OPINION: Where does CrossFit go in 2023?

January 1, 2023 by
Photo Credit: CrossFit (@crossfit)
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This past year – 2022 – will go down in history as the year the world largely shook off the shackles of the global pandemic. An unprecedented time we are still grappling with mentally and physically, but for the most part, the masks are gone, social distancing is out the window and everyone who was planning on getting vaccinated probably already has.

It was a year of recalibration, of companies jacking up prices on consumers to recoup profits they lost during the pandemic, of regular folk dealing with unprecedented inflation because of this, and of an ever-changing job market which included the masses quitting and then largely being rehired into new, different positions. 

Remote work also firmly joined our lexicon, as working from home now seems to be the norm, or at least a newly accepted norm. 

Globally it was another year of uncertainty, of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as the driving newsmaker, a conflict that will surely rage well into 2023 and maybe beyond. The absolute shitstorm that was 2020 when COVID first turned the world on its head is behind us, however we are all still collectively suffering from some hive mind form of PTSD. 

CrossFit had by all accounts a decent year when presented within the realm of the pandemic. Events went on largely unscathed and the CrossFit Games returned to normal for the first time in what feels like ages. 

There was controversy, as there is with any sport, in any year, but nothing seemed to shake the sport to its foundational core and force the company to pivot in any major, groundbreaking way. This is a good thing.  

However the season structure has once again been changed, but we have been told by CrossFit HQ this new structure will be the norm moving forward and there will be consistency from now on. 

We also found out the CrossFit Games will be moving to a new location–Birmingham, Alabama–in 2024 which some might think is a head scratching move, while others will see the merit. 

CrossFit is a sport with baggage. A history of past owners and figures, of an old guard that will go to its grave before it relinquishes power to a new age and way of thinking. It’s safe to say over the years, CrossFit’s biggest enemy has always been itself, and its inability to grow both organically, and at a pace that allows it to keep up with the times. 

But this is not a sport that is by any means withering or fading off into the ether. CrossFit boxes are booming, people are still working out every day in record numbers and the one benefit of the pandemic is people are taking their health more seriously these days. 

The remote work revolution also means CrossFit gyms in city centers took a hit, but they boomed in rural areas and more community driven centers where they can most likely thrive better long term. 

CrossFit’s trajectory is largely unknown and 2023 will most likely be a pivotal year in its existence. New CEO Don Faul has been making all the right moves so far, staying out of the boardroom and popping up in Instagram photos at boxes all around the world. 

Faul is most likely doing what a great CEO does when he joins a new company, getting out of the office and pounding the pavement, asking the people who are the actual foundation of the sport what they think about the sport they love so much.

But at some point Faul is going to have to get his hands dirty and realize this sport needs a lot of work to take itself to the next level, and I’m sure he already knows this. Eric Roza, once seen as a potential white knight for the sport, has now drifted off into the peripheral, and it seems if anyone is going to whip CrossFit into shape it will have to be the former Marine. 

But is there a better person for the job than Faul? Most definitely not, and if you were going to pin your hopes or place your bets on anyone, it would be him.

This could leave one to believe CrossFit may be entering a new age of prosperity. The sport flirted with mainstream news coverage, and its most reputable stars, Mat Fraser, Tia-Clair Toomey and Justin Medeiros are all stars in their own right. CrossFit HQ should tip its hat to these athletes, they have been near perfect brand ambassadors for a sport that clearly needs athletes to have bigger voices. 

Fraser in particular has basically been a pitch perfect representative for the sport since retiring, bringing a clinical method to his new roles as coach, programmer and business owner. 

CrossFit still has to deal with its past, like most of us, and try to shed some more of its baggage in 2023. Fresh voices and new ideas are desperately needed, and consistency is key for a sport looking to cement itself within the hyper competitive sporting landscape that dominates the entire Western world and beyond. 

Competitors are chomping at the bit, Spartan Races are back and HYROX seems to be keying on similar ideologies when it comes to the world of competitive functional fitness. Companies like Orangetheory are here to stay, and fitness influencers are now a dime a dozen. Local gyms have hyper localized as people become more educated about fitness, their options expand and the industry continues to fan out in multiple directions. 

A misstep here in 2023 for CrossFit would harm the company, the brand, and possibly do legitimate damage to the methodology and the sport. We can all be excused from making mistakes and missteps during the pandemic given the circumstances, but now there are no excuses and the world is back to “normal”, whatever that means. 

CrossFit’s future is very unclear, however it holds great promise. There are equal parts people who think its glass is half full, and those who think it’s half empty. Some want to pour all this water out and start anew, while many think what has worked in the past will work in the future. Factions and division will do CrossFit no favors moving forward, and unity must be achieved for forward progress to actually take hold. 

While 2022 was a new beginning, 2023 is off to the races. Like the start of any great workout, there is a massive hill to climb, and the obstacles are aplenty. But if you’re ready to put your head down, take a deep breath and dive into the pain cave, what waits on the other side is something special, and most definitely worth fighting for.

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