From Toe Spacing to WHOOP to Wall Walks: What Trended in 2021
If you were around CrossFit in 2010, you probably do. The compression gear promised to improve our Fran times by 10 percent (or something like that), and every CrossFit athlete had some.
Skins, of course, aren’t the only trend that have come and gone in our community in the last decade. In fact, the CrossFit athlete from 2009 is hardly recognizable today. You know, the one who showed up to the local competition with their Buddy Lee skipping rope and Vibram FiveFinger shoes, diligently counting their Zone blocks between workouts.
Fast forward a couple years, and Inov-8s suddenly dominated the shoe game, which we wore with long bacon-clad socks shaking my head 🤦♀️, before the classier Stance sock craze of 2015 took hold.
The CrossFit ecosystem is unique in the sense that a vast majority of its favorite brands are built for and consumed by the CrossFit community. And as such, new recovery trends, food, beverages, footwear are constantly emerging. Here’s a look at what trended in 2021 and some predictions for 2022.
It’s safe to say one thing the CrossFit community is full of are eager consumers, willing to try the latest recovery protocol, food, beverages (remember Bulletproof coffee?), footwear, or popular marketing strategy of the day promises to deliver results.
Trending in 2021
“What’s your recovery score?” Our community has become obsessed with WHOOP, the wearable technology that helps us track our sleep quality, quantity, and most importantly our recovery.
2. Wall Walks
Leave it to one man to turn an obscure, not-so-sexy movement (in most people’s eyes) into the most talked-about, relevant skill to have. That’s exactly what happened on March 11, 2021, when CrossFit’s General Manager of Sport Dave Castro announced the wall walk would be a big part of the first CrossFit Open workout of 2021.
3. The Home Gym
Blame it on the pandemic, but home gyms have exploded in the last two years, with more and more lifestyle CrossFit athletes and Games athletes—including Patrick Vellner, Brent Fikowski, Sam Kwant, Cole Sager, Kara Saunders, Alex Vignealt, Samuel Cournoyer, Royce Dunne, Emily Rolf, Baylee Rayl, Colten Mertens, Lazar Dukic, Andrew Houdet—boasting their own fully-equipped home gym. And companies, such as RPM Training Co. made it easier in 2021 to build functional, attractive home gyms with limited space.
Toe-spacing is kind of like the FiveFinger shoes of the past, only with less of a smell. Designed to improve foot health and mobility, Games athletes, including Bjorgvin Karl Guðmundsson, Danielle Brandon, Sara Sigmundsdóttir, Dani Speegle, Bethany Shadburne and Emily Rolfe have been dancing around social media with their toes spread all year.
5. The Explosion of Programming and Coaching Services
While programming and coaching services, both for individuals and affiliate programming, have existed for a long time, programming and coaching services increased tremendously in 2021, especially when it comes to some of the biggest names in the sport.
Rich Froning and Mat Fraser both expanded their programming and coaching services last year, and CompTrain, who had been offering affiliate programming for a few years already, decided to make it free in 2021. And, of course, we can’t forget CrossFit LLC., who launched affiliate programming in 2021.
While cannabis for sleep has become more and more mainstream in recent years, the brand cbdMD hit the CrossFit community hard this year, with big-named Games athletes, such as Brent Fikowski, frequently posting about the importance of CBDmd in their sleep routine. Other athletes, including Noah Ohlsen, Annie Thorisdottir and Sam Briggs also take CBD for sleep.
7. Old-School Marketing
Out with Groupon and Gym Launch and in with old-school marketing tactics, say affiliate owners who have gone back to, and are relying more on grassroots marketing efforts and referral culture to generate new business.
8. Freestanding handstand push-ups
Social media exploded with former gymnasts turned CrossFit athletes showcasing their freestanding handstand push-up prowess in the weeks that followed the CrossFit Games, where freestanding handstand push-ups were featured on the final day of competition. (And we can only assume this also included thousands of failed attempts, wipe-outs, and sore necks across the community).
9. Mental Health in the Conversation
Some big names in our sport, including CrossFit CEO Eric Roza, 11-time CrossFit Games athlete Annie Thorisdottir, and six-time Games athlete Khan Porter all went public about their struggles with various mental health challenges, helping push the dialogue about the importance of mental health.
10. Danielle Brandon
Though not an unknown before 2021, Brandon’s popularity skyrocketed at last summer’s CrossFit Games, where she picked up the most followers—77,702—of any athlete during the week of the Games.
The three trends we think have the best shot of gaining even more momentum in 2022 are:
1. Mental Health
A topic that should never have been ignored in the first place, thanks to brave athletes like Olympic gold medal gymnast Simone Biles, as well as people in our community like Roza, Thorisdottir and Porter, we think that paying close attention to mental health, as well as mindset coaching, are (hopefully) on the rise in a big way.
John Wooley, the founder of the popular meme Instagram page MakeWodsGreatAgain, and a man who follows trends in the community closer than just about anyone, concurs: “Mental coaching, fitness therapy will become more mainstream,” he predicts.
WHOOP is undeniably a quickly growing company, currently valued at $3.6 billion. Considering the importance of sleep, the growing popularity of wearable technology, and how WHOOP can turn sleep into a competition for the CrossFit athlete, we think WHOOP will continue to trend in the CrossFit community in 2022 and beyond.
Six-time CrossFit Games Ohlsen put it this way: “Knowing I’m going to wake up in the morning and get a grade…Do I want to make it in the green?…Because I’m a very competitive person, I have almost unintentionally turned it into a game, where I want to see how much I can maximize (both sleep and recovery).”
Wooley added: “The overall focus on better sleep will continue as people realize it’s more than a good mattress.”
3. Danielle Brandon
Her popularity and competition success kind of looks like she’s just getting started. What color will her hair be in 2022, however, is anyone’s guess.