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Ryan Dorris: The Issue of Inclusivity In Strength Sports (Podcast)

Today we’re talking to Ryan Dorris, accomplished bodybuilder, powerlifter, strength coach and owner of Fortis EQ. Strength sports — particularly CrossFit, but it’s not alone — have witnessed lots of changes in the last few months. In this episode, Ryan reflects on how and why strength sports have lacked inclusivity in the past. He’s optimistic though, offering a positive and insightful outlook on the culture of strength sports and how we can create more inclusivity together in a time of uncertainty. 

On this episode of The BarBend Podcast, guest host Jake Boly talks to Ryan Dorris about:

  • Who is “The Natty Pro”? (3:25)
  • Issues of inclusivity in strength sports today (8:00)
  • The exclusivity of CrossFit and how it can change (17:25)
  • The critical role women play in the growth of strength sports (20:55)
  • How to expand CrossFit outside of itself (23:00)
  • Why CrossFit had to be private at first, and why it has to change (34:00)
  • Why Greg Glassman’s vision frustrated many, and why his controversial comments were the last straw (47:00)
  • Ryan reflects on racism and the changes he’s seen over time (53:30)

Relevant links and further reading:

Transcription

Ryan DorrisRyan Dorris

The one thing that will always sell, at least in this society, especially as we go more digital is intimacy. You cannot put a price on a real-life coach, putting their hand on your back, and say “Neutral spine.” That will correct you 10 times faster than someone on YouTube can ever correct you.

 

Will the market ultimately shrink, for who is going into boxes, yes. I do think that the total market of people doing the sport will grow, and that will even out what people want to seek out through coaching.

Jake BolyJake Boly

Welcome to the “BarBend Podcast,” where we talk to the smartest athletes, coaches, and minds from around the world of strength. I’m a guest host Jake Boly, and this podcast is presented by barbend.com.

 

Ryan Doris, aka thenattypro on Instagram, is an accomplished bodybuilder and powerlifter. Ryan also owns and operates Fortis EQ, which is his personal strength coaching business that ties internal conflict that we all experience in our daily lives with coaching methodology.

 

In today’s episode we talk about a variety of topics, but we spend a little bit more time talking about the recent controversy behind CrossFit and how the sport of functional fitness as a whole can progress and be more inclusive for everyone.

 

As always, we’re incredibly thankful you listen to this podcast. If you haven’t already, drop a review in the app of your choice. Every month we pick a lucky listener to receive a box full of BarBend swag who’s left us a review.

 

What’s going on, guys? This is Jake Boly with barbend.com. Today I’m joined with Ryan Doris, aka thenattypro on Instagram. Ryan, it’s always great chatting. It’s great to have you on, man. Thank you for joining us.

Ryan DorrisRyan Dorris

Dude, I’m glad to be here. I feel like the only way we talk is through work. I’m glad that we’re getting to have a one-on-one conversation and still get to work at the same time, man. It’s nice, happy to see you.

Jake BolyJake Boly

I agree. The last time I think we talked was at Meg’s, what, two summers ago?

Ryan DorrisRyan Dorris

Yeah, Meg Gallagher had a party. It was nice that no one brought their camera, no one really was trying to make a moment out of it. It was just all of us, I guess you could say, influencers, people who have a career in this industry who were in LA at that moment. Dude, we just had a blast.

 

There was no meets. We were just like, “You do what I do.” My mom still doesn’t think I have a job. She just doesn’t believe that what I do is real, and she never will. It’s nice to be around people that are your peers, who do what you do, and are like, “Hey, I admire your work. Let’s just have candid, open conversations privately.” That was a good time. That was one of the best times.

Jake BolyJake Boly

Only one correction there. I had a meet. I competed.

Ryan DorrisRyan Dorris

You blew it off for the day at least, right? You were in spirit.

Jake BolyJake Boly

I was drinking margaritas while we were pumping.

Ryan DorrisRyan Dorris

Yes, you were. You were. You were in spirit for the day.

Jake BolyJake Boly

Hey, I still won that little local meet, so I’ll take that one.

 

Dude, to give a little bit of background to our listeners, can you just go into your history in strength sports, and who you are, what you do? Just a little background about who you Ryan Doris are?

Ryan DorrisRyan Dorris

Yeah, so for those that don’t know me, I started very, very early on. I guess I got my prominent rise through natural bodybuilding, specifically through the crew of people who popularized the trend of If It Fits Your Macros-style dieting in natural bodybuilding.

 

The reason it picked up so well in natural bodybuilding, as opposed to untested bodybuilding I should call it, there are so many more variables. It is very difficult to body build and get it right. Then there’s a whole other world of nutrition, and then there’s a whole other world, if you do use drugs, of performance drugs.

 

What is right, and what isn’t, correct? I think what natural bodybuilding did really well, and what we did well at the time, we showed we are cutting the variables down, very simply. Here’s the one we aren’t changing as an aggregate, which is nutrition, flexible dieting.

 

It exploded our careers because of the way we were dieting. That was 2010. Crazy. I did well competing obviously. I didn’t come to rise through the bodybuilding itself, but more so putting out content of sustainable dieting, and helping change the game on the culture of bodybuilding.

 

In terms of our little niche now today, which was popularized if you look at the style amongst a Steve Cook or a Guzman. It’s the current style of today. Have a lifestyle, have a margarita, you’ll be all right. It’s no tilapia and rice type deal anymore.

 

That’s how I got my start. Then through the peak of that I did well. Through the middle of it I was like, “I’m going to give raw powerlifting a shot.” I jumped right in at 2013 at the beginning wave of raw powerlifting.

