Dani Speegle & The Business Of Making CrossFit A Career

Many of the people who live the CrossFit lifestyle do so as a way to enhance their overall lives and fulfill a personal desire to be their best. They find that training helps them live better lives personally, improve relationships, and even see improvement in results with their careers.

Some of the athletes who compete at the highest levels, like at the CrossFit Games, have found that to be at their best for those competitions, it was necessary to make their training itself a career instead of working a regular job. For them, training, competing, and representing the sport is what pays their bills.

In the bodybuilding field, this is known as the “business of bodybuilding.” The stars in that sport have found ways to make training and competing their full-time employment. Even after they retire, they stay in the sport and it provides their living for many years to come. Now CrossFit stars are seeing that they can do the same and some have which has helped them either move up the ranks or stay on top of the sport.

How it Works

There are a few different ways that athletes can turn their reps into dollars. It isn’t exactly like they get paid to train only but the commitments that come with the ways that they can profit are enough that they can balance them with the training.

Dani Speegle was the 2019 CrossFit Open U.S. Champion. Her name and brand have grown immensely since she started training in college. She knew that this was what she wanted to do but wasn’t sure how at that point.

“I never had a career or job really before I found CrossFit,” she said. “CrossFit found me right in the transitional period from college to the real world, so I had to make it all work right from the get-go, and it wasn’t easy in the beginning. 

“I coached and made enough money to barely survive for a while. Then I got recruited to be on a team for regionals in 2017. I commuted a little over an hour multiple times a week to train at the gym where the team was located, stay there a couple of days, and travel back home to coach and train on my own. I was living with a wonderful couple at the gym who graciously opened their home up to me, knowing I couldn’t afford a place on my own. 

“I struggled absolutely. I slept in my car a couple nights when I didn’t have a place to stay and had to wait the next morning for a check to clear so I could put gas in my car to make it to wherever I was supposed to be. I refused to really ask for help from anyone and put a huge smile on my face and didn’t let people know how bad it was. I knew I needed time. I needed time to get to a point where I could start making CrossFit a career. I needed to wait, train, work my ass off, and be patient.” 

That grind and patience paid off for her and now she is at a place where she isn’t with a business. Speegle has become one herself. 

“I built a brand and a business that I am incredibly proud of,” she said. “I surrounded myself with the best and most supportive people you could find. And I continuously work; it never stops. But I love what I do every single day; and the hard times I had just make me appreciate these good times even more.”

Here are a few of the ways that athletes like Speegle and others have been able to profit off of their passion.

Sponsors

Companies like clothing brands, supplement companies, equipment manufacturers, and meal prep services have been financially backing athletes for a long time. Many of the top stars in sports have been spokespeople for companies and brands going back to the 1930s. With CrossFit athletes, they get paid to promote the brands on their social media, make appearances, and reference them in profiles and when doing media appearances.

There are some brands that pay athletes for performance as well. Placing at the podium at events or winning them can help them rack in bonuses on top of what they are already making.

Part of that deal requires a lot of travel but with the right mindset, athletes can use this as an opportunity to help them grow their brands and connect with people who follow them. Speegle saw this opportunity and considers it a blessing more than a curse.

“However, now I GET to travel to so many amazing places because of the people I work with,” she said. “I never see it as an obligation or a requirement when a company asks me to travel — I see it as a blessing and a new adventure. Of course there is stress that comes along with traveling. Late nights, early mornings, all-day events, rough travel days, appearances, etc. but at the end of the day — it’s all amazing.”

YouTube

YouTube has been able to make its impact on almost any genre that comes to mind. Gaming, sports, and yes, fitness. Whether it’s vlogging (video blogging) about their training, lives in general, or by coaching, having more subscribers and views can be translated into cash. This can either come directly from YouTube if you have enough subscribers or by the sponsors being included and paying to be a part of the content.

Three-time and reigning Fittest Woman on Earth Tia-Clair Toomey has her own channel with over 39,000 subscribers, and it includes training videos, posts about prepping, and other content. Other stars like Cole Sager and Noah Ohlsen have their own channels as well. You can likely look up any athlete and see him or her on YouTube either with another channel or doing his or her own.

Coaching or Owning a Gym

If you’re going to be coaching others on how to train, you might as well get in on the action yourself, right? Some athletes offer coaching services to clients to help them improve their fitness levels and use their competitive experience both as a professional asset and a form of motivation.

Coaching isn’t only in person, either. Kari Pearce offers training programs like her 30 Day Abs workout for anyone interested. 2015 Games men’s champion Ben Smith is a top coach at CrossFit Krypton and he has similar offers that others have benefitted from.

The ultimate form of coaching is to do so in your own box or gym. Rich Froning might be the perfect example of how this would work with his CrossFit Mayhem business. His brand includes clothing, coaching, and seminars. His brand is among the most recognizable not only in CrossFit but the entire fitness industry. It hasn’t only helped him as an athlete but it will likely carry him well into the future.

Having a combination of these and/or other avenues of income make it possible for them to schedule their training, conduct business, focus on recovery, and spend time with their families based on their own needs and preferences. Doing the business of CrossFit puts them in the best position that they feel will help them improve when training and place better when competing. If you’ve been thinking of trying to make a career change to CrossFit or any other form of fitness, Speegle has words of advice for you.

“It took me a while to realize a key fact when it comes to success, and honestly it’s still something I struggle with. No one who ever did anything incredible, or innovative, or life-changing by saying, ‘I have no idea how I got here,’ or, ‘I mean yeah, I am pretty good at that, so maybe listen to me.’ Winners have winner’s mindsets. They say things like, ‘I am the best,’ ‘No one can do what I can,’ and, ‘I know exactly how I got here.’ If you want to succeed or excel in something, confidence is key. If you want something, KNOW you can do it.“


Roger Lockridge is from Lewisburg, WV. His work has been featured on numerous platforms and magazines in the fitness industry over the last 10 years. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram @rocklockridge.

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