How CrossFit Jerusalem started and some lessons I’ve learned along the way.
For my 30th birthday my girlfriend (later wife) bought me a months membership to a local globo gym.
It quickly became apparent that Jerusalem needed a better option. As in, worlds apart better. Although it took some time until I made the final decision, that’s when the seeds of CrossFit Jerusalem were planted somewhere in my mind.
Over the last 8 years, CrossFit Jerusalem has taken many forms. We started with very simple equipment and worked out in parks. Back then the only ones who came to work out were friends and family, or some of the early adaptors, guys like Kobi Yemini.
In a minute I will continue the story, but first let me share with you the five most appalling things I witnessed at the commercial gym which I vowed never to repeat:
- Shitty front desk service. The only customer oriented employee is the sales manager.
- Unhelpful trainers. I literally watched a guy badly hurt himself with a kettlebell while the “trainer” was busy getting his groove on with one of the female patrons.
- Speaking of female patrons, if I was a woman that gym would be the last place I would want to go to exercise. The place is dominated by bodybuilding types and cardio bunnies.
- Generally unfriendly and unclean vibe. No other way to describe it.
- Even dedicated exercisers were left to rely on youtube for instruction. Most people simply repeat the same program over and over again and wind up getting bored or stopping alltogether. I remember a great kid who was doing a strength program but found himself stuck simply for lack of variance. The road to hell is paved with good intentions but without proper coaching it is nearly impossible to progress.
Here’s how I fixed those problems at CFJ.
1. Focus on helping people. Some people come to me and I recommend that they DON”T join my gym if I believe that doing something different will get them closer to their goals!
2. Apply a rigorous training process for new coaches and enforce strict standards when it comes to professionalism in training. This isn’t always easy and sometimes it’s very expensive (like when you have to fire a coach to doesn’t make the cut). But I can look myself in the mirror and know that I am keeping my clients safe.
3.A guarantee that all human beings will be welcomed at our gym, period
4. A warm communal environment. Anybody who works out at CFJ will tell you that it’s the best hour of their day (or at least the hour which adds the most value to the rest of their day).
5. Exciting and constantly varied workouts. We also do regular goal reviews and if a change is needed we tweak the program for the individual.
Back to the story: We soon moved to renting space from the Mixed Martial Arts guys under the Stadium. In the summer we would be running CrossFit workouts while they were sparring. It’s a miracle nobody passed out in that hall from oxygen deprivation! But we did plenty of good workouts there and stayed for a couple of years until it became intolerable.
Later, we got our own place in the industrial area. It felt like we hit the lottery at the time. We were finally a real business!
I would bike over in the morning to coach and after a 14 hour day would get to work cleaning the bathrooms for the next day. We did stuff there like hosting huge competitions for charity, being featured in the evening news, and starting a weightlifting team for Jerusalem. A brutally hard period but super cool at the same time!
When I signed a contract with the YMCA, I knew we were home for one simple reason, and its not because they have great facilities and a great location. We share their values of creating a space where everyone can come in and enjoy a good workout with friends!
Building a great business which adds value to people’s lives is a never ending mission, but one which is noble and worthy of sacrifice.
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