out there reading this and you went and paid for a 60-minute massage. In the middle of that massage, the person jumped on their phone and scrolled Instagram. It’s the same analogy. They’re paying you for 60 minutes of full engagement and full attention. Part of that is to make sure you’re moving safely and effectively. It is mechanics first, then consistency, and then intensity.

I was in Lake Tahoe. I taught 200 people. It was parents and kids. On a workout or a class like that, I have to set myself up for success, so I will not be implementing loading. Anytime you add in loading, there’s an additional level of responsibility for safety. You could still hit my three cubes, have fun, learn something new, and get in a great workout while keeping everybody safe. You can’t see everybody all the time, but you could do movements that you know are going to keep them effective.

[bctt tweet=”Have fun, learn something new, and get in a great workout while keeping everybody safe.” username=”talentwargroup”]

For example, I’ll look at volume and loading. I’ll say, “I am going to hit different parts of the body, but I’m only going to do so many reps so we don’t overstimulate the squat,” for example. If you haven’t exercised in 10 years and I have you do 200 squats, you’re not going to be able to get off the toilet tomorrow. Those are things that I could do from a safety perspective with 200, 100, or 50 people.

Wodify has incorporated this feedback. You can go and comment and like people’s workouts to build on that community. We talked a lot with Don Faul. Don joined us for a little bit in the morning. We talked a lot about the community of CrossFit and being able to build each other up. There’s also the scalability aspect that you brought up. We’re sitting here in front of the Army’s Be All You Can Be. One of the reasons why that becomes important and why the Army brought that back is because it’s about building leaders and people who are the best versions of themselves.

We had Roman Khrennikov. They don’t have to be Roman Khrennikov and the number one, but it is what gets them up in the morning to go work hard, push themselves, focus on becoming a better version of themselves at the end of the day, and do things the way they want to do it. How do you get people not only in CrossFit but in life in general to understand that we see a lot of stuff on Instagram that looks awesome and there are people who are half naked working out hard with a lot of weight, and they can’t do that and that’s okay?

Wodify CEO Brendan Rice and NCFIT Founder Jason Khalipa join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on the Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.

I announced the adaptive and age group divisions. I witnessed 60-plus-year-old people doing bar muscle-ups. Most people, 60-plus, can’t even hang from a bar. These people were going from below the bar to above the bar. I’m like, “Wow.” A lot of things are possible, but you have to balance this inspirational component.

I love the idea of being all you could be. As a culture, we are getting softer. We should use Instagram as inspiration, but ultimately, you have to find a deeper why of why you want to do it in the first place. Why do you want to be all you could be? I don’t want to be not all I could be, but that’s because I’m internally driven. It is identifying goals and setting key markers. Especially as a dad, I want to be the toughest, baddest, and most capable dude in the room because I want to be able to defend my family. I want to be able to defend myself. I want to be able to perform any daily task.

When you have kids, they’ll come up to you nonstop like, “Dad, let’s go do this.” I try to never say no, but imagine if you had to say no because you’re too tired or too unfit. Imagine if you couldn’t go play ball with your kids because you couldn’t throw a ball or be active. That sucks. You should start training. That’s your why. When things get hard, you have to revert back to why you are doing it in the first place. You have to think about what that is deeply.

The highlight of my day is when I am playing lacrosse with my daughter in the backyard.

I’m trying to get my son into lacrosse.

You have to start already.

On the West Coast, it’s not that big, but it’s getting bigger.

They have to start immediately.

I love the idea of lacrosse. I love the idea of rugby. I love the idea of wrestling. Kids need to do more.

I feel like learning how to fall safely should be taught in gym class.

Did you know that one of the biggest statistics of the lifespan is your ability to get up and off the floor? Did you hear about that?

Wodify CEO Brendan Rice and NCFIT Founder Jason Khalipa join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on the Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.


In the Japanese culture or Asian cultures, the lifespan extends because the adults and elderly sit on the floor. They learn how to get up and off the floor. Here in America or the United States, people will fall and they can’t get back up. They end up dying.

