Pandemic Pushes Pull-Ups Online at 5 of 10 CrossFit Games Semifinals

A man in a green sweatshirt performs pull-up wearing a mask and goggles.

This week:

  • CrossFit Games Semifinals: The virus and the virtual competitions.
  • How did Jillian Michaels get to represent the fitness industry?
A head shot of writer Mike Warkentin and the column name "Pressing It Out."


Pandemic Event Planning: Harder Than Fran


I really feel for the CrossFit Games athletes who are trying to compete during a pandemic.

But I have even more sympathy for CrossFit Games staff and Semifinal organizers.

A recent article announced the seeding procedures at the NOBULL CrossFit Games Semifinals, and the pandemic is treating the Games much like it’s treated the “2020” Olympics. The Tokyo games were pushed back to 2021 and will take place in August with no international spectators allowed.

To try and prevent the spread of COVID-19, the International Olympic Committee is now on Version 2 of its “Playbook” for athletes and team officials. The 60-page document contains fun stuff like this: “Make sure you have access to enough masks to last throughout your stay in Japan. Everyone is responsible for their own supply.”

And this: “Keep physical interactions with others to a minimum. Avoid unnecessary forms of contact such as hugs, high-fives and handshakes.”

I bet a lot of athletes really miss the days when you really only had to worry about pre-event diarrhea and post-event drug testing.

The Fittest Online

CrossFit is doing an admirable job attempting to deal with a similarly impossible situation: Selecting the fittest person on Earth during a pandemic. It’s a logistics nightmare.

For example, travel restrictions mean half of the 10 Semifinal events must be online—like the Atlas Games, a North American qualifier that was set to include four-time defending champion Tia-Clair Toomey-Orr.

Toomey-Orr likely wouldn’t have been able to compete in the Torian Pro Semifinal in her homeland of Australia—she’s posting to Instagram from Nashville, Tennessee, at present. So she was moved to the online Atlas Games and would have been likely to qualify for the CrossFit Finals without seeing the faces of the athletes she was crushing.

Then Toomey-Orr was moved again—this time to the in-person Mid Atlantic CrossFit Challenge set for May 28-30. It’s the right call to get your best athlete to a live event that includes 2020 Games finalists Haley Adams and Brooke Wells, as well as Amanda Barnhart. But it’s definitely not easy for athletes and organizers to manage the chaos of an unprerdictable year.

The Games themselves will likely create more issues as athletes try to get to Madison to compete in person at the Finals in late July. Hopefully they’re all able to get there—it would be heartbreaking to earn a spot and lose the chance to compete due to red tape at borders.


Jillian Michaels: Not Our Fitness Business Expert


Back in December 2020, The Wall Street Journal posted an article with a headline that’s hard to resist if you run a gym: “The Fate of Home-Exercise Equipment When COVID-19 Ends.”

Since the run on fitness gear started in spring 2020 as gyms were shut down around the world, I’ve speculated that you’ll be able to find a lot of equipment for sale about a year after the pandemic ends—whenever that will be.

People, in general, just aren’t motivated to do things on their own without coaching and accountability. I’d guess the pandemic definitely converted some longtime gym-goers to garage warriors, but I suspect many other people will head back to the gym—or maybe the couch—if “normal” ever returns.

There’s a reason you can always find treadmills, elliptical machines and steppers for re-sale. Don’t believe me? I randomly checked the sporting category on Craigslist in Baltimore, and you’ll find a ton of fitness equipment among the 1,200 listings at press time. Same deal in Seattle, where there were 3,000 listings at press time.

Use My App!

All that aside, I was displeased to find that the article wasn’t anything more than a short Q&A with superstar trainer Jillian Michaels.

Among her comments on the post-COVID landscape: “I do think that really expensive group classes and really expensive big-box gyms are going to take a hit because people are realizing they can get community and great workouts at home.”

Anyone who runs a microgym with any skill knows that no one is actually looking for “community”—though it took people like me many years to realize it. Sure, community is a nice bonus in a gym, but it’s not a selling point. As Two-Brain Founder Chris Cooper has said, microgym owners neither sell workouts nor community. We sell coaching.

Then I recalled that Michaels is behind “The Fitness App,” which delivers “customized workouts and meal plans.” And it includes access to a community forum. So Michaels’s comment reads less like industry insight and more like a sales pitch. Which is fine. But I expected more data and less opinion from the Wall Street Journal.

If you’re interested in reading a little more about Michaels’s app, you can check out this review or this review with 2021 updates. The reviews are generally positive, which is good for Michaels and her clients.

But “The Fitness App”—and Michaels comments—don’t really have anything to do with microgyms and businesses that sell coaching. Many Two-Brain clients around the world are proving that. And we have the data. For one example, check out “How PT Went From 0 to 50 Percent of Monthly Recurring Revenue.”

To learn how to start or grow a fitness business,
download Two-Brain’s huge collection of free tools.

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