Where Did the Intramural Open Come From?

A picture of the 2014 Intramural Open draft board at Chris Cooper's Catalyst Fitness.

I was a shy kid back in high school—but intramurals changed that.

Every year, farm kids who couldn’t get home for lunch were drafted onto one of four teams, and we competed in fun events to earn points for our houses.

I was a Panther, and, if you can believe it, I met my future wife on the team. And, years later, my kids were Panthers.

Intramurals were a blast, and when CrossFit announced its first Open in 2011, the intramural concept seemed like a natural bolt-on to me.

Sure, my gym clients could register on the CrossFit Games site, but most of my members weren’t really interested in competition. They were interested in fitness and fun, so we combined the two to create an amazing in-house event.

In that first year, we used the Intramural Open as a “fun infusion” in the depths of winter. Members of our four teams logged their scores on the CrossFit Games leaderboard, but they also earned points for participation in our competition, which was less about snatches and more about smiles.

I think the Panthers won, but in reality, everybody won. Clients had a reason to keep training and showing up, and they formed stronger bonds as they worked with their teammates to earn points for their squads.

My coaches and I had a great time creating fun games—one year we did a Nerf-gun biathlon—and cheering people to new PRs. The gym was full of energy, and that spilled over onto social media. Everyone who saw our accounts knew we were all about fitness and good times.

The only problems: I was exhausted at the end of the competition (and so were my coaches). And we’d put in a lot of extra hours that improved the client experience, but we didn’t generate any additional revenue in those hours.

2012 and Beyond

The following year, we solved a lot of problems.

  • We organized prep courses in advance, which generated some revenue and got our clients ready for the event.
  • We set up “heats” in advance to avoid coach burnout.
  • We ramped up the fun with more creativity.

And then something unexpected happened: Other gym owners asked how we were running the event. So we told them, and they started using the Intramural Open at their gyms.

Every year we made improvements, and we shared them with the community.

Now, thousands of gyms worldwide use the Intramural Open as its own event or layer it on top of the CrossFit Open to make the competition fun in their box. It’s a Two-Brain Business original, and I’m proud of it.

More than a decade after I created it, the Intramural Open is so common in gyms that people forget it wasn’t part of the original competition. Now you know: It was really born in a rural high school, and it was developed and perfected in a microgym in a small Canadian city.

Now, we produce an updated guide every year, and it’s designed to help gym owners do three things:

  • Generate revenue before, during and after the multi-week competition.
  • Help and retain more clients.
  • Run the event with the greatest ease and least amount of stress.

The guide is plug and play, and we share it for free every year.

It’s available right now in the Gym Owners United group—or you can just send me a DM on Facebook (please ask for the “2024 Intramural Open guide” specifically).

Intramurals were life changing for me, and I hope the Intramural Open makes your box more fun and your members happier and more excited. I also hope you use it to generate revenue.

That wasn’t part of the plan in 2011, but it’s an essential element in 2024. Remember: You should get a return on the time you invest in competition—even if that competition is all about smiles and good times.


One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.