I’ve never thought about this until you brought it up. The very first thing that you are taught in Army combative or hand-to-hand combat training in the Army is how to get up off the ground. That’s the first day or two. The only thing you’re doing is getting up off the ground. That’s probably exactly why. I’ve never asked that question before.

I don’t know what the statistics are on it, but I do know that if you can’t get up off the floor, you’re in a lot of trouble.

You’re dead. CEO, we told you you’re in the seat, but it’s about the vision. What’s next for Wodify? Where’s it going and what’s the plan for the next 12 or 24 months for you?

I sent an email to all of our customers with the announcement. I sent a similar message internally to our team and positioned it as three commitments I made to each group. I’ve been at Wodify for about five and a half years and have worked in a lot of different areas of our company, so I feel really good about the company. I’m very confident in the company. All of our employees own shares in the company, so I am directly responsible for a lot of their financial stake in our business. It’s a big responsibility.

I put a lot of thought into what I wanted to say to the team. My commitment to them was, “I’m going to continue investing and growing in our team.” We develop so much talent internally. Many of our promotions and so much of what we do are bringing people up, but also maintaining a bar of who we bring into the organization. With talented people, the way to lose them is to have them work with people who aren’t at the same level as they are. We invest in our team.

I committed to what I termed as lead with curiosity. We go in and be like, “There’s a lot I don’t know, so I’m going to ask a lot of questions. I need you guys to help me get into the business more. I’m going to lead with curiosity, and I’m going to be ready to win with you guys.” It is like, “I’m going to work however hard I need to work. I’m going to ask you guys to do the same. We are going to continue winning in our market for our customers.”

Sometimes, leadership changes or CEO changes come with like, “New plan. We’re shaking things up.” For us, it’s not so much that. I said, “Honestly, we’re going to keep operating with the same vision we’ve had for a while now. We are going to continue consistently delivering value.” We are, I would argue, the most product-focused company in our space. The way we create value is by building products. We’re going to continue delivering consistent value through new features. We’re going to be at the forefront of innovation and fitness technology.

Wodify CEO Brendan Rice and NCFIT Founder Jason Khalipa join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on the Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.

In 2012, we told gyms to put TVs on their walls and we got laughed at an event. You go to any CrossFit gym in the world and you’re probably going to see a TV on the wall. We’re pushing the envelope every day with that. The coach view is a new feature. We talked about some of the value that delivers. We’re constantly pushing the envelope with innovation.

The last one was leading with integrity and transparency. When we make mistakes, we send videos to our customers and we’re like, “Here is what happened. We messed up.” When we form partnerships, we do it in a way that we feel good about and we can shake hands, and feel like both sides are winning. Those are the three pillars that I talked about.

I can’t wait to watch the company grow under your leadership.

Thank you.

It’s going to be awesome to see.

We are excited.

Wodify CEO Brendan Rice and NCFIT Founder Jason Khalipa join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on the Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.

I’m a customer, too. I love him. Ameet is badass. He treated me with nothing but respect. He supports Ava’s Kitchen, which is a big fundraiser that we do for pediatric cancer. That wins him some brownie points in my heart. He cares. Brendan has been the COO for a while. As far as I’m concerned as a customer, I’ve engaged with Brendan for so many years. When I got the email, my reaction was, “I’m surprised Ameet didn’t send it, but kudos to Brendan. Let’s rock and roll.” That was it. Sharing from a customer perspective, people are like, “We know who Brendan is. Let’s rock.”

Thank you. We’re still a small enough company where I’ve had the chance to interact and get to know a lot of our customers. Jason, do you remember when we went to that gym in St. Louis, UnCharted? Jason and I, after we launched NCFIT together, it was the first 45 days where if anyone signed up, we would go out and do an event with them.

This gym, UnCharted CrossFit, outside of St. Louis won. Jason and I fly out to this gym on a Friday afternoon. We went out and got there. You and I did a death row. We did this burpee row workout. It was my second time meeting you. I was like, “We’re going to do this workout.” We do this workout, and then Jason coaches a 65-person class. We do a potluck with them. It’s 9:00 at night and we’re eating mac and cheese in this gym. I’m standing next to Jason Khalipa and we have another gym owner who’s a customer. I’m like, “This is cool.” Being able to work at a software company, sometimes, you’re so far removed from that kind of stuff. That was a cool experience.