 

I did well. I did extremely well. I competed as a 93. My best performances total, I don’t remember. It’s been four years, but LS McLean beat me at The Arnold. [laughs] I know I took second. I totaled 750, as in 93. I was top five at Raw Nationals when I competed.

 

I wasn’t this world class renowned powerlifter, but I was good. Same way I was good in the national bodybuilding realm. I came to rise through the competing, but as the last five years or so, it’s predominantly been my athletes and my coaching, that have really been my focus, and what I do today. That and a combination of, I am not afraid to talk about any topic. [laughs]

 

That does help that I think outside the box, versus most people who feel trapped in fitness. It’s been pretty good, not only am I respected as an athlete, but as a person in industry who will talk about anything. We are still humans, and we still need to get information on non-fitness things from each other, in our trusted community.

 

That’s been me in the people who are my people, at least in my little tiny corner of what I do. That’s all under the Natty Pro, if you’ve ever seen me in explorer page and just skipped over it. [laughs]

Jake BolyJake Boly

 It’s funny, as I was actually going to comment on that about circling back to even Meg’s. We’re going into conversations that you are so well versed on talking about different topics. You do so in a way that is very balanced. There’s no one one-side, I feel.

 

Recently, more than ever, you’ve been posting on topics that are very high-focused right now in the public’s eye, I love it. One of your stories, I want to say, when your posts from June 3rd, for that was the date. Dude, literally, I re-watched it two-times that day. Don’t tell my boss that, but I took 20 minutes out of work day, and re-watched that video.

 

It made me start to think, and made me start to look around in my world of strength sports, inclusivity and strength sports, more specifically. When the Black Lives Matter Movement started getting a lot more steam and everything started picking up.

 

CrossFit controversy happened. I started looking at the comments we were getting on some of our posts, and it made me really start to question. I’m like, “It seems like everything’s fine and dandy, but it’s definitely not.”

Ryan DorrisRyan Dorris

It’s not.

Jake BolyJake Boly

I want to talk to you more about your opinions and views on inclusivity in strength sports and the state of strength sports. You’ve been in the game for a while now, and how they’ve changed? What you see that needs changing?

Ryan DorrisRyan Dorris

If you look at it, specifically in the lens of strength sport being inclusive, there’s one thing important to mention about strength sport. It’s that, to get into the strength sport, you need to be a person of privilege, not white or black or anything. Just a person that is able to come in contact with the resources that perform in the sport.

 

It’s very easy for black inner youth to play basketball, because it’s very easy to get access to a basketball in makeshift realm. Anyone can play the game of basketball, versus hockey. It’s very hard to get the resources, to get an ice rink, to get the equipment, to afford the gear, to play hockey. Therefore, maybe it’s regional too, just where they’re playing hockey.

 

You don’t see a lot of inner city black kids, Hispanic kids, playing hockey because I literally, me growing up, I literally never even knew where to get a hockey stick, or a hockey puck. I did it just wasn’t accessible to me. If you tie strength sport into it, it’s almost the same thing.

 

You don’t necessarily need an ER rack to give [laughs] to the inner city kids, but at the same time it’s, one, information is heavily asymmetrical in strength sport. What these inner city kids do have, and a lot of urban low-income black kids do have, is genetic talent.

 

If we look at this historically, we’ve seen this in most American power strength sports, basketball, baseball, especially with the African Union Dominicans.

 

Historically, this is not new. There’s generally no black people there at all until we start figuring out like, “If we give these kids access to the puck, the glove, the ball.” Not only the physical access to what you need to play the sport, but to make the information not as asymmetrical, it helps greatly. One advantage that I had, I ran track growing up.

 

My family is a track family so much so, I have a younger brother who’s a triple jumper and he’s Olympian currently. He’s literally today to this day still an Olympian running track. He’s a year and a half younger than me. Track has obviously been great for my family. I went to track on scholarship and everything. One thing that I learned was I had this insane amount of talent, but no one really to groom me until I got to the collegiate level.

 

I more or less met white men who had strength and conditioning certificates I should have never heard of. Who taught you how to properly do leg extension, wine up your knee on the axis. Just shit you would never think about. These little things with thin information that you wouldn’t know.

 

You can liken this athletic information, the same way that you can liken it to financial information within households of anyone who’s poor regardless of color. To tie all this short historical context back to what’s going on today in the sport, and it’s not being as inclusive as we would think, it is hard to point the finger on any one thing. I would say a lot of inclusivity that lacks starts simply from access.

 

You just cannot afford or get into a CrossFit gym, or a powerlifting gym or bodybuild-specific gym or a weightlifting-specific gym, if you don’t have the money. We would like to think that our sports are pretty equal. The truth is, it’s objective. If you can get in and do it, it is pretty equal. The sport itself is not the sin.

 

It’s the way that you learn the sport and come into the sport that seems to carry the burden of most of all that we’re seeing today. More particularly with the things that we’ve seen on the [indecipherable 12:29] with Glassman and those things nowadays. Do I feel that this sport will ultimately get to a point where it’s more inclusive? It has to. That’s what objective sports do.

 

Maybe it’d be different if it were a sport that is totally judged by the judge. Where competition can thrive, it will thrive. It doesn’t matter if someone is Korean and if they’re objectively doing the numbers in their shit at the sport, they win.

 

That’s how we roll in sports. It’s equal to just results. The bigger issue is, how do you even get in the game? That’s really what we’re pointing the finger on today. It’s kind of the main issue.

Jake BolyJake Boly

 Going off of all of that man. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve necessarily even thought about it from that light, that it comes down to access, especially early on. Something that’s really come up once the whole Greg Glassman thing happened is, a lot of people who didn’t see it before, were shocked to realize that CrossFit is very predominantly white. To your point, CrossFit gyms are fucking expensive.

