Understanding the CrossFit Athlete Lifecycle

When I surveyed affiliate owners about what the biggest struggle in their business right now, the resounding answer was: Retaining current athletes and attracting new ones. Understanding the CrossFit Athlete Lifecycle in your gym is a key measurement in the performance of your affiliate. In this series, we’re going to breakdown each piece of the cycle and give you tools on ways to implement and add more value. Having a clear picture of the CrossFit Athlete Lifecycle for your affiliate will not only make running your gym easier, it’ll make sure that you’re focusing on the important pieces that grow the business, drive the athlete experience and keep your athletes around for the long term. Whether you are about to open your gym or you are the first CrossFit Affiliate out there, you’ll benefit from understanding this concept.

Lifetime Value of an Athlete

Before we jump in to each section, lets briefly introduce the Lifetime Value of an Athlete or LVA (For more detailed analysis, read the blog post here). Lifetime Value of an Athlete can be simply described as the total value of an athlete’s business over the lifetime of their relationship with your gym. By understanding what the average LVA you can place a tangible value of each new athlete. You’ll see in the CrossFit Athlete Lifecycle below how every decision effects the LVA. The more value you add throughout the Athlete Lifecycle, the greater the LVA.


CrossFit Athlete Lifecycle

Every time someone new comes into my gym, I always ask them, Why are you here, how did you hear about CrossFit, and why did you choose CrossFit COMO? I usually get a variety of answers, but the answer to “Why did you choose CrossFit COMO” really tells me what people think about our brand. These new athletes move through a process called the CrossFit Athlete Lifecycle (or from your business 200 class, the Customer Life Cycle). From first discovery of CrossFit and your gym to coming in for their first visit to wearing your swag and becoming a brand ambassador, we’re going to breakdown each step below to help you discover the athlete experience.



This is the first impression people get of your gym and they get it through a variety of channels. Could it be a casual conversation from a friend? Did they watch the CrossFit Games on ESPN? Maybe there were shopping at Dick’s Sporting Goods and saw a pair of Reeboks with the word CrossFit on them and googled “CrossFit in City Name”. This is the discovery phase and first impressions are everything. Make sure your website, your brand is well represented. Many times when people check out my gym, they tell me it’s because my website was very professional and easy to navigate. I hear that from drop-ins all the time. For people joining the gym, many times the reason is a referral, our location related to their home, our coaches, and testimonials.

Channels/Examples of Awareness

  • Word of Mouth
  • Blog
  • Social Media
  • Website
  • Referrals/Testimonials
  • Traditional Marketing like Ads, mailings, radio/tv, etc…
  • Publicity
  • ESPN/Reebok

Affect on LVA: This is the first step…make sure your messaging is consistent.

Questions for Consideration: How do I get a potential athlete into the consideration step? Am I providing upfront value? What barriers to entry are there?


So you got someone on the phone or they have hit your website, now they are considering jumping in on a workout and testing out CrossFit at your gym. How are you any different from other gyms in town? There going to start comparing your prices, your services, what benefits you provide, how do others feel about CrossFit XYZ, etc. Prove to them that you will provide exceptional service and you’re the right place for them at this moment in time. When they google CrossFit XYZ, are you the first few on the page or are you buried on page two?

Channels/Examples of Consideration

  • Email Campaigns
  • Reviews – Facebook, Yelp, Google
  • Success Stories/Testimonials
  • Blog
  • Youtube/Video
  • Social Proof

Affect on LVA: Get them in the door…to the next stage.

Questions for Consideration: How do I persuade them to try my gym? How do I get them in the door? What barriers to entry are there?


So, they have a date set for the first experience at CrossFit XYZ. How are you going to WOW them? What is their experience going to be like? Mapping out a clear system for each incoming athlete is a necessity. Are you providing value, giving them an experience to get them to purchase? Here’s how we do it at CrossFit COMO. The first three sections are your customer acquisition stage.

Read more: Welcoming New Athletes

You already have them in the door, that was a huge step. Give them an experience they’ll never forget.

