Full Transparency: Blood Tests and CrossFit Gyms

Full Transparency: Blood Tests and CrossFit Gyms

CrossFit effects its clients on every level.


We know, from dozens of stories, that coaches have the unparalleled potential to change cholesterol, blood sugar, cortisol and a host of other blood marker levels.


But how can blood testing potentially affect the business of coaching?


In early December, we decided to find out. Members of the TwoBrain mentoring team, as well as 10 coaches and clients from Catalyst, surrendered our blood to answer the question, “Could this help the clients of CrossFit gyms?”


I’m not the first one to experiment with blood testing in a gym. But my intention wasn’t to tweak the minute training of a Games athlete; mine was to answer the question, “Would this help CrossFit gyms keep members longer?”


First discovery: I’m not good at fasting. But I take the test more seriously because I’m forced to fast.

Clients and coaches lined up at 6:30am. I brought in a phlebotomist to take our blood. She set up a centrifuge in our Athletic Therapy office, and stacked rows of test tubes and syringes on my intake desk. The air in the waiting area was somber, as if we were waiting to see a doctor (and anticipating bad news). Most brought a snack for after the test; I already had my order in at the Workshop cafe next door.

It took around ten minutes per athlete. Then the phlebotomist packed up her things and the waiting began.


Second discovery: How I behave and think while wearing the client’s shoes.

Our results arrived a week later. An email notification arrives with “Your Blood Testing Results are Here!”

I clicked through, and away we went.

Here are some screen shots. I won’t share the name of the company we used outside the TwoBrain family, but you might catch a glimpse in the pictures.

My test was a full one; many of my coaches and all of my clients used a version around the $200 range, which wasn’t quite as comprehensive.

Most of my markers were in the “Optimized” range, so I’ll focus on the interesting ones–the “At Risk” markers.

Here’s how the 5 “At-Risk” markers were presented to me:


Nearly all were in the “Metabolism and Weight Control” category, so here’s a more detailed view of just those markers:

…if I clicked on the “LDL” picture above, I got this:


…and if I clicked “Shopping Basket”, foods and supplements that would help with my “At Risk” categories were sorted and prioritized this way:

(I’m not sure why it says “Fish Free”, except during the intake survey I clicked that I only ate fish once per week or less. I don’t dislike fish, but my wife does, so we rarely eat it at home.)


Just for fun, I clicked the “Cognitive” link and saw this:


Nothing crazy. But being on the other end of the testing put me into the client’s shoes. And when I analyzed my own reactions later, I chuckled a bit.


My first response was to justify my current behavior instead of asking, “What do I have to change in my lifestyle to fix these numbers?”


LDL cholesterol and cortisol levels were both high. The tracking service suggested I cut back on the intensity of my workouts. Since I’ve been scaling most of them lately, they’re nowhere near my usual level of intensity. So I pointed the finger at my stress level.


Now, I’m not stressed out. But I’m very busy: we happily add 4 new gyms to the TwoBrain family every 3 days. We just released our 2018 curriculum for gym owners, and compiling data to support what we teach was a LOT of work. We have three massive R&D projects running at major expense. All good things (eustress) but still: all.of.the.things. Our gym went through a management restructuring around Christmas time, and while we now have all the right people in all the right seats, their learning curve puts demands on my time that I don’t really have.


So I rationalized: cortisol and LDL are high because of stress; this stressful period will eventually pass; I’ll just do nothing and wait it out. And that’s how a client would probably react.


Next, I asked what the “hacks” were to solving the problem. What supplement can I take? What can I eat MORE of (instead of asking myself, “where do I need to cut back?”) Now, my friend and UpCoach mentor Craig Hysell has changed my view on “hacks”, so I immediately realized I was trying to avoid change. But most clients wouldn’t.


Finally, I tried to use my tried-and-true avoidance technique: “I might be unhealthy, but this is the price I’m willing to pay to feed my family.” This is a sticky lie, and I know it. More sleep and more time skiing instead of working will make me a better husband, dad and mentor. So why am I writing this review at 4am, and then working on another big project this morning? I don’t know the answer, but I believe our clients will do the same things.


In other words, they need a coach.


Third discovery: I automatically trust the people who provide the data.

When the guys behind the software said “Eat more rolled oats”, my first thought was “Wow, I’ve been wrong about that for a full decade.” I immediately mistrusted what I knew about myself because these guys have white lab coats.


The Zone Diet works really well for me. I focus on cognitive performance instead of physical performance, because winning the Games doesn’t help other gym owners (but mental acuity does.) I don’t eat rolled oats in the morning because even small amounts make me less sharp.


