I love the holidays and the New Year. It allows us extra time to spend with our families, reflect through cards, written and spoken words of meaning to help us find gratitude for the things we’re so lucky to have in our lives. I prioritize my family and expressing my thoughts and love first during the Christmas season, then immediately the day after (today) December 26th, I switch gears to reflect on Friendship and all it has accomplished and been thankful for in 2018…then express that love as I would to my immediate family. Sometimes we are all so wrapped up in our busy bubbles that we fail to take stock and realize what it is we’re a part of – So please take a moment to see what you’ve accomplished in 2018!

Adapt or Die:

Adapt or die was the theme in 2018. The fitness industry is an organic, ever-changing beast. Being a small business has a very slim chance of success to begin with, but choosing an industry that is as large, corrupt and competitive as fitness doubles down on that challenge. In 2017 and 2018 more CF gyms closed their doors than in the previous 10 years combined. Greg Glassman, a staunch libertarian, has always believed that in an open market the cream will rise to the top, and that transition has begun. CrossFit is battling it’s hardcore image, coaching career issues, and a low-barrier of entry leaving many facilities with poor leadership. Friendship’s stated mission is to help people establish healthy habits in a fun and inviting atmosphere, so that they can pass them on to Friends and Family; effectively ‘changing the world one friend at a time’.

This year saw a gigantic subset of the population intimidated by CrossFit, but truly needing the extra care and attention that it provides. This saddened me (and many other CrossFitters, because we believe in most people more than they do!) and I knew that we could develop something to help, rather than just sit and accept it. We adapted our intro programs, put in a robust and informative nutrition program, and began offering Thrive classes for a more restorative version of CrossFit. These changes are not easy to make, however our coaching staff was up to the challenge. Hundreds of hours of meetings, planning and implementation followed and I am so proud of what has been accomplished in each phase of this development. Check out this post from Sam, who has since continued on crushing his goals set in 2018!

Functional Bodybuilding is our newest adaptation, and one that I am extremely excited about in the future of Friendship’s offerings. Coach Ryan has an unending passion for this type of training (if you’ve been to the class, it oozes out of him) and I believe that a combination of Thrive and FBB is the perfect complimentary training for a beginner in the fitness space. We’re playing with names, Jakt with Friends is currently leading, but we’ll likely be polling the audience soon, so be on the lookout for that. If you guys haven’t listened to the podcast explaining FBB and how it fits in please do so here.

Finally, our kids and teens program has continued to change, grow and adapt. What started as a gym with 4 single guys who were outwardly intimidated by children, has grown to be a place where kids can learn, grow and enjoy their experience with fitness. I will admit that this has been the most challenging thing we have taken on, but also the highest need. After spending ample time with my aunt who teaches in Olentangy schools, and my nephew who is in the 3rd grade, our conversations (and those with the many concerned parents and teachers) confirm that our society needs more youth training programs of this type. I have began working with other local gyms to help them grow their programs, as ours is packed to the brim currently (all phases are hard capped at capacity) and I think this mission is too important. 2019 will see some degree of expansion to allow us to further help the families and kids of our community establish a good relationship with physical and mental health, led by positive role models.

Chronic Disease Prevention:

For those who have listened to my podcast, or read our blog posts, you know that I am a staunch believer in preventative medicine and functional medicine. Friendship is built on the idea that YOU are in control of your own decisions, your own health and your own happiness. We built the pyramid this year in February as Grant and I had a 4hour flight from Orlando, and we set off on a journey to help people fight the ‘status quo’ of the modern medical machine.

As soon as we started talking about it more, people and conversations surfaced that changed the entire way I view our community. So many more people are struggling with things than I could’ve ever imagined. Decades of prescription drugs, depression, chronic disease and no plan to escape this cycle from any medical professional. I couldn’t believe it at first. It was worse than I thought.

Coach Andy gave us a weapon in our arsenal that I knew would be powerful in this fight. As a Dietitian, he comes from a hospital background and chose to leave due to many of these inefficiencies, errors and lack of judgement from the medical community. I wanted to give him the opportunity to work with people and create a plan to stop relying on prescription drugs and understand that through food, healthy choices and solid exercise, you can have control. It is a challenging thing for many to accept. For so many Americans, this has become simply “the way it is”…but I don’t accept that.

To date, we have removed over 23 prescriptions for chronic disease or depression in 2018, and those are just the ones I know about due to private conversations. There may be no metric that I am more proud of than this one. I also truly believe that for many Friendship has removed them from a path that was destined to be on prescriptions in the near future as well. In 2019, I hope that this can be something that our community, and others around us, begin to publicly celebrate. If we begin to talk about it, and share our stories, maybe more will follow and begin to believe that they can make this change.

