Greg Glassman, founder and CEO of the fitness company CrossFit, Inc., has earned the United States Sports Academy’s 2013 Dwight D. Eisenhower Fitness Award. Glassman was selected to receive this award for his hard work and determination as an athletic trainer who created an open-source program that has spawned over 7,000 affiliated gyms across the world.
Glassman opened the ﬁrst CrossFit gym in Santa Cruz, Calif., in 2001 after outgrowing the 750-square-foot space where he was training athletes. At the same time, he launched CrossFit.com and began publishing free daily workouts. One year later, he launched a monthly blog and began holding seminars at his California gym. People from around the world came to learn Glassman’s techniques, and today, the program has millions of participants worldwide. CrossFit programming is used by many fire departments, law enforcement agencies, and military organizations, as well as high school, college and professional sports teams, such as the Miami Marlins.
Glassman, a 55-year-old former gymnast who walks with a slight limp because of a knee injury, says CrossFit is about something more than money. Commonly referred to as “Coach” by his followers, he says he doesn’t understand business, but he does understand excellence.
“I believe that business is the art and science of providing uniquely attractive opportunities for other people,” he says. “That’s what we’ve done. That’s it. Nothing else.”
CrossFit workouts are typically short—20 minutes or less—and intense, demanding all-out physical exertion. They combine movements such as sprinting, rowing, jumping and climbing rope, flipping tires, weightlifting, carrying heavy objects and many bodyweight exercises.
Glassman believes that the results of the CrossFit program come from the high-intensity it elicits, a stimulus achieved by mixing elements of gymnastics, track and field skills and weightlifting into timed efforts. He acknowledges that the same “potent systemic stimulus” that this combination provides is also the source of some risk. To moderate this risk, CrossFit L1 Trainers are taught to introduce clients to proper movement mechanics and develop consistency in those mechanics before adding significant intensity to their training.
CrossFit is a core strength and conditioning program designed to optimize fitness, which Glassman has defined as increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains. This includes physical competence in each of 10 recognized fitness domains: cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy. Athletes are trained to perform successfully at multiple, diverse and randomized physical challenges, similar to the fitness demanded of military and police personnel, firefighters, and many sports requiring total or complete physical prowess.
The CrossFit Games were established in 2007 and have been held every summer since. Participation and sponsorship have grown rapidly from a couple hundred athletes to nearly 140,000 participating at the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games Open. Athletes at the Games compete in workouts that they learn about only hours beforehand to become crowned the “Fittest on Earth.” In 2011, Reebok signed a 10-year title sponsorship of the CrossFit Games, and ESPN will telecast the final hour of the 2013 Games live on ESPN2 on July 28 and stream every event of the multi-day competition live on ESPN3.