But when presented even a shaky chain of logic (my LDL is high; high LDL is dangerous; LDL is best controlled by diet; people who eat more rolled oats have lower LDL) my knee-jerk reaction was to buy into whatever the computer said. Never mind that not all of those things are necessarily true, or that correlation doesn’t equal causation (people who eat rolled oats are probably also more likely to exercise)–I was reaching for my grocery list before I even clicked the “Next” button.


Fourth discovery: I need an impassive expert to tell me what to do FIRST.

But most clients won’t look for a filter: they’ll just take the recommendation of the computer.


I emailed the results to my RD, who happens to sit in the office two doors down from mine. I’ll walk through it all with her on Monday. Then we’ll decide if I need to do anything different; I’ll probably add some aerobic work into my week (I usually ski all winter and bike all summer on top of CrossFit, but I’ve been missing it this year.) When the software said “Cut back on exercise intensity”, I said “Nah, the Open is coming up.” But I know many exercisers would see this as the golden ticket to the treadmill.



  1. If your gym is operating under a Prescriptive Model (which we teach in the Incubator), blood testing could be GREAT. For example, if the client received the results of the test, and their COACH received the recommendations, that coach could filter and curate their knowledge to apply working solutions for the client. Under the prescriptive model, it’s totally fine to say “You need to come to CrossFit twice per week and cycle twice per week, instead of coming here every day”. But if you’re just selling group memberships, downgrading a client’s visits is a threat to your revenues. I believe this prevents a gym owner from making the best coaching decision for their clients, and will shorten their LEG (it’s certainly been true in my case.)
  2. Being the keeper of the data should increase LEG. If you base a client’s progress off their Frathey can go anywhere else, because everyone has a clock. But if you’re the only one tracking their progress through deeper means–like an Inbody test, or blood testing–they won’t be able to see their progress anywhere else.
  3. Blood testing can make the “invisible” changes–blood sugar levels, cholesterol–more visible to the client. That means more Bright Spots. And the way the data was displayed on the tester’s website was really appealing and exciting – I’ve gone back 5-6 times since. I can even project changes, which feels like a game.
  4. The price might deter some gym owners who struggle to charge what they’re worth. But objective data (from an InBody, blood testing or even measurements) will help the gym owner show the client what they’re actually providing, instead of just selling group exercise. I wrote about this at length in “Help First” (walking around the table).


Is this scalable? We’ll see–TwoBrain gyms could see a custom option from this testing company by the end of 2018. A few doctors are already being tested to give me their opinion. And we’d have to be very careful about scope of practice, but working with an out-of-state testing company might help there, too. Heck, in North America, most doctors don’t have time to take blood tests and sit down to review the results anyway.


How deep can the prescriptive level go? To the depth of the paper prescription pad–or a few millimeters beneath the skin?


Many of my Personal Training clients pay $15,000 per year for private clinic access. In Canada, our healthcare is “free” (but largely unavailable, or a dangerously slow process). So people who can afford better will enroll in a private clinic, and do testing twice per year. It’s mostly basic pushup tests and skin fold measurements, then a blood panel. They hire weekend-cert Personal Trainers to do the physical testing (and make them wear lab coats–no exaggeration.) Then they hire Registered Dietitians to prescribe the Food Guide (which, as we know, doesn’t work.)


WE CAN DO THIS–but we can do it RIGHT. The barriers are access to technology, and the mindset of the coach.


That first barrier is coming down fast.


Want to hear more from the scientists and developers of the blood testing regime I went through? Respond to this post in “Comments” or just hit “reply” to this email, and I’ll invite them to the podcast.

The Trade Deadline

The Trade Deadline

What if you could trade your five worst clients for five more of your BEST clients?


If you’ve been listening in 2017, you’ve heard me talk about your “SEED” clients: how to identify and serve the best clients best.


Mike Michalowicz’ book on the topic, The Pumpkin Plan, formed the strategy we teach in the Incubator. We tailor it for gyms, of course. But when Michalowicz was on our podcast,  he also talked about what do with your WORST clients.


If you’re like me, that phrase (“worst clients”) sent a shiver up your spine.


The client is always right–aren’t they? Don’t we need to latch onto every client we can possibly get?


What if you could trade your worst clients for better ones? Who would you swap?


There’s value in knowing who your best clients are–and who they’re not. Because when we identify where best clients come from, what they want, and why they stay, we attract more like them. And when we identify the same characteristics of our worst clients, we avoid painful mistakes in the future.


Let’s start our top secret list with this exercise (the inverse of the “Seed Client” exercise, so let’s call these “Weed clients”.


Make two lists:

List #1 – the people who pay the least for your coaching. Calculate this by dividing their monthly rate by their average visits. No judgment here; we just want to know who pays the least per visit.

List #2 – who complains most? Who makes your energy drop when they walk through the door?


Now compare the two lists. Which names appear on both?


Michalowicz would have you fire those people immediately. (Here’s how to do it.) But if that’s uncomfortable for you, no problem; when you start improving your gym, they’ll probably leave anyway.