 

If you don’t have the resources early on to understand what CrossFit even is, if you find it, it’s by pure dumb luck. In a lot of cases, you either have somebody in your life that loves it and so forth.

 

My question for you is, how do we work towards making sure strength boards are more inclusive early on, in everybody’s lives and so forth? To make sure everybody has a chance to get into them? How do we, how do we work around that?

Ryan DorrisRyan Dorris

It’s the nature of the sport itself. If I call you up, Jake, let’s go play a game of basketball. You get four guys, I get four guys or girls and let’s play a game. We can get a ball we can all chip in. I don’t know what a basketball cost, probably $11 on the low end, a Walmart ball. If you really just want any ball, a $2 ball. You can get a ball for anything, go find a public court, and we’ll play.

 

The issue that we see when we move up the spectrum to sports like CrossFit, is that you can’t just play CrossFit. CrossFit itself is owned by a private company. No one owns basketball. There is an NBA who says we will take the best and organize you. CrossFit itself is the organizer of the sport, has done a great job.

 

Historically, if you look at the rise of it, it’s been fantastic, at the same time they own the sport. No one can truly CrossFit individually. You will find rising young, Afro baseball stars in the Dominican Republic, they will figure it out. It’s impossible to figure it out when you own the coaching, when you own the access to the organization.

 

You can, for example, if you get good enough at basketball, you can walk up and say,” Hey, NBA, can I have a trial?” I doubt they will let you try out but it’s possible. It is possible to have an open tryout. There is no such thing in CrossFit. You have to go through the totalitarian control of the owning bodies of CrossFit. You just can’t come in and say, “I want to hold a basketball tournament on my block.”

 

You can’t do that. It’s legally actually impossible to hold a CrossFit tournament. You’ll get in trouble. If the person who is giving access to the sport is clearly someone with undertones of racism, like Greg Glassman, he gives no fucks to say, “Let me make sure that these inner-city urban kids are getting a chance to come in the sport and get developed.” CrossFit got invaded at some point by pure athletes.

 

I grew up as an athlete, you grew up as an athlete. I don’t think there’s anything more beautiful than the athlete. I’ve been hearing this week, the context of the climate of what’s going on. Everyone saying, “I don’t see color.” That’s not true unless you play sports. Sports is the only time where you’re physically exhausted. That’s your bowl. You can’t even take a moment to judge what this person is.

 

All you know is this person’s whooping my ass or this person’s not. It’s a totally objective sport. I feel the issue that we’re going into CrossFit is that it’s almost a control of who can play. How do we make it more inclusive? It’s the same issue if I want to liken it historically. CrossFit, in my opinion, they’ll go through the same thing that we went through.

 

I can’t remember how many years it was ago that Joseph Pilates went through. There was this guy, Joseph Pilates. He invented this form of exercise, which we know as Pilates, and did his best to make sure that no one could do Pilates unless it was through my studios, my ownership, and you didn’t have access to the coaches.

 

No one could teach it if you weren’t in the system. At some point, the legal system was like, “Come on dude, it’s Pilates. You can’t own Pilates anymore.”

 

We have these wonderful antitrust laws that help things become public domain. I feel the only real next step for CrossFit, would be for people who are in the CrossFit community to have the chance.

 

I don’t know much about CrossFit, but I know there are levels of coaching certifications. You could simply have someone who is a level one coach — who maybe went to school in kinesiology — say, “Hey. I want to run my kids at the school through this WOD.” Or “I want to teach them how to do that…”

 

That’s illegal though, today in the current climate. No one who has the knowledge of CrossFit — every single coach who is in the CrossFit community — cannot say, “Hey, I want to go to a prison program and run this WOD form.”

 

Cannot say, “I want to go to the school program…” If you want to CrossFit, it’s trapped in the CrossFit. I think the only thing that’ll help the inclusivity of CrossFit is the ability to have the sport being learned outside of the umbrella of the ownership of CrossFit.

 

You can carry this argument literally for anything, whether that be accounting…You don’t have to be a CPA to practice accounting. Imagine if you had to be within the bodying of a CPA to be accounting.

 

Or imagine if, for instance, you and I, we know nothing about journalism, but here we are talking to two microphones, broadcasting our voices to the world. We’re totally unqualified.

 

You spread the messages when you let, not just journalists get on a microphone, when you’re not let just CrossFit coaches only coach people within CrossFit, under the pretense that you must have X amount of disposable income to be good at it.

 

Ultimately, what does this look like for CrossFit? I think if this could happen and did happen. When you increase inclusivity, you learn some new shit in your sport. Golf was not ready for a Tiger Woods.

 

You could not have predicted that — I’m speaking genetically — a male who is half Afro American, half Asian would be the formula for…I would have never guessed that we could learn some things from that person.

 

I would’ve never guessed that with male gymnast or male weightlifters, that I could learn so much from Chinese weightlifter.

 

I would have never known that Lu can do what he can do. It’s amazing when you watch it. I think for me, if we want to talk about ingenuity of the sport, growth of the sport, learning new things, inclusivity, and being inclusive is the only way forward and actually to save your sport.

 

This isn’t a new idea. You see this in tech. You see this in engineering and all things stem. You see this in our industry. Our industry is a woman’s one industry, right?

 

I had a talk yesterday with my friend, [indecipherable 20:58] . She has three female coaches under her full-time, her own stuff. She’s a figure competitor. I’m shocked that if you really look at what’s going on financially in our industry, women are the trend, and I think in time this industry will be completely a woman’s industry.

 

We were on here talking about how we connected to Meg, but Meg is a woman. Women are in the fitness industry have almost not on the supplement side, necessarily, but at least direct to consumer they’re inclusive, they can add, they can do different things.

