This weekend I stumbled across a story about Pando, aka the Trembling Giant. Maybe you’ve heard of it, or actually “him”. I probably had before, but I certainly hadn’t given him the attention he deserves.

Pando is an incredibly massive male colony of aspen trees spread over 106+ acres in Fishlake National Forest, Utah. Every single one of the approximately 47,000 trees shoot up from a single organism as they share a giant underground root system. It’s estimated that Pando collectively weighs 1.3 billion pounds, making it the heaviest living organism on the planet.

And it’s under threat.

As I read this, I started to think about the CrossFit industry. The massive organism that is known, recognized, and respected as the world of CrossFit… started with one dream, one vision, one passion. This one simple idea began to grow roots in 2000, and then just like the definition of “Pando”, it spread. It spread so much that, in less than 20 years, there are more than 12,000 affiliates across the globe. In many ways, it’s like one big ecosystem, interconnected underground.

While there are no two CrossFit gyms alike, there are strong commonalities that bind each one together. The same language, the same movements, an understanding, and a connection that people outside the affiliate world just don’t get.

My fascination of this massive organism of trees, known as the “quaking aspens”, drove me to dive deeper in my learning, and I realized some incredible facts that are interestingly parallel to the CrossFit industry.

A handful of the roots of this ecological system go down 100+ feet deep. Only a few of the roots have pushed their way to places where many haven’t gone. They form the base for the entire system. Over the past 2.5 years of having literally hundreds of conversations with gym owners, I’m struck by the fact that while there are a large group of gym owners who are doing incredible work, there is a select top percentage of the “high impact” gym owners who are making profound differences across the industry. Their roots are deep. They can be traced back to a rich legacy of empowering others. Jason Khalipa, Ben Bergeron, Chris Spealler, Matt Scanlon, are a few that automatically come to mind. Their gracious and powerful impact and influence has spawned countless new “shoots and trees” all over the world. Together we are all stronger because of their commitment to this industry.

The roots near an abundant supply of water often carry nutrients to the roots and shoots in drier areas. We can learn a lot from aspens. Those who have “more” carry health and vitality to those who are less fortunate. But the fascinating thing is only the trees that accept/receive the nutrients will grow from the nutrients shared. The others quickly die off. Same is true with CrossFit gyms – those who admit they need help and actually receive the help they are given are the ones who will last.

Quaking aspens flourish in unstable environments like mud, snow, and fire. These marvels of nature thrive in difficult environments and the biggest growth happens after devastation. For example, if a large number of the shoots in a “stand” are wiped out, the roots that are left produce hormones in extreme excess to compensate. This hormonal imbalance triggers a profound increase in new, rapidly growing stems. And amazingly, this new section of growth often dwarfs what once was. Similar in the CrossFit world, hardship has often produced extreme goodness when people rally around – Steve’s ClubMurphBarbells for Boobs, competitions for charity, etc. are all beautiful examples of this.

If a grove of quaking aspens doesn’t regularly experience some hardship – fire or some other “disturbance”, its days are numbered. To carry the point in the above paragraph a little further, research says that eventually conifers will pop up all around the aspens, providing abundant shade, which will kill the aspens because they can’t tolerate low levels of light. Like all businesses, CrossFit must continually reinvent itself. While the fundamentals stay the same, the marketing, packaging of services, branding, etc. all must continually evolve or its days will be numbered. Giants like Kodak, Blackberry, Motorola, the phone book, Sears, Blockbuster, etc. all fell prey to this as they refused to pay attention to the changing world around them; and as a result, they lost their power and influence.

Pando is at risk of extinction. Unless it quickly and continually regenerates itself, things like disease, fungus, overgrazing by deer and elk on the new shoots, human interference (new home construction, campgrounds, etc., which causes the inability to allow forest fires), etc. will overtake this natural treasure. So it goes with CrossFit. Is it in jeopardy of being overtaken by “the new thing” or the globo gym overnight? Certainly not, but those who reinvent themselves while staying true to what makes CrossFit so unique and powerful will be the ones who will keep the movement going.

How We Can Help
At 321GoProject, our goal is to do everything in our power to help gym owners continue the movement. Every service we create and deliver is so that gym businesses can be strengthened and roots can go deep.

Given that, we are excited to announce a new offering called, MOMENTUM Master Minds (M3). These small groups of like-minded gym owners will be no more than 6-7 people, plus one of our 321Go Business Coaches. M3 groups will meet weekly to provide insight and accountability, share resources, and strengthen roots. The loneliest place is often business ownership… but it doesn’t have to be. For a limited time, you can join a M3 group for only $99/month and get a team of committed, like-minded people who are in the trenches with you. These groups will start February 2017.

This may just be what you’re looking for to take your business to the next level in 2017.

If interested in hearing more, we’d love to talk with you! Click here to schedule a call with us today.


-This post was written by Julie Weldon (