Cartels vs. Competition

In Intro to Personal Training Licensure, we stated that government licensure of fitness faces a dilemma:

Only participants in the fitness industry have the technical knowledge to regulate the profession, yet all practitioners have private interests that directly conflict with the public interest. What’s to prevent a licensing board of fitness professionals from becoming a cartel that crushes competition and maximizes its own profits?

And it’s unlikely that ACSM and NSCA officials even have the necessary technical knowledge. They just have the conflict of interest.

Drug cartels and fitness cartels may traffic in different goods and services, but they use similar tactics.

Drug cartels and fitness cartels traffic in different goods and services, but they use similar tactics.

This isn’t merely hypothetical. Colorado legalized weed, but it is cracking down on uncertified yoga. 

Just as in fitness, the support for regulation comes from industry insiders, not consumers.

Lorna Candler is the director of Colorado’s Division of Private Occupational Schools, the division in charge of implementing Colorado’s yoga studio regulation. For six years she has worked as a yoga instructor for CorePower Yoga. CorePower is Colorado’s largest yoga chain.

Candler insists her long-term work for CorePower Yoga has nothing to do with her efforts to impose greater fees and regulation on CorePower’s competitors. She says,

What goes on with me teaching yoga and my job here do not really intersect at all … this is not about yoga; this is about teacher-training programs.

… Except, the initiative she’s led has to do with teacher-training programs for yoga instructors in yoga studios

Candler did not disclose her CorePower Yoga position to the media. When the Denver Post discovered her conflict of interest, they penned a scathing editorial criticizing Candler’s conflict of interest.

Yoga and CrossFit have more in common than just handstands and clothing.

Yoga and CrossFit have more in common than just handstands and clothing.

Candler’s campaign confronts Colorado’s Yoga studios with hefty fees. Here is a preview of what CrossFit affiliates can expect if fitness meets the same fate as yoga:

The state charges $1,750 for an initial provisional certificate that is good for up to two years, then $1,500 for a renewable certificate good for three years. It also charges $175 for every “agent” authorized to enter into a contract with a student, plus $3.75 per student per quarter. In addition, schools that have been certified must secure a minimum bond of $5,000, which is based on the amount of tuition collected.

And the true cost of state regulation is much higher. All fitness regulation takes time away from business. The gym and trainers must prove to the state they’re qualified to do the jobs they’ve done for years.

In the case of yoga, studios have to send their teaching materials to state officials for evaluation. Yoga studios also may also have to change their curriculum. In the case of fitness, states will force aspiring trainers to study for and take irrelevant courses.

Complying with fitness licensing could easily cost a CrossFit affiliate thousands of dollars yearly.

The CrossFit community is unlikely to tolerate regulation the way Yoga has.

The CrossFit community is unlikely to tolerate regulation the way Yoga has.

Yoga and fitness have something in common besides handstands and pants: industry insiders are trying to use the government to crack down on competitors.

Fitness has fared better than yoga, though. Only one licensure bill has passed. None is currently active. If CrossFit affiliates defend their businesses from the ACSM and NSCA’s intrusion, they will avoid the fate of Colorado’s yogis

Want to join the fight? Write your legislator.


  1. So maybe we should take this whole external regulation scare as a sign that we (CrossFit and its Affiliates) could do more to shore up our position against such regulation as well as our collective reputation and our interest in being the standard bearer for teaching and promoting authentic fitness. That would be to have a mandatory On-Ramp or Elements course that all clients new to CrossFit must take to be qualified to participate in regular CrossFit WOD’s. It actually blows my mind that this isn’t already in place given the emphasis on technique, movement progressions, queues and bio-mechanics so stressed in the L-1 Cert course not to mention the Threshold training concept that is a pillar of the CrossFit methodology. Oh and let’s not forget Virtuosity. If we are indeed pursuing Virtuosity in ourselves and from our clients, an Elements/on-ramp progression should be mandatory just as every Affiliate owner, and presumably coach in an Affiliate, must have the minimum standard L-1 Cert under their belt. Now, of course, MOST(?) Affiliates do have some degree of on-ramp program to reasonably and logically teach their clients the fundamental movements and terminology but not ALL do and that is a problem and does look bad for us as a whole to the outside world.