 

Who knew that Gymshark could be so powerful? I wouldn’t have known. I feel CrossFit with what it’s doing now, if Castro wants to do the same thing that Glassman did, it’s going to burn itself out as an organization.

 

I think the issue now is that CrossFit is in the hearts of so many people. I’ve never done CrossFit a day in my life but I love it. I love the Washington games, I love to follow Rich Froning, I follow everybody. I love it, I’m a fan. I want to see more people drive into it, though I never want to do it.

 

If it’s in the hearts of people, I feel CrossFit is at this weird point, as an organization, where they need to figure out, how can we continue to do, we do and make money, and run the game, maybe I guess that’s still the priority. At the same time, open up the levees, for lack of a better term, to grow the sport because now it is in the hands of the people to make it better. I think ultimately. Another super model viewed by me. [laughs]

Jake BolyJake Boly

I love it, man. You’ve given a lot of good points and you were seeing a lot of big named athletes now, I feel almost split with their views, right? Some athletes who said, “CrossFit needs to go through a big change in order for me to come back,” you have some athletes who are like, “I’m done with CrossFit.”

 

I think we’re in this really weird point that we have a chance to really rebuild it as you said.

 

My question for you man is, in a perfect hypothetical world, how do we do that? How do we rebuild it and ensure that it’s built from the ground up by the people, to include everybody?

 

Do we work on making CrossFit gyms maybe some way a little bit less expensive, basically? How do we get more people out into the community to spread the word about CrossFit? Build it back up, or build-up functional fitness, whatever direction they want to call it, and so forth. How do we build it better?

Ryan DorrisRyan Dorris

If I’ve to be honest, if there was one sport that was on the path to actually…because I’ve heard people in volleyball say that forever and ever, it’s just not going to happen. The average person doesn’t want a volleyball. If there was one sport that is and was ever capable of fulfilling that, it is CrossFit.

 

Again dude, I try not to have my ideas be about my heart. One thing I’ve learned from financial markets is the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior. If CrossFit wants to see what holds the future, in same way that we need to look back and see what has happened.

 

I’m in Chicago right now, Cook County. It’s totally normal for Cook County to take taxpayer dollars and build a baseball diamond. It’s perfectly normal for them to take taxpayer dollars and build a skatepark. It’s perfectly normal for them to take taxpayer dollars and build basketball court. Is it so hard for Cook County in these communities for people to include CrossFit?

 

CrossFit has a strong lobbying party if they wanted to. They’re powerful people in CrossFit. CrossFit could move forward by saying could we incorporate a small space, maybe even a 20 by 20 space at the local YMCA, that’s not a government organization, but the local community center. We could buy some weights. Rogue’s making weights for…you remember the legal only days dude? [laughs]

 

Rogue is making weights that are astonishing quality, and astonishing prices, and it’s only going to get better, I imagine. It is not that hard to fund five barbells, and a coach that’s there three times a week for four hours. It’s the same as these weightlifting halls has done. When they’re not doing that, they can use it as open gym.

 

We have these baseball diamonds that just sit there. They get activity, when they get activity. If America needs anything, it is how to get CrossFit and strength sport, to the point that baseball did it, it’s nothing new. To the point that what jogging did, jogging is nothing new. America loves to have his heart won over by a sport, especially one they can relate to.

 

The uphill battle with CrossFit, if I’m going to play devil’s advocate to my own point, will be that it’s going to be hard to institutionalize. It’s easy to do baseball in high school, or basketball in high school, and it’d be just as easy to do CrossFit in high school as well too. The issue comes back to this thing, the sport itself is owned by an institution.

 

The sport itself is just not the sport of Go Skateboard and who gives a shit. I’m recircling to my first point. If the community of CrossFit can figure out how to move its sport forward, the same way that Joseph Pilates got, I hate to say it, got his sport taken from him. My grandma can now go to Pilates at the Oakland Community College Center, like fern for no money.

 

The same way CrossFit should be able to have those capabilities. Right now, there’s obviously specific critiques, is it safe for these things like that, but dude, I’d be dead.

 

I would say that the average person who’s been at a box for five years, and if they have the type of heart and will where they really want to make some side work, or volunteer, could teach kids, could teach anyone, how to just run your average workout of the day. I don’t think it’s that complex, but again, it comes back to the shackles of CrossFit, Inc.

 

I have to have the certification through them, I have to do it at their box through them. I can’t do it at a gold…so the only way free and only way forward is to free the sport up from this corporation, however, that can be done, through the people of CrossFit demand what they want. There are lawyers who CrossFit, there are people of power and money who CrossFit.

 

It can move it to a place where more people can access it ultimately. The same way that you can powerlift maybe in high school and you get early access. The same way you can play basketball and get early access.

 

Hopefully, I’m making a little bit of sense in that it has to ultimately be freed up so that people can have access to it because it’s never going to work if — for lack of a better word — kind white people go into communities and say, “Hey, twice a year I’m going to do a CrossFit day.”

 

That’s generous and helpful but if something is to have sticking power, I need to be able to go skateboard when I want to skateboard. I need to be able to CrossFit when I want to CrossFit.

 

I think the model of having a box if you want to go in there and pay for the coaching — I think what they’re doing in there is worth the money, 100 percent, but I don’t think it’s that hard to have a substandard quality of a box.

 

It’s the same weights that we’ve been using for years. There’s no new exercises that CrossFit has ever invented. In fact, they’re just all exercises from other exercises. It’s not that hard. I don’t think it’s that hard. I’m talking something that I think can be done over the next 20 to 25 years because inclusion, the culture gets sickening slowly. It happens very very slowly.

 

You’ve seen it within CrossFit. You’ve seen the Keto crowd polarize themselves from people who are the Vegan crowd. All of this is a fight over people with disposable income. You’re missing. They’re all missing the main mark on what matters.