Ask yourself what these “weed” clients have in common.

  • Where did they come from?
  • How much do they pay?
  • What are their requests?
  • How are these answers different from your seed clients?


If all of your “worst clients” came from six-week challenges, consider forgoing more six-week challenges.

If all of your “squeaky wheels” are currently paying at a discounted rate, consider eliminating discounts.

If your most disruptive clients are likely to quit if you raise your rates, consider making the same money with less people. Then raise your rates.


Every client is a good client–until they’re not.


And a person can be a great person without being a great client. They can even be your FRIEND without being a great client.


You don’t need everyone. If you ask yourself, “How did I get this client?” for both your SEEDS and your WEEDs, you can start trading worst for best by modifying your own behaviors.


Stop doing the things that grow weeds, and start planting more seeds. Your deadline to start making those “trades” is December 31. What’s your plan?


(We teach the process step-by-step in our Affinity Marketing Plan. It’s part of the Incubator and Growth stages.)


The Fastest Way to 10x Your Business

I was visiting a new gym in Boston.

The coach said, “Warm up with double-unders.” I’m okay at those, so I did 100 unbroken.

Then I noticed people were staring.

“You just broke the record!” one lady said. The others were still frozen.

“What was the record?” I asked.

“SEVEN!!!” she said, loudly.

I love visiting new gyms. To a brand-new CrossFitter, I can pull off a bit of athleticism because I have a good skillset even if my fitness isn’t at its peak. A REAL CrossFit athlete can usually lap me on any given day.

The point is that context matters.

The fastest way to 10x your business is to have a really bad business, and then make it mediocre.

It’s very, very hard to 10x a GOOD business, because it’s already doing the things that make it successful. TwoBrain grew by 300% this year–which is remarkable–but it was only our second year. Growing Catalyst, IgniteGym or another of my established companies 300% would be close to a miracle. Because they’re already very successful.

In fact, a 20% growth in Catalyst would be a 200% growth in other gyms. Context matters.

When you’re considering growth, start with what you NEED to earn first:

Being stretched I decided good seed would be investing in a business mentor- Chris Cooper… curious and wondering how long it would take to start seeing some fruit, we jumped in. That first year 2016 with 2BB we made 200K that’s 110K more than the year before!! More than that my family slowly started getting their dad and husband back. My parents started getting their son back… my friends started getting their friend back. My team started getting the leader they needed and wanted. This year we have already well surpassed our last year revenue and still have 2 months to go. The best part is because of this group I am constantly challenged to do all that’s in my heart while making sure those most important to me get the best of me! Thanks guys!

That’s just over 2x growth in a year. Amazing. And even more this year.

But as the gym becomes more successful, percentage growth will go down because the numbers are FAR bigger now. It’s still great if you have the right context. And, frankly, this guy’s top priority is his family; a more important metric for him to track is his family time.

The point of this article is clearly a humble brag about my double-unders.

But my secondary point is this: be impressed by personal growth, long-term retention and profit; don’t fall for the red herrings of high gross, high headcount or “I tripled my revenue in the first month!” troubadours.

Episode 93: Greg Glassman

Episode 93: Greg Glassman

Greg Glassman isn’t your average genius.


Greg shares the mannerisms of the virtuoso: he moves while he talks, fidgeting with coasters on the table. He leans in, then back, tipping his chair from one side to the next. His answers are so quick, most of the time, that you’d think they were rehearsed. But they’re not.


And Greg isn’t just a big thinker. He’s also a big doer: he acts. He travels extensively. He has frequent speaking engagements. Old-time CrossFit fans will remember his monthly manifesto, emailed as a PDF to be printed with “CrossFit Journal” on the top. In 2001, he put the workouts from his private training gym online for free, and hasn’t missed a day since.


Greg has spawned a worldwide health initiative. He’s also given over 25,000 people the opportunity to be entrepreneurs and change lives. This is my passion. But that’s not his true genius.


Last week on this podcast, I introduced some of Greg’s Media team–Tyson Oldroyd, Mike Warkentin and Matt Bischel. They’re part of “CrossFit HQ” — an army of professionals dedicated to helping Greg’s affiliates. They’re all loyal to the point of fanaticism; many have been with the company a decade already. Very few people quit CrossFit HQ: they love the opportunity to serve in a meaningful way. And they love Greg.


I flew across the country to sit with Greg at his kitchen table for 90 minutes. It took days of travel and three years of conversation to reach this point. My questions weren’t pre-approved or censored afterward. Greg greeted me at his front door with a hug; when we parted a few hours later, he said “Love ya, man. Keep doing what you’re doing.”


THAT is Greg’s true genius: the ability to spread his care; to inspire everyone around him to beat their plowshares into swords and follow him.