    I’m well aware of and understand Coach Glassman’s founding tenet of, once L-1 certified, letting each Affiliate run their business the way they want to, and I appreciate that as a new Affiliate owner however, this is a matter of quality, standards and most importantly, safety and if we want to be the standard bearers of authentic fitness, ALL CrossFitters should have the proper basic training in the fundamental movements just as we had to learn them in order to teach them by going through the L-1 Cert. There should be a mandatory, minimum standards protocol of progression through the fundamental movements (a segment within the L-1 Cert. training) that all newbies must be put through and then if the truly righteous, or shall I say Virtuous, among us wants to expand on it, fine.

    So your response will likely be–how could HQ be sure this was being adhered to, or dare I say “regulate” it? I don’t know and maybe its just the honor system but Elements or some form of On-ramp should be mandatory at every Affiliate, period.
    This would be one step that CrossFit, as a whole, could take toward Virtuosity.

    Bill Ohlsen, Affiliate Owner
    CrossFit Sunshine State

    • Bill,
      Actually, that won’t be my response. First, the CrossFit Level 1 is a certificate course, not a “cert.” This is an important distinction.

      I count three premises to your argument.

      1. The claim from would-be regulators that CrossFit is risky/dangerous is at least partially true.
      2. This danger is the result of a lack of mandatory policy established by HQ for indoctrination of new clients to the CrossFit method.
      3. A mandatory “on-ramp” would reduce or eliminate the risk/danger associated with CrossFit mentioned in premise 1.

      First, there is no reason to believe that there is anything dangerous about CrossFit. The totality of evidence suggests that, as it is being performed at our affiliates across the globe, CrossFit is safer than traditional globo-gym training. This pulls the rug out from under your entire argument.
      Second, there is no single “best practice” for how affiliates should implement the charter of mechanics, consistency, then intensity with new athletes. The size of the gym, the number of clients, client experience, coach experience, and a number of other factors make one “mandatory” model unreasonable, especially when no problem has been identified.
      Finally, I would like you to provide me with a single example of an affiliate that does not utilize some method of indoctrinating new clients to CrossFit following our charter. I’m sure there is one that exists, but my guess is you don’t actually know of any first-hand and are simply repeating the affiliate boogeyman story that you have accepted as true.

      So to summarize, CrossFit does something better than forcing cookie-cutter policies onto our affiliates- We offer the best (free) educational resources and courses that exist in the fitness industry. Trainers can then choose the methods that work best for their affiliates and clients. Your fear that some damage to our reputation is being done by trainers not following a standard protocol is completely unsupported by evidence and sounds exactly like what the would-be regulators would like the general public to think. You are offering a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

  2. I am often not in agreement with “the russells” but in this instance I have to agree. I work as an athletic trainer and the regulation of the profession (national certification and state licensure) and growth of the profession (from a salary and respect level) do not match each other, but are thrown under the guise of respectability and professionalism. I do not feel that my quality as a provider of a service is any different with or without the certification and licensure. For instance, there are a lot of great test takers in the world that don’t have any business applying that knowledge to the field. I have over 18 years of experience which apparently would mean nothing if I do not pay the yearly fees. Also the idea of continuing education offered by this regulated communities is often another money grab on their part. So if I follow the traditional path of getting my CEU’s I am competent, but if I reach outside of the “accepted” CEU’s and truly continue my education I am not competent? I have learned more from non-traditional sources (non-traditional in the sense that it is not standard CEU fair) such as Kelly Starrett and others that take athletic training out of the R.I.C.E. paddies and put it into an all encompassing area that truly benefits athletes from beginning to end.

    If Crossfit HQ (or many other sources of info) can advance your ability to provide quality service than you as the individual should have the choice to make that decision.

  3. Pingback: Competition breeds excellence

  4. Pingback: Seriously, bro? | cfstrengthandconditioning

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