Chris LaLanne: Leading by Example

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Chris LaLanne, grand-nephew of the late fitness guru Jack LaLanne, opened LaLanne Fitness in San Francisco back in 2008. After earning his degree in kinesiology and gaining years of experience as a personal trainer and strength & conditioning coach, he has found his own recipe for success at his own box. In fact, LaLanne Fitness qualified as a team for the Northern California regionals – an incredibly competitive region — this past Games season.

Chris shares with us about the journey of opening his own CrossFit affiliate. Not surprisingly, he leads his box by example and continues to evolve his philosophy around competition and coaching. In a city where space is at a premium, Chris’ 10,000-square foot facility is staking its claim right in the middle of SOMA.

What initially inspired you to open your own CrossFit box?
…Over the past 5 years our box has earned a reputation as the most “professional” and “competitive” CrossFit gym in San Francisco.
Chris: After fifteen years of one-on-one personal training, in 2007 I discovered CrossFit — and it changed my life personally and professionally… The group training/class concept changed my perspective, and I realized something that most personal trainers never do: that one-on-one personal training is less productive and financially less efficient. Aside from this realization, I discovered the power of community and in June of 2008 we opened LaLanne Fitness – Powered by CrossFit in downtown San Francisco.

How have you worked to “brand” your box’s personality  within the CF community?

Chris: We continue to grow, and over the past 5 years our box has earned a reputation as the most “professional” and “competitive” CrossFit gym in San Francisco. We have a solid business plan, as well as systems and best practices that support a membership of over 400 athletes. We show up at the CrossFit Games every year and finish in the top on the leader board. In addition, we produce the most competitive individual CrossFit Throwdown in the Bay Area