After being a coach at CrossFit South Brooklyn in NYC for 6 years I moved halfway across the country to open my own affiliate, CrossFit Lumos, in Austin, TX. This series will chronicle my experience opening the gym and what I am learning along the way. This article is Part 3 of the adventure. Read Part 1.
“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.”
-Juliet Capulet, about to make a very bad decision
Despite knowing for a while that I wanted to open my own affiliate, what I wanted to call it was a bit of an abstraction. For some time I didn’t know where my gym would exist, which made it hard to pick a name. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to tie my gym’s name into the larger community (if possible) or pick a name that was incongruous or offensive to its potential members.
Still, one of the very first steps in applying for affiliation is picking a name- even if your affiliate doesn’t exist as any more than an abstract concept at that point. You have to submit three choices to HQ, who check your name against existing names and make sure that it doesn’t in some other way violate their policy. That means no names that are currently trademarked (“CrossFit Nike”), nothing offensive or derogatory, and likely some other rules that I don’t even know about.
Generally, most names in CrossFit seem to fall into one of two broad categories:
Location-based: These can be pretty specific, referring to specifically to the town, city, area or zip code of the affiliate (CrossFit West Anytown, CrossFit 555, CrossFit 12345, etc.) or a little more abstract, referring to a nickname or feature (CrossFit Big Apple, etc.)
Evocative: These use some sort of language that speaks to an element of what CrossFit is/means/builds, etc. in their members. Generally these names use terms referring to strength, willpower, toughness or other traits that are commonly associated with our type of training.
The first big thing you find out when thinking of gym names is that almost every conceivable name for a gym is already taken! Seriously, think of a cool gym name, then Google it. It exists, doesn’t it? For a few weeks, this was my routine- I’d get a flash of inspiration, rush to a computer or pull out my phone, and look up the name only to find that it already existed. Even somewhat obscure names, Latin translations, and other names that you swear were original are already in existence. Time to start thinking outside the box.
This initial trouble probably ended up being a net positive for me. Having to try lots of different names out made me inadvertently do a bunch of research on what names were currently out there and the themes that are prevalent in naming affiliates. It forced me to think deeper about what I did and didn’t want my name to convey. Before I even had a name, I had some criteria I was using to decide:
Neutral: I wanted the name to be broadly acceptable to a lot of different people. It is sometimes hard to see it from within the “I already love CrossFit bubble” but lots of names can be off-putting to prospective members. Naming your gym CrossFit Sweat Til U Die (CrossFit S.T.U.D.) might feel true and honest and badazzzzz, but someone out there is going to look at that and say “No thanks.” Conversely, if I named my gym CrossFit Lavender Blossoms it might similarly be a turn off to some people.
Non-Location Specific: In the early days of CrossFit naming was pretty easy- if you opened your gym in Anytown, you called it CrossFit Anytown, easy peasy. Then, if someone was looking for a local CrossFit gym they easily found yours. As the market got more crowded, this became less and less of a feasible strategy. In my opinion it’s now an easy way for your gym not to stand out- who really knows the difference between CrossFit West Anytown, CrossFit East Anytown, etc? If you haven’t already built a strong and successful gym and brand, that ship has sailed. Further, if your gym does well and you want to open another you can’t carry that brand with you- don’t be trying to open CrossFit Anytown in CrossFit Everytown, those Everytowners will not like it!
Iconic and Independent: The more I thought about it, the more I wanted a name that stood on its own, was flexible, broadly appealing, and unique. I started thinking about the big “brands” in CrossFit, affiliates that people know by one word, even if they couldn’t tell you where they were- like Invictus or Brick. Invictus, for example, has some deeper meaning and is the name of a cool poem. Both of those names are immediately understood and known when someone references them. I wanted that! Then I thought a little about successful non-CrossFit businesses, like Google, Lululemon, or Reddit. Those names are references to other phrases or ideas, often spelled creatively so that they aren’t confused with anything else. Google refers to a googolplex (1 with 100 zeroes behind it), Reddit is a play on words, a sort of contraction of someone saying “I read it on…” and Lululemon is a total nonsense word, chosen because it has 3 L’s in it, possibly for somewhat offensive reasons. I thought having name that didn’t really exist anywhere else might be the way to go.
I was overlooking one important factor in choosing a name- it should speak to you in some way. Kicking around names with my friends and colleagues I had a lot of names that made sense in one way or another, but none that really made me feel anything one way or another.
Bear in mind that I am a giant nerd, and history and politics are areas of specific personal nerddery. Don’t ask me why, but I was reading one day about the Age of Enlightenment- the 18th century phenomenon centered mainly in Europe (and of course, America) where politics, philosophy, science, communication, and society were all radically changed by a focus on reason, empiricism, and unorthodoxy. To me, that seemed very much like what CrossFit has been for the fitness industry- a radical game-changer that has propelled generally accepted thought about fitness and health into a new dimension. That concept really ticked the history nerd in me and it made some sense (maybe just to me) as analogous to the rise of CrossFit. Further, CrossFit had been a personal enlightenment to me (and to countless others)- forever changing the way I exercised, my career, and my life.
So, I started brainstorming along the lines of enlightenment and its root word, light. I thought of all the different iterations of the words and looked at them in different languages. The Latin word for light lux was appealing, but I didn’t want it to be confused with Luxe, like I was opening a Deluxe or extra-luxurious CrossFit gym (again, could be cool, but might be off putting to some.) Riffing on light, I arrived at Lumos which is sort of a middle ground between lux and lumen (a unit of measure for light). I liked the ring of it, and it wasn’t taken, and that was that.
CrossFit Lumos was born, and was quickly approved. I was off and running.
Later I learned that “lumos!” did actually exist somewhere- it’s the name of the spell for creating light in the Harry Potter books. I swear I didn’t know that consciously, but there is a distinct chance my nerdy subconscious propelled it to the top. It is what it is.