In the past we have had a ton of community events inside and outside of the gym. The events are awesome and they have all been special in their own way. For a long time we had two major events a month with a really high percentage turnout. A few months ago, I was thinking about what makes CrossFit gyms so magnetic, and why people keep coming in every day. There are obviously A LOT of reasons why CrossFit gyms create such powerful communities and have such high engagement. It would be silly to try and distill community engagement down to one reason. I looked through some old anthropology research I had done a number of years ago and I was reminded of two simple concepts, the third place and the global village.
“The group class model levels the playing field.”
CrossFit gyms, specifically and especially our gym, is most people’s third place. The concept of a third place is simple and it is defined by its denomination: our first place is home, (generally) our second place is work, and our third place is “X.” CrossFit gyms offer that third place; everyone does the same workout, we all start and stop at the same time and we do it all together. The CrossFit model, the class model, doesn’t recognize external factors or status. The group class model levels the playing field and everyone suffers together doing the same workouts. At our Broadway location we would have happy hours AND a themed workout every month and almost 30-60 people would come every time because their social network was firmly grounded in the gym. There are people who have been at the gym for over 7 years because the gym provides a respite from work and responsibility as well as a gathering place for old friends.
What’s really interesting about this is that most people, today, go to work and go home every day without a consistent stopping place. In the past this was not always the case. In the small Greek village where my grandmother lived, the men all gathered at the cafe and drank espresso each day and they still do that today. In Russian rural communities, the men all go to banjas and relax and drink vodka. There are all kinds of examples of this behavior throughout history and there are a number of well-regarded texts on the reason behind human gathering and interaction.
While I was reminded of the third place I also couldn’t help but think about the similar, but somewhat antithetical, concept of the global village. Today we can pick up a phone, computer, or tablet and see someone a foot from our face that might be all the way on the opposite side of the world. Information that was once locally trapped, has no borders and is now shared freely. As active members in a community we have a unique, valuable, and equally as important opportunity to learn about the people that we see everyday. As everyone knows it’s easy to get caught up in the comings and goings of the outside world but I’d encourage everyone to get to know the awesome people that are in your class that you see everyday and workout with everyday. There are A LOT of incredible stories in the gym, I’d highly encourage everyone to get to know some!