 

To be inclusive, I think the only way is to have a — the capitalist in me is speaking — have a laissez-faire market with the sport. Let anyone in. Let anyone from a free capital market perspective get easier access to it.

 

Maybe, sure. It will never happen with hockey because who the fuck can donate an ice rink? Maybe not. I know it’s expensive.

Jake BolyJake Boly

It’s expensive. I played hockey growing up through college and it was expensive. Why did I ask my family to pay for that shit?

Ryan DorrisRyan Dorris

Dude, that’s OK. I went on a run today like I was telling you. I live on the north side. I ran past an equestrian center that was private. Then three miles up the road, I ran through a public an equestrian center that’s run by the city.

 

I was like, “What?” This community can afford four fucking horses. [laughs] I don’t think there’s any sport more expensive than feeding and keeping beautiful horses maintained. It wouldn’t be that hard to just be like, “Hey, are we using this warehouse much anymore? Can we staff it four days a week and have free gym three other days a week?” It wouldn’t be so hard.

 

We can do it with the YMCA, has all that bodybuilding shit in there. It’s not so hard. It’s not so hard to get some rages and some cages in there. I think the only way is a slow way.

 

I don’t think it’s going to come down to box owners have to feel obligated to letting a poor child into their facility to be more inclusive and being nice. In my opinion, that extends the leftist way of trying to absolve their guilt for having what they have.

 

Ultimately that doesn’t work. If anything, it extends the welfare state, which is basically saying, “For me to have access to this gym, I need to depend on you more. I need to make sure that you continue to be — in some respects — my superior still.”

 

Whereas when you go into a box, everyone should be equals. Everyone has equal access with their level of income. I don’t know, man, I’m not the master or king of this topic. I’m just someone from the outside looking in who’s been in the game for 10 years.

 

I look at history and I don’t think that these things haven’t been done. I don’t think anything I’ve said today is some theorist bullshit. I wish Utopian stuff. It’s what we have done already in America. I think to the Pilates’ example, into the institutional example of getting boxes in schools, getting them at community centers, the same way that we’ve done with other sports.

 

America loves CrossFit. The only people I know who don’t like CrossFit are bodybuilders who are mad that they’re 300 pounds and can’t CrossFit. They’re the only ones who I know who don’t. Everyone loves CrossFit. I love CrossFit. It’s amazing.

 

That’s my opinion on being inclusive. I don’t think it is any one person who needs to take action or do this. I do think those things help. I think on a grand scale, the same way that the NBA got mostly black wasn’t from kind white people saying, “Please, I’ll let you in my gym, just put up some fucking hoops. That’s it.” If you build it, they will come.

 

That’s straight forward. I think it’s a free market. People will play. They can play at the camp.

Jake BolyJake Boly

Yeah, I love it. I think as the nation continues to realize how important strength training is — to your point — I don’t think a strength sport that is better positioned to make that broad appeal than CrossFit. You’ve got the general public who say, “Oh, that shit’s dangerous.” It’s because you’re some fucking schmuck who watched one video on YouTube of CrossFit Fails compilation.

 

Dude, everything has fuck and fails. Every sport has fails. Every sport has fuck ups. It’s going to always be there.

 

I think to your point, making it so broadly accessible would be the first step to helping shift the general public’s view on what CrossFit is or even strength training in general. If you give people great equipment, you give people access everywhere and they understand how good it feels, how they can move, how they can produce results on their own under their own power, that’s really powerful.

 

I could see somebody listening come up with a counter-argument was like, “Well, how can coaches make money?” It will be the same way.

Ryan DorrisRyan Dorris

 

The same way I make money.

Jake BolyJake Boly

 

Exactly. Be a great fucking coach.

Ryan DorrisRyan Dorris

Cream rises, man. Cream rises to the top. CrossFit had its years, still, today, I think it needed to be private. It needed to have people with high disposable income invest into it. I think it needed that to get off the ground so quickly.

 

If you look at where CrossFit is and where the NBA is, for example, if you look at the time of which they’re — probably a bad term used in today — but if you look at their curve, basically basketball is a slow curve. It was very slow to get up to its level of popularity. As we saw with the Michael Jordan documentary that was recently up. Michael Jordan was really the spike.

 

It was more or less a slope before 1991. For the most part of basketball wasn’t the shit like that.

 

I remember when I was in undergrad, I did, ironically enough, with this girl. We’re still friends. Her and her husband own a box now close to me. Her and I did a project on CrossFit. A marketing capstone project on it. This had to be the year 2010, I think we did this.

 

I remember talking about how important it was for the corporation to grow the sport and do all these things. They needed to do what they needed to do at the time. But I think if CrossFit really wants to do what it wants to do if it really wants to stand by the sport that fights chronic disease, because right now, America does have the same issue with obesity.

 

All of my friends who do research, they all know. They’re all being forced into tackling the obesity issue. Just like 10 years previous to them, everyone was forced into tackling the sugar issue. Whatever is the nation’s issue, you will be funded for.

 

I imagine now if you’re asking for funding to do squat 1RM versus squat volume maxes, you’re probably a better chance if you spend that money on COVID-19 research. You’re probably get funded from a university better. I feel CrossFit is in the position where, is it dangerous? Yeah, fucking, a pool ball is dangerous.

 

Anything that’s heavy, it has weight to it, is dangerous. Driving a car at 30 miles per hour is way fucking more dangerous than CrossFit will ever be, and you do that daily. It just all boils down to, again, that accessibility.

 

If we can ever get it to the point where the owners of CrossFit will say, “All right, maybe it’s time for a new structure,” the NBA has not lost a dime by allowing free basketball playing on courts. They haven’t lost a [laughs] fucking quarter on letting people play basketball not under their guise.

