On July 1, former CrossFit Games athlete and owner of Eleventh Element CrossFit Hilliard, in Hilliard, OH Graham Holmberg notified members in an email of a dress code policy barring men and women from working out topless and disallowing women to wear “booty shorts.”

The specifics: The new policy, which went into effect 24 hours later, prohibited all athletes from removing their shirts at the gym, including during and after the workout. Female athletes are also barred from wearing “booty shorts.”

  • “We understand the temperatures are getting hot, but we ask that you consider bringing an extra shirt as we will no longer be allowing shirtless workouts for men and women,” the policy states.
  • “Additionally, female athletes will no longer be allowed to wear ‘booty shorts.’” 

The rationale: “Please consider the movements we do during CrossFit classes (deadlift, toes to bar, handstand push ups) and how these movements reveal certain areas of the body to others in the class. Our mission is to create an environment where we can display our fitness and success, but allows every member to feel comfortable in their CrossFit journey.”

  • One member received this response to a question about the new policy: “We understand not everyone will agree with our position on how we run our gym/business. Our goal is to create a positive and welcoming environment. We believe our influence can be more then just a physical and mental toughness from hard workouts. But carrying ourselves in humility and modesty, and being thoughtful of how I expose my body to others besides my spouse.”

For what it’s worth: Owner Graham Holmberg was seen working out topless in his gym as recently as May 8. He also competed topless at the Rogue Invitational.

  • We reached out to Holmberg through his Instagram, his email address and the Eleventh Elements Instagram specifically asking for the reason behind this policy change. We received no reply. 

Further clarification: After numerous questions about what is acceptably, Holmberg clarified what is and is not considered a “booty short” in a follow-up email the next day.

What members are saying: We spoke to two members who asked to remain anonymous as they’re both still members of the gym. 

  • This decision came as a surprise and people are upset. “There were no events or behavior that I saw that led to this.”
  • This is a new policy: Eleventh Element CrossFit has been open since 2014. One member who’s been there since almost the beginning said this is the first time an official policy like this has existed.
  • They’re looking elsewhere: A member and their spouse said they and other members are actively looking for a new home. 

The power of voting with your pocketbook: A little history on the risk of making unpopular decisions and not listening to the community when they begin to speak up. In two of the three instances we’ve covered where an unpopular decision wasn’t handled properly, that gym has gone out of business. All three of these stories are very different in nature but articulate the same point: even loyal members are willing to walk when situations aren’t handled carefully. 

  • June 8, 2018: Colossal CrossFit wrote a letter asking certain members to leave because they didn’t fit in with their “new vision.” Gym is now closed. 
  • June 6, 2018: Brandon Lowe, owner of CrossFit Infiltrate in Indianapolis, IN, cancelled a Pride event scheduled at the gym. Gym closed down.
  • Jan 17, 2018: Tom Tomlo, owner of Blue Ridge CrossFit in Fletcher, NC, posted sexually suggestive photos of female athletes backsides. When called out for it, instead of apologizing, he made matters worse by vilifying members on their gym facebook page. The gym managed to stay open but not before several members and a majority of the coaching staff quit.

What others are saying:

  • Chestee, Nicole Biscuiti: “Personally I believe in an individual’s right to dress how they choose. Professionally, I respect a business owner’s right to institute a dress code policy that is consistent with their culture. Consumers choose where to spend their time and money based on the alignment with their personal values. If they feel uncomfortable, they are free to shop around! In the CrossFit community, we want to encourage others to keep at it, if that’s at our Box, awesome. If it’s down the street, that’s ok too. We are all one big family working hard to be better every single day. Long story short: you do you.”

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