“CrossFit is not an exercise program. It’s a fitness program.” What did Greg mean by that? Listen in…



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Episode 92: Made By HQ

Episode 92: Made By HQ

If you visit the CrossFit Facebook page, you’ll see this:


…not “Education Company”. Not even “Fitness”. “MEDIA/NEWS”.


Since the first days of the PDF-emailed Journal, I’ve learned from–and copied–CrossFit HQ’s media team. More than any other organization on the planet, CrossFit educates its fans and consumers to create frenzied evangelists. They publish every day. They produce world-class video, employ full-time writers and editors, and pay above the grade for quality photos.


What can we learn from CrossFit HQ’s Media Team?


Just about everything.


There are 200 people in HQ Media. It’s a multimillion-dollar operation to produce the best exercise demos, Journal articles, full-length movies, daily blog content, social media–and now, podcasts. They’re among the best in the world, and they do it to help CrossFit affiliates grow.


Many of us don’t realize it, but HQ’s media can serve as a template for our own. Content marketing bridges the gap between our service (fitness) and a client’s needs (lose weight, get more energy, etc.) We can copy their methods, share their videos, and use their testimonials in OUR gyms.


For this episode, I traveled to Santa Cruz, CA and visited CrossFit HQ for three days. I was interviewed for their new podcast, and then turned the tables: I asked Mike Warkentin (managing editor of the CrossFit Journal), Tyson Oldroyd (head producer) and Matt Bischel (head of social media) to answer questions about production, promotion and best practices.


This interview runs over an hour, and it’s FULL of useful stuff that I haven’t seen or heard anywhere else. For the first time, HQ allowed me to peek under the skirt, and ask “Why?” and “How?” – and even though I’ve worked closely with HQ Media for years, many of the answers still surprised me.


Don’t listen to this podcast while driving. Wait until you have a pen and paper ready, because you’re going to want to take notes!



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Episode 91: The Mentor Hot Seat, Volume 1

Episode 91: The Mentor Hot Seat, Volume 1

During our Senior Mentoring Team Meeting at the TwoBrain Workshop last weekend, I asked, “What’s the biggest opportunity in front of the CrossFit community that no one is seeing yet?” Two years ago, that was adding nutrition programs. We introduced the world to a simple solution in HSN, and other services have cropped up since. That’s been huge for many. Before that, the opportunity was the Intramural Open; before that, it was Bright Spots.


We agreed the biggest opportunity for some affiliates is to help other local business owners. This might sound like a left-field idea, but here’s why we love it:


CrossFit has created over 15,000 new entrepreneurs.


Though it’s very, very easy to start a new CrossFit gym, it’s very hard to keep one open. So we all jump in with both feet, and then SCRAMBLE to get profitable as quickly as possible. Then we hammer as hard as we can to add staff, and then to level up our businesses to true entrepreneurship instead of just owning a job.


Heavy loads, long distances, for time.


Most CrossFit gyms have to be successful before the end of their first lease. Most new businesses are now stared as “side hustles”–driving an Uber, doing task-based one-off “jobs”, or selling expertise as a VA. We have everything on the line. We’re just desperate enough to try stuff–and fail–fast.


And though the network between affiliates is informal, we DO talk. In the middle of all the Kill Cliff/FitAid questions on Facebook, there IS some progression in our thinking. Granted, we started behind most entrepreneurs (we used to think “profit” was bad) but we’ve pulled ahead. And common knowledge in CrossFit is uncommon knowledge elsewhere.


So when a CrossFit athlete who owns a machine shop asked for my advice this week, I said, “Oh, that’s simple.” because I solved that problem in my box seven years ago.


When a cafe owner asked if she needed a website, I said, “Just a two-pager. But you could REALLY use a subscription model.” And then I told her how to make a great living in the food industry without crazy overhead. And she baked muffins for my kids. I got the idea from other gyms.


When a local screen printer asked how to “get his name out there”, I suggested he focus on his current clients a bit more instead of worrying about attracting new clients.


This is why I opened the Workshop in Sault Ste. Marie: because entrepreneurship can save my sinking city. But I believe it can save the world. And you, my friend, can do a lot to help YOUR city.


Bonus: entrepreneurs make IDEAL clients for CrossFit gyms.


You’ll hear more about the implementation of this idea in the next few weeks and months. But here’s a special bonus: while I still had three of the mentors at the Workshop, I dropped a microphone in our midst and put them all on a Hot Seat. I fired questions at them: “How would you get more clients for a hairdresser?” “If you owned a gym and had to make $5000 in ten days, how would you do it?” I gave them each a beer, hit “RECORD”, and let it flow. I’ll publish that episode on our podcast today. We’re calling it the Mentor Hot Seat, and I’ll do one every time I gather with this crew of growing TwoBrian Mentors.


Enjoy. I sure did.


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