 

CrossFit coaches, they’ll still make plenty of money. If we grow CrossFit to the community, you will in time. For example, I coach powerlifting and figure sport. I had someone email me, and I get this email all the time. People say, “Hey man, I’ve been following you for eight years. I’m ready to be coached with you.”

 

That’s how markets work. If you do good work and lay the seeds now. If you own a box and you’re a coach, and you were like, “Hey, we are the place where you can come and get structured programming and increasing it better.

 

Dude, my girlfriend, she runs a boot camp, a women’s only boot camp. She’s Pakistani. It’s like Muslim women do it where they can feel comfortable taking up their hijab off and stuff.

 

Anyways, these women, if they wanted it to be private, they could stay in their house. They could turn on any YouTube video of a free workout and do it, but what CrossFit coaches may be missing is that the one thing that will always sell at least in this society, especially as we go more digital is intimacy.

 

You cannot put a price on a real-life coach, putting their hand on your back and say, “Neutral spine.” That will correct you 10 times faster than someone on YouTube can ever correct you.

 

Will the market ultimately shrink for who is going into boxes? Yes, but I do think that the total market of people doing the sport will grow, and that will even out what people want to seek out through coaching.

 

I think it’s a perfect example of controlling a market because you own something that you invented and rightfully so. The owners of CrossFit did invent it. I can’t argue that. It’s their right.

 

At some point, will your ownership shoot you in the foot of your ultimate goal? Well, because the truth is dude, obesity is pretty much across the board pretty even. There’s not more obese white people than there are black people.

 

There are more poor people dying quicker for sure, but everyone’s pretty overweight in this country, pretty fairly. I would say the food is fairly good all across this country, [laughs] southeast states wherever you go.

 

Ironically if CrossFit’s mission is salvation for chronic health issues, this is the time to be Christ-like and metaphorically put themselves on the cross and give up something for the greater good of everything else.

 

It’s a private company. I respect their wishes. If they feel that that’s what they want to do, I don’t think it will be long before a company like Rogue, a Reebok finds a way to take it from them and do it anyways, but that’s the beauty of it.

Jake BolyJake Boly

That’s a really good point, man. My next question for you was going to be focused on what you just said, which if you are able to bring more and more people to the sport or the concept of it, do you really need then CrossFit?

 

Also, I was going to ask you, how would you respond to controversy of what he said? Would you abandon CrossFit and the community, or would you work to build something new?

 

If Rogue did start something on their own — which we know they have very well the capability to do — would you do that and work with them based off of what CrossFit did or would you stick with CrossFit?

 

I think that’s going to be a really tough question that a lot of people need to answer. Especially, as the Games get closer, as CrossFit tries to figure, lack of a better word, their shit out, realign their focuses.

 

What would you personally do, and how do you think athletes can look at it without letting emotional bias blind them?

Ryan DorrisRyan Dorris

That’s a good question, and a tough question. Again, I don’t have a magic wand in the answers. Instead of trying to see that macro perspective, maybe just looking at micro.

 

Let’s say, you were in a relationship with a person for long term. Let’s say, you said some shitty shit to them. Let’s say, would you take them back, or would you not? It all depends on the individual. If you did take then back, would it still feel the same? Maybe after three years of trying, you’d give up. This is a complex question, and I think it’s a complex answer.

 

If I’m going to go with the most popular things, what I will do or what most people are going to do is going to be a handful of things. One, it always starts with money. Those who can afford it, will be like, “I don’t need to pay your $3,000 affiliate fee, all my money is going into my pocket.”

 

I saw Khalipa, he basically said, “I’m the real shit, I am CrossFit.” You know what I mean, you cannot sue Khalipa for running workouts. They’re just workouts. If you go to the game, that’s on you. His name is big enough, and a lot of these big boxes are big enough where all the perks you get. You more or less are not in the directory of CrossFit anymore.

 

If you already have a name, it’s like, “I’m good, I’m fine.” That will hurt in that those who can emotionally decide to part ways from the brand of CrossFit. We will start seeing that if the path looks, for those listening, if the…by the way, for those listening, I’m black, by the way. [laughs]

 

I know you’re just listening but that’s my perspective of the black [indecipherable 42:52] America, I figure I should say that now. If the path is, I’m just figurely doing something, if the path right now between Khalipa and CrossFit is an inch away, if you let that thing run in tangent, that direction within seven years will start looking five-feet away.

 

Again, going back to free markets, Khalipa will, now not under the foot of CrossFit, be able to do some new shit. Ingenuity will come in. He will be able to figure out a way to be, “Man, before I had these rules, I want to do something that’s a little more inclusive, to not just people of color with what’s going on with the trend on social media right now, but to all people.”

 

We see these highlight videos, and we love them, and they pull our strings. A person with palsy, or an autism, or some type of something that ails their physical ability to move normally, and we love to see them when they CrossFit, when they do something amazing. Who’s to say now that you need CrossFit’s permission to run a special Olympics or special Games?

 

Who’s to say? That being inclusive. Now that we don’t need their permission anymore, we can put up the money to run stuff. We can run our own things, we can get our own sponsors to run these programs. That will happen with those people like Khalipa. They’ll go on, they will leave the name, and they can afford to.

 

For the people who cannot afford to lose the name of CrossFit, the other option, these are owners I’m talking about in particular, they will have to continue to be under the banner of CrossFit. When the talent leaves, this is an Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” reference, I don’t know if anyone’s ever read that book.

 

When the top one percent of talent leaves, the rest shall follow. When the best are gone, and then you have, in terms of, gyms I should say at least, only C and D players left in five years because all the top crop has left, what’s the point? What are you really getting out of this? It’s like that 80-20 rule.