Channels/Examples of Trial

  • Email Campaigns
  • Follow Ups/Calls/Tracking/Emails
  • Incentives
  • Email Marketing Drip Campaign
  • Free Class
  • 2-week Trial Memberships
  • Low Barrier-to-entry

Affect of LVA: Now you’re contributing to LVA…This is where they begin to build that emotional connection to your brand.

Questions for Consideration: How do I persuade them to join my gym? Did they see the value in the trial to make a purchase? How long after trial will they be interested in making a commitment?

Learn more at www.theboxbusiness.com


Outside of Retention, making a purchase/commitment to a CrossFit gym is a huge step and this is where many other affiliate owners struggle. They have problems justifying why their gym costs $100+ per month and doesn’t include showers, is located in the outskirts of town. If you can convince your potential client of a high value proposition, you begin the LVA cycle. Here we go!

Channels/Examples of Purchase

  • Foundations/On-Ramp
  • Memberships
  • Personal Training
  • Nutrition Program
  • Programs/Seminars
  • Auto-Emails
  • Make it easy to purchase->get out of their way

Affect on LVA: Having additional purchases such as personal training, nutrition programs, seminars, supplements and gear, all positively grow and increase LVA. Carefully consider what are the best options for your community.

Questions to consider: Is this adding value to my membership? Is the commitment too much(contracts)?


This is the biggest struggle I’ve experienced and have been told when I surveyed other affiliate owners. It feels extremely personal when people leave and you always wonder, what could I have done to keep them around? At CrossFit COMO, to cancel a membership, we conduct an exit interview to learn more about why someone is leaving. There are many good examples on great retention programs/ideas available throughout this website. Are they participating in something bigger than themselves. Are you creating a journey? Here’s a few examples to consider.

Examples/Ideas of Retention

  • Success Stories
  • Monthly Challenges/Skill Sheets
  • Check-In Give Back Challenges
  • Autobilling/Recurring Memberships
  • Events
  • Benefits
  • Community/Charity
  • Emails/Phone calls when an athlete misses more than a week or two
  • Small Wins->Snowball
  • Emotional Bank Account…are you making deposits?
  • Always Learning
  • Private Facebook Group
  • Make it hard to leave
  • Referral Program
  • Rewards Program

Affect on LVA: This is how you to grow LVA, the longer people stay the higher LVA. If you create systems and continually to improve on them, once people join, they’ll stay longer.

Questions to consider: How long do they sit in this stage? This is the most profitable stage of your business. With each passing month, you grow LVA. As you understand what your LVA is, you are able to invest more in acquisition of the customer.

You won’t get everyone to the next stage, but that should be your end goal. You will have natural attrition. From a financial aspect, it’s requires less money to keep an athlete than to attract a new one. If you’re not measuring attrition, you definitely are leaving a lot on the table. Assign someone to monitor and check in with your athletes, in the beginning this is probably you. If you’re software program doesn’t have a report telling you if someone hasn’t come in for two weeks, than you need to find a new software. What are some ways to keep people engaged? That’s where your retention to brand ambassador strategy needs to be well thought out.

Advocate/Brand Ambassador

So your athletes are CrossFit advocates, but are they CrossFit XYZ brand ambassadors? Do they live, breathe, sweat and bleed your brand? If not, then why? What are you doing to grow your athletes into Brand Ambassadors? Provide an amazing experience and deposit in their emotional bank accounts each and every day. Make a difference in their lives and those they touch. This is a journey and it should be with you.

  • Referral Program
  • Testimonials
  • Rewards
  • Publicity
  • Check-in Give Back Challenges

Questions to consider:. How am I making a difference in these people’s lives? How am I depositing into their emotional bank account? Are we part of something bigger than ourselves?

Take this tool and consider the experience of athletes in your gym. Are you building a brand or running on the hamster wheel? Walk through each step and consider what you are doing to introduce and keep athletes. If there’s is any way I can help, please ask in the comments below or shoot me an email: mike@theboxbusiness.com

Michael Wuest
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