We'll Pass on Class Pass (and hope you will too.)
I’ll give the Class Pass sales-rep points for tenacity, for her relentless asking of “why” and repeated returns with a different approach. But no, we do not now, nor will we ever, use Class Pass. Because we don’t sell classes.
We sell relationships. Coaching relationships, specifically. Having people drop in every now and then isn’t how you build a relationship with them.
I think of Class Pass as Grindr for the fitness crew. If what you want is a hook-up, then good for you. There are lots of places for you to get hot, hard and sweaty. But that’s not what we’re looking for. We’re into committed relationships. On the gym front, if you’re just looking for a quick buck, and not worried about the lasting repercussions, maybe it’ll get you off.
The perky Class Pass rep’s relentless messages to me happened to come after an evening spent with two of my favorite people, Pat and Taz Barber, at their amazing mountain-top home that is away from all of the things that wear me down about the world these days. There, Brady, Taz, Pat and I were able to freely wax poetic about the power of relationships, community and coaching.
Pat and Taz have long set the gold-standard for programming and community development in CrossFit. Like us, they believe that true fitness and power comes from consistency and coaching relationships, not aimless intensity and party tricks. We use their programming at Rocket because in addition to great workouts, they devote hours to the coaching prep for our classes. We jokingly refer to it as “grad school” for our coaches, delivered to them daily, weekly, and monthly.
That is what we buy. Which makes sense, because as I told the Class Pass pusher, we don’t sell classes, we sell coaching.
Class Pass is bad for coaching, it’s bad for community and it’s bad for CrossFit classes. It is a race to the bottom.
But lemme break it down for you:
Class Pass means someone doesn’t commit to truly getting skilled at anything. That might be fine, but it’s not what we do at Rocket. We want you to be able to find increasing intensity, and that means building both the movement patterns and the specific strength to do it safely. None of that happens when you just pop in once a week.
Dropping in once a week doesn’t allow for a relationship with a coach. Sure, you may be friendly and have fun, but we don’t get to know your specific quirks. That matters, because when you know that your coach understands you and cares about you, you’re more likely to push yourself to do something you didn’t think you could do. For us, those are usually the huge wins, and where we believe growth really happens.
For many, if not most, gyms and small fitness studios, it’s a losing proposition in terms of revenue and is killing our businesses. Most of us depend on memberships to keep our gyms running, what Class Pass is doing is offering people a way to take classes at HUGE discounts, and that’s killing the bottom line. At Rocket, our business is built around membership, that’s what enables us to pay our coaches a living wage, invest in their education and run the kind of business we want to run. If someone is suddenly able to buy classes for a fraction of what it might cost to join (and cost us to offer,) not only do they miss out on the coaching relationships, they have no reason to actually join. That would reduce our revenue to the point that we couldn’t afford to pay a living wage, which in turn would make it impossible to attract the level of coaches that we want to provide. Because we sell coaching, not classes. (At Rocket, we actually don’t offer any punch cards. You are either a member or you’re not, that’s it. We offer free drop-ins to visiting CrossFitters from out of town. If you’re local and thinking about a new gym, we let you drop-in for free. She seemed confused about why we would do that for free. Which, well, it’s who we are. It’s about community and relationships.)
She then chirped on about how people love variety in their workouts. Listen, lady, DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT CROSSFIT IS?
I honestly think this is a core misunderstanding about what CrossFit is. It’s not one single thing, like tennis, or running or soccer. The words “constantly varied” are literally baked into what we do and how we do it.
Most – I hope all, but I’m not given to optimism these days – CrossFit gyms put a lot of energy into making sure that their programming is constantly varied. We have 10 core principles of movement that we try to target with our programming, in a way that hits all 3 metabolic pathways, over time. So in the course of a week of programming you will find running, jumping, throwing, lifting, swinging, squatting, etc…. You will have long workouts, short workouts, somewhere in between workouts. CrossFit, done right, is all of the above. So sure, you might think that you get a better overall workout by doing boxing at one gym and spin at another and lifting at another…..
CrossFit done right is all of those things. Ideally with a coach who knows how your body works, how your mind works and how to lovingly push you to the next level while you’re having fun with friends. Many of our members love the variety and surprise so much that they literally don’t even check to see what we’re doing, they just know it’ll be good. It’s always varied, always fun, always planned out for you, and always coached.
Because that’s what we sell. We don’t sell classes. We sell coaching and relationships.
None of the pitch points about Class Pass make a lick of sense with CrossFit.
Then, she says, well, some people just like to be able to do fitness and yoga. I laughed in my head because yoga is fitness, and fitness is yoga. Flexibility and stamina are amongst our core fitness principles in CrossFit. At Rocket, we offer yoga classes as part of our membership. We also offer a 45-miute HIIT class during our most crowded morning time, because people like variety and have different needs. (We laughed at calling it a HIIT class, as if that’s something different from CrossFit. It is just CrossFit with fewer barbells. Still CrossFit.)
Lastly, all the fitnessing aside, we’re about community. Her predictable retort was that the people they’d send to us are from our community. No, zipcode and community are not the same thing. We’ve had classes where someone walked into the gym in tears because a pet died, or they were getting divorced, or had a miscarriage or…. And in the middle of their crisis, they came to the gym because they knew they would be surrounded by people who care about them and could cry and sweat it out at the same time. That’s magical. That is the very deepest core of what we do. I will protect that with every bone and fiber in my body.
Maybe someone who didn’t know any of us and just wanted to get sweaty would be moved by that and greet it with the respect and honor it deserves. But maybe not, and I don’t really want to risk that. Yes, we get new members all the time, but by sheer virtue of committing to us with a membership, they become part of that embrace.
We have both coaches and members who have been with us for more than 8 years. Most of our members have been with us for 3 years or more.
We’re not a wham-bam-thank-you-mam kinda joint. We’re not looking for quantity, or a quick buck. We’re looking for quality, and we’ve got it. In coaches, in community, in results. “But we can fill in your classes that don’t fill.” We don’t really have those. Our schedule is constantly evolving to meet the needs of our community. (We just added 5 more classes a week, for them, because they needed and wanted it.)
After explaining all of this to her, pretty much as I’ve just explained it to you, she had the audacity to ask if they could have a rep come to picky my brain about how we’re so successful.
Um, please. Y’all just landed what, $285 Million in another round of funding and you want to pick my brain? You want me to donate my time to you, to help you further undermine the gyms that I love and work to build up? I donate many hours of my life to helping other small gym owners thrive. You, with your unicorn status and your $1B market cap want to pick my brain? You’re welcome to pay my $250 an hour consulting fee.
No. You cannot pick my brain for free. And I won’t help you cheapen what CrossFit is. That said, I can tell you that a large part of it was achieved by not compromising on our values or our value. And by not nickle-and-diming people for a quick buck.
She said she’d circle back in a few months.
I told her she needn’t bother.
She probably will.