 

I’m sure what Khalipa’s gym is doing, or Invictus is doing with entertaining all those people, they are the voice. They are doing 80 percent of the work for your local gym. They’re doing the marketing of CrossFit. If they leave, then the rest suffer. You know what it means? In terms of ownership, that those two things will happen.

 

In terms of memberships, the members are going to have to make that personal decision. If you’re an African American, do I think you have to stop going to a CrossFit box? No, because dude, if I stopped going to everything that was racist, I wouldn’t be able to do shit.

 

Why do I have to keep punishing myself because other people are racist? If I was like, “Who on record has been racist to me? Has there ever been any incidents of racism at Apple?” I probably have to give up my computer and my phone. I’m sure, eventually.

 

Have there been any incidents against just men, period, at any company? I’d have to give up everything. Some things are so bad like R. Kelly where we all were like, “We got to fucking stop listening to R. Kelly.” That’s across the board bad. I feel like with what’s going on in CrossFit, it’s complex because how much money is CrossFit actually making from you as an athlete?

 

It’s like they’re making money off of the gym, for sure, the owners, but as an athlete, are they making money off of you? They’re able to associate you with the company, but how much? I don’t know. How much are you financially giving these people power? I’m not sure.

 

The real answer to this is going to be what the owners decide. The same way, if we look at American society, what the top businesses decide to do. Right now, it’s a dance of ownership. The top owners who feel repulsed are leaving. They were ready to leave anyways.

 

I felt like what Glassman was doing was taking these athletes, who ironically made the sport, and putting them second string. I look at CrossFit content nowadays, and I’m just like, “What happened? Where are the athletes?”

 

What happened? You would think looking at the CrossFit YouTube that you’re looking at Planet Fitness or something. You wouldn’t even think these are the truly world’s greatest athletes. You would not even think that anymore.

 

These athletes have already felt away towards Glassman and CrossFit. I felt like they were ready to leave. The comments he made on Floyd-19 or in all the things he said, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back for a lot of these owners.

 

They were just like, “Dude, I was barely fucking with you before, but this shit, I can’t fuck with you at all.” I feel like the elite athletes have made CrossFit what it is. No doubt.

 

Then to do this, to not align with their values, CrossFit, in my opinion, never be the same again. Maybe it can continue to be the same in Biloxi, Mississippi where there’s no people of color and no one cares. If I know anything, I know that Chicago, LA, New York, Dallas, Boston are very important marketplaces, very diverse places.

 

I hate to use the word “woke,” but if you have some “woke” gym owners who aren’t with it and they say, “Fuck you and your $3,000 a year. I’m just going under Invictus now,” it won’t make much impact now, but in 10 years, things might change slowly.

Jake BolyJake Boly

It’s crazy when you think about the projection of the 24 hours of when those comments were made, how many athletes and gyms disaffiliated. It pained me reading some of the comments on these posts because it’s like, “Oh, this is just cancel culture.” To your point, no, this was the last straw that broke the camel’s back.

 

Sometimes people need, especially when their world is jaded — let’s call it — need a kick in the ass to understand what the fuck is going on. That’s when the wokeness comes. That’s why we’re going to see a really interesting shift within the sport. There will forever be butting heads within gyms on what’s right, what’s wrong, what people believe and so forth.

 

As our society continues to shift and progress and finally wake the fuck up, we’re going to see a very interesting functional fitness sport that’s going to have hopefully a lot more athletes involved that we’re not exposed to it before.

Ryan DorrisRyan Dorris

People make jokes on cancel culture, but if you look at cancel culture, no one has ever recovered from a cancellation. That’s just the truth. Say what you will, but no one, not one person of status, at least in North America, has been able to say outright racist comments and…

 

Fuck. Remember Paula Deen? I loved Paula Deen, dude. Oh, my God. She just can’t climb back. That’s the thing about America, right? There are certain things that you don’t make it back from, being weird to underage children, treating young girls especially terribly, racism.

 

You can steal money and be forgiven. We can forgive almost anything, but there are certain taboos in our society that we just don’t want because, one, not only will people of color not fuck with you which is, at this point, 30 something high, 30 percent of the population, I’m sure.

 

If I’m being honest — this is for me growing up in Chicago, in LA — the majority of white people that I’ve ever met in my life, although some may be culturally insensitive and just not aware due to where they live, a very small amount of white people are bad people. A very tiny amount are bad people.

 

If white people have done something that…I got to be honest, white people have the most amazing invention that almost everyone can learn a lesson from. Many may have never thought about this. White people have invented white trash.

 

Black people, we don’t have that. We just have black people. It’s like, I am black. Sleeping on the street is just black. We just have black dudes. White people have white trash. They have professionals. White people have this fucking spectrum of white people.

 

When white people are ready to be like, “Oh, you’re racist? Trash. We’re done with you.” Not only do people of color say, “We’re not fucking with you, you racist,” but other white people are just like, “Hey, man. I can’t be close to you. You’re trash.”

 

That’s something that white Americans in particular have a fantastic grip on. When they see racist white people, they’re just like, “Ahh.” They don’t tolerate it, whatsoever.

 

Glassman, who’s going to be there for him? All good white people are going to…Even if they don’t come out and protest, and march, and put up a black suit, that’s fine. Ultimately, most white people I have met — I have to be honest — well in the ’90s, are just good people. They’re not evil.

 

They don’t want to condone that hate either. The same way, it doesn’t matter. If Glassman would have came out and said something about women and said some derogatory stuff and was just naive to what the comments about women, I would just be like, “Yeah, cancel that motherfucker.”

 

We’re trying to move forward in society. Who are these people that think that you can live in the Dark Ages in America? Again, historically, not my opinion. America, since its inception, has never recanted into the Dark Ages. It’s only moved forward. America has been a progressive country nonstop since it’s 400-year inception. It has never ever gone back to a period of slavery.

