Exclusive: On the Warpath with CrossFit's Greg Glassman
J Thoendell stashed this in Sports
When people started doing CrossFit in 2001, it was revolutionary and also a little crazy. If you live in, say, Silicon Valley, where the sport is popular among the tech elite, you’ve probably seen them in their muscle tees and tiny shorts, flipping tires or carrying each other up flights of stairs. Athletes (anyone who takes a class is called an athlete; instructors are “coaches”; gyms are “boxes”) combine homegrown resistance-training techniques (i.e., the tires), explosive weight lifting, running, and squats to transform their bodies into hard-charging muscle machines.
But the bigger appeal of CrossFit is the fiercely tribal culture around it. CrossFitters train together, eat together, and party together. They also, as is only natural wherever washboard abs and toned glutes abound, tend to sleep together. They’ve been described as a “cult of overachievers.” Their unofficial mascot is a clown vomiting on himself, and for good reason: Puking is practically a rite of passage for beginners. Egregious injuries resulting from the sport have been well documented.
Still, CrossFit is one of the fastest-growing networks of affiliated gyms on Earth. A new “box” opens somewhere in the world every two hours, and more than 115,000 people to date have been certified to coach. The company earns more than $100 million a year in revenue from the $1,000 certification fees and $3,000 annual gym fees, and one man owns it 100 percent.
That man is Greg Glassman, a salty, charming but little-known, thrice-married father of seven who may be the most unlikely spiritual leader to emerge in the 21st century. For millions of devoted CrossFitters, Glassman is a brash, libertarian guiding voice. He’s a preacher with an enormous platform, given to tirades against government interference and what he sees as a Big Soda conspiracy to make the world fat. He surrounds himself with a posse of ex-Marines and ex-SEALs, and he relishes his place behind the scenes. So who is this modern messiah? Maxim was granted unprecedented access to find out.