Parents and the Mentor Model:

While on my journey towards developing new things for Friendship and it’s community, I developed the “mentor model”. This was something I was seeing happen organically in our community, but I wanted to put a name to so that we could pursue it further and suggest it once people starting “kicking ass and taking names.”  I started thinking about it after Sean’s journey began. Sean came back after some time off, and I began thinking about how we failed him before, and what had changed to allow him to be successful this time. The mentor model. We’ve had a few 100lb weight losses over the years…but no one has done it all in under one calendar year. My sincere congratulations to him, his hard work and ambition have inspired our whole community.

I started thinking more and more about this, and the concept really gets to the core tenant of what Friendship stands for. I began modeling it out, explaining it to coaches, podcasting and putting it all around me. What makes us successful is the process of finding success with the help of others, then sharing that success to be the person who helps the next man or woman up. So many of you at Friendship have embodied this in 2018. Bringing parents, kids, friends and family with you. Telling me of conversations with co-workers and hearing you speak with others in the gym about how you changed your nutrition and encourage someone else to make the change also. It’s choosing positivity, choosing to help your fellow man, and having a greater purpose and impact in your community.

I think it’s a key point that our society is missing: Contribution. But sometimes to truly contribute and help…we first need to develop ourselves and our own habits. This year we’ve encouraged parents to engage with their kids habits, we’ve asked adults to encourage their parents to start eating healthy and we’ve asked loved ones to support one another in their relationships health. The fallout from this has been great to watch and I cannot wait to see what 2019 brings.

Coaching and Our Team:

2018 posed a new challenge for me. I stepped fully into the “Owner” role. Looking back, it is a journey that I am grateful for as it has caused me to really elevate my thinking, educate myself and “ascend” to being a more responsible leader. It meant taking myself out of the coaching role. I started a CrossFit gym because I love coaching and leading a team. I found this love when I was 19 coaching Middle School Lacrosse, fanned the flame in the Army as I took over training for my relief at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and solidified it as I began to help people on their fitness journey. Walking away from that role has been very challenging, both to me personally, but also to the clients I built a relationship with…but I know that it is the right thing for the community. My time and effort goes into developing the coaches, and putting support systems around them so that they can give their undivided attention to those who need our help. Developing 9 amazing individuals to help our community members will lead to far better accomplishments than anything I could achieve on my own. Someone needs to be looking over the whole community to see what programs we need the most, and how we can best help serve our community. And it means ensuring that our staff is able to provide for their kids, their husbands and wives and themselves with a meaningful career so that we don’t have to keep saying goodbye to our beloved coaches.

In 2016 I hosted a town hall meeting after some of our coaches had decided to move on from the coaching career. At the time the average CrossFit coaches monthly pay was $1,789 and the average lifespan was 2.5 years. This is unacceptable in our profession. Coaching is a challenging job in many, many regards and if we’re going to make a change in our community, we need leaders who are experienced, educated and will stay in the profession for more than 5 years. I believe in our team now more than I ever have, they work hard, they spend their personal time developing themselves, they design presentations for each other, provide criticism for each other and listen, learn and educate to help one another grow. We cry over clients. We lose sleep over clients. We answer texts to help clients while with family, and most of us are there 7 days per week, 50+ weeks per year. It is a passion driven profession, and I hope that in 2019 Friendship will continue in being a leader of change in the world of coach development, career development and allowing each of our team members to pursue their passions.

Looking to 2019:

Our team stands ready to face the challenges our society is experiencing. Our coaches, our company structure and staff will continue to progress and develop, I need to continue to develop. I hope that everyone in our community is able to say that sentence and understand what it means. I need to develop. Losing sight of that understanding is a slippery slope to all of the laziness, comforts and conveniences that lay around us just waiting to take advantage of your idle hands. Instead, pick up the flag and help contribute. Get in the fight and choose to be a leader, a mentor and someone who is working to inspire others around them with their choices, lifestyle and conviction.

2019 will be the year that others in the Friendship community will create their own sources of inspiration. Their own charities (you know who I’m talking to), their own blogs or podcasts, their own mentorship or consulting practice…or simply gain power in their voice to others. We will have better mental health, more happiness and in turn better relationships.

Thank you for being a part of our story. If you’re reading this, you’ve had, or will have a part in that story and I thank you for that. If I’ve failed you in the past, I’m sorry I wasn’t more well equipped to serve you at that time and I hope you can give me another opportunity in the future when I’ve helped Friendship grow and improve. If you’ve found success with Friendship, I hope that we can continue to provide opportunities to help you develop and keep things fresh, fun and exciting! We’ve beaten the odds, we’ve made it past all of the “only 10% of small businesses survive the first year, and only 10% of those survive another 3 years”, etc. etc…So now we just get to have some fun and continue making a dent in the health industry!

Love, 2018 Jeff