 

It’s never gone back to a period of oppressing women. Never. These people who think they can still be racist openly, and we will magically accept you, sure there’s going to be a number of people who accept you.

 

If you look at the timeline, if you look at America 50 years ago, fuck, the racist 50 years ago versus now. It’s damn near non-existent, which is why if we look at culturally what’s going on, the big competition has been the systemic racism. Fixing next portion of racism.

 

When I was younger, I remember white boys, young teenagers, they used to get rowdy, yell shit at you out the car, and do that. That was a thing I always saw when I was younger. Only fast forward 20 years, I don’t even see that no more. These white kids, now they’re on Fortnite doing the same dances as the Mexican kids and everyone’s together. It’s lovely now if you look at kids.

 

Society’s moving forward. Touching on the main topic, man, how to be more inclusive? I think it’s just touching back on access to things. All of us just getting on the same page of how we want to move the state of our living and the state condition forward. It’s not a left or a right thing.

 

Dude, the most conservative, conservative in this country, Senator Mitch McConnell was on the floor of congressmen. How can we pass this fucking 2.1 [laughs] trillion-dollar stimulus though? He did the most liberal shit. It’s not about liberal left or right. It’s about what’s right. I think people are just tired of people holding back.

 

I think just these comments of ridiculing people like Glassman are holding them back, dude. Why would you not want the Michael Jordan of CrossFit to enter, whether he’s a black kid from poor, rural North Carolina?

 

Why would you not want him to access the basketball? Are you nuts? You know what that Christian can do for every coaching CrossFit? You know what Usain Bolt can do? A poor kid from Jamaica can do for your sport? Holy shit. You all will be triple your income if you just…

 

Just get one. Just get one, get one of these kids. If you just get one Usain Bolt, one Jordan, dude, it will change fucking everything. I think if CrossFit can’t see the big picture on race, especially for strength sport, allowing more people of color in. Dude, it’s nuts.

 

Some of the strongest lifters are people of color, like Chinese people are fucking strong. Koreans are fucking strong. These guys from Oman…I was in Dubai for a month and a half. Holy shit, man. They’re fucking strong. There are strong white…everyone is strong, that’s the beauty of strength sport.

 

Letting more people in will only rise the sport, or is it that people want just a nice tight friendly white people group in their local CrossFit class, like a country club? Either the CrossFit is an extension of country club behavior, where it’s not really about the sport.

 

It’s just about being around your buddies and people you’re comfortable with, or for those who is actually about the sport, as Trump would say, we got to open up. We got to open up sport, man. It’s got to get everywhere. CrossFit’s in a good place, predominantly because the majority of people who I met and know who are CrossFit are good people.

 

Hands down right, and if I believe in this country, in the state of North America, and the world, goodness always wins. We’re 10-and-no-one goodness in this country. A few blemishes, sure, but we figured them out, we always do.

 

CrossFit will be no exception. People love CrossFit too much to see it diminish into a few racial slurs, and never come back. Reebok and Rogue will help lead the forefront, and the people will follow, tremendously.

Jake BolyJake Boly

That is the perfect conclusion to our conversation. You, of course, obviously made it a perfect circle back to our original topic as you always do in conversations.

Ryan DorrisRyan Dorris

 

That’s called giving points, not just giving opinion. You got to try to stick with it. I would like to add that, I didn’t know for anyone listening to this. [laughs] I didn’t know the topic four or five minutes before I started this podcast. [laughs] If anything I said had a wrong statistic, just DM me. I’m sorry about that.

Jake BolyJake Boly

[laughs] You know with friends I like to just let conversations flow. [laughs]

Ryan DorrisRyan Dorris

That’s good. Hopefully, there’s some takeaway. I hope there is, but the problem to be solved is no different than what we’ve done like I said. We all know the story of Jackie Robinson, where the sport being controlled by…so I think if history serves itself well, the way to be inclusive, like I said, open up those boxes. Put them in high schools.

 

Give it to the point where we can take a Pilates class. Just like we can take a Pilates class in the local community center, should be able to take a CrossFit class.

Jake BolyJake Boly

 

Before we head out, would you mind telling everyone where to follow you, where to find you on the inter-Webs, and so forth?

Ryan DorrisRyan Dorris

My full name, I’m sure you’ve seen it by now, is Ryan Doris. You can Google that, and I’ve done interviews of all kinds. There’s a variety of content that I’ve had. For some odd reason, the world seems to thrive off of my athletic stuff. [laughs]

 

Most of what I put out to the world is athletic stuff through my coaching. Through Instagram, it’s popular, The Natty Pro. My YouTube is the same thing, The Natty Pro, T-H-E N-A-T-T-Y P-R-O, Twitter as well. My website is my company. It’s Fortis EQ, F-O-R-T-I-S E-Q. It means…I know people always ask…Fortis is a Latin word for strong. EQ is, not IQ, but it’s Emotional Intelligence for EQ.

 

I feel that the formula to be a great athlete is also being strong and having a good emotional intelligence like these conversations that Jake and I are having here. That’s the basis of my coaching and what I do. Man, that’s about it. I chill a lot, work a lot. That’s pretty much it.

 

Find me, DM me, I’m pretty receptive. I’m pretty talkative too if you want to extend the conversation.

Jake BolyJake Boly

Well, thank you so much for the time, man. It’s always a pleasure catching up.

 

Hopefully, we’ll have you back on in a few months, maybe a year from now when things are starting to bring about some change, and we get to circle back to this conversation and talk even more on it. Thank you, man.

Ryan DorrisRyan Dorris

I would love to. Thank you, my brother.

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