That was a good time.

It’s cool. I was talking about this at dinner. Gym owners are some of the most selfless entrepreneurs because you are signing up for a very challenging business and your goal is to help them lead better lives. Our position of being able to help gym owners stay in business, serve more people, and run better businesses is important.

How long have you been doing CrossFit?

I started when I started at Wodify. I had never done CrossFit before. I went to this gym. It was the first gym that we launched. I did it at that gym for maybe a year. I’ve tried jiu-jitsu for a while. The gym I go to is not an affiliate, but it’s CrossFit. They do functional fitness and yoga, a combination. I’ve been doing some version of functional fitness for close to six years now.

How do you feel like it’s helped you grow as a person?

I was talking to Fran about how he had the author of the Comfort Crisis on. That’s the lens I look through.

That’s Michael Easter.

Doing things that are hard makes other things in life hard. It has helped me. I’m also into long-distance running, trail running, and stuff. It has helped me both with that. It has helped me walk into places and feel like I’m a beginner. I always work out in the morning. If I have a hard workout in the morning, the rest of my day feels more manageable.

Intentionally choosing to do hard things makes real-life things less hard, whether it’s the cold plunge, the sauna, workouts, or whatever.

[bctt tweet=”Intentionally choosing to do hard things makes real life less hard.” username=”talentwargroup”]

You brought up the cold plunge. We had this long discussion. I said I was going to ask you this and you provided the moment.

I teed it up.

It’s too easy. Can you speak to the physiology behind the cold plunge?

Wodify CEO Brendan Rice and NCFIT Founder Jason Khalipa join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on the Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.

I was having this conversation. I was at my house in the cold plunge and some guy asked me this exact same question. I looked at him and was like, “Here’s the bottom line. Is there science that helps with this brown fat and losing it?” Here’s what I know about the cold plunge. I know two things specifically. I don’t want to do it, and when I get out, I’m cold as hell for a while. Those are the two things I know.

Let’s look at those two things for a second. What are the benefits? When I get out of a cold plunge, my core body temperature has decreased. I am freezing. I’m very bad in the cold, which is why I got a cold plunge, and I’m shivering. Since I don’t immediately get in a sauna, my body has to self-regulate itself back up the temperature. I believe, and I don’t know if this is data or not so I’d have to go ask someone else, that my body needs to work to get my core temperature back up to normal.

As it is doing that, it is burning calories and burning fat. That is a theory that I have. You then have the anti-inflammatory components from a cellular level. All of this, I’m sure you can go find data that backs it up and you can’t back it up for the cold plunge. Here’s one thing that I don’t care what science you go find on Google that you cannot argue with. Getting in a cold plunge is extremely difficult. Going and doing that makes me a better person mentally and physically. There’s no debate.

You could debate everything else you want about the brown fat, anti-inflammatory, or who knows what else you could talk about. At the end of the day, it’s a very difficult task that when I look at it, I sometimes, in the morning, slap myself in the face before I get into a cold punch because it’s going to suck so much. This is honestly what I do. I walk out and start taking off my clothes. I still have board shorts on or whatever. I start taking off my shirt and the sandals are off. I keep walking. I don’t stop. I walk up to it. I pump myself up with Rocky music in the background. I get in it and sit in it for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the temperature, and I get the hell out.

The science doesn’t matter. The science could say whatever it wants. It could tell me that I’m going to gain weight. I don’t care because it’s mentally putting me in a state of discomfort that I believe is beneficial. I have witnessed firsthand in my daughter the life-changing results of the cold plunge. I mean this with all seriousness. For my daughter, I find it to be the single most effective tool that we have used to help support mental health. She will do it for the rest of her life. We have it at 55 degrees, which is like the ocean where we live in Santa Cruz. When she gets out of it, she’s a different person. I cannot speak highly enough about it. Every child should be doing it.

I should buy a cold plunge. That was the best endorsement for a cold plunge I’ve ever heard.Wodify CEO Brendan Rice and NCFIT Founder Jason Khalipa join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on the Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.

Andrew Huberman talks about it in his podcast about dopamine. What he says is exactly what you said. It takes more pleasure to receive the dopamine rewards, but every time you do something hard, specifically an ice bath, it resets a lower bar so that you can be happier with smaller things. Resetting that every morning with a cold plunge gives you a happier life.

For adults, it’s very important. For the youth, it’s even more important because the youth have it so hard with social media, all the pressures, and everything going on. We’re trying to create these bubbles for our kids with air conditioning and all this stuff. We’re trying to get them as comfortable as possible, but we’re doing our children a disservice.

I don’t want to go off on a kid ramp, but that’s my opinion. We’re doing our youth a disservice by keeping them too comfortable. We need to expose them to hard things because life is going to come and hit them hard. If they aren’t exposed to adversity, they’re not going to be as well-versed to handle it in the future. Maybe I’m biased because my daughter out of nowhere got leukemia. Maybe it is like, “Life is good,” and then boom.

My daughter’s thirteen this 2023. We’re dealing with that. She’s going into high school. The most consistent thing that I’ll tell her every day is, “It’s hard. It’s supposed to be hard. How are you going to wake up every day and figure out how you’re going to challenge it and tackle it, and come out when you go to bed and say, ‘I did something. I achieved something. I grew?’ Every day from here on out is going to be hard. If you think high school is going to be hard, if you go to college, it’s going to be harder. When you go to become an adult and it’s on you, it’s going to be even harder than that.”

The cold plunge, for those reasons alone, the debate is over. You should be doing it.

Jiu-jitsu and the cold plunge are what I take away here. We need to immediately start doing it.

It may be a sauna if you don’t like the hot.

We have three more days of the games. It’s ramping up. What are you looking forward to besides your fame and stardom on ESPN?

Honestly, I’m not even doing many conversations or shows because I want my voice to sound good. I want to win. I want to do well. That’s what I’m focused on.

What are your favorite parts about announcing, and what’s the most challenging?

For me, it’s trying to add value. On ESPN, it is very difficult because you have soundbites. How do you constrict value into a very short soundbite? How do you provide for the viewer at the bar who is drinking a beer and seeing this thing on TV? Maybe they can barely hear. How do you provide them with some type of nugget that they walk away after drinking that beer where they’re like, “Maybe tomorrow I’m going to go for a walk.” How can I do that? If you could get someone to do that, you’re then improving human health. We have millions of eyes on this. What is my responsibility? My responsibility is to make the event look so sick and badass that it inspires someone to get off their couch and go do something cool.

It’s a great mission.

I haven’t been thinking about it that way. Being on ESPN is a big milestone. You’re giving context to the whole thing and helping people understand that’s not what it’s going to be like when I walk into my CrossFit gym down the street if I do that. There’s a lot of pressure. We were talking about jiu-jitsu. One of CrossFit’s goals is to grow CrossFit. This is a huge part of that. Jiu-jitsu, to some degree, and mixed martial arts have done that with the UFC. The UFC has blown up and jiu-jitsu gyms are everywhere now. I feel like CrossFit can learn from some of that.

If you think about what Joe Rogan’s responsibility is when he’s announcing, he’s trying to make it exciting and engaging, but he’s also trying to educate and inspire. There’s a lot of responsibility there. The ESPN thing is a little bit different. You don’t have as much. It’s more soundbites, but still, it’s the same idea.

There’s no better person for the job.Wodify CEO Brendan Rice and NCFIT Founder Jason Khalipa join Fran Racioppi and Jessie Graff on the Jedburgh Podcast from CrossFit Games 2023.


I’m inspired on a number of fronts every time I talk to you. I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. I know you have a lot going on. I appreciate Wodify and the partnership with the show here at the CrossFit Games. It has been awesome getting to know the company, getting to know you, Brendan, Ameet, and the whole team. What you talked about with good people, that’s what matters.

Special Operations Forces truth number one, people are more important than hardware. We can have everything in the world. We can have the most expensive equipment or the greatest things. People have to operate that. They have to build it. They have to come together as teams. It starts with being a strong individual who’s willing to do hard things. I appreciate everything you guys are doing. You’re building a great company over there.

Thank you. I appreciate it.

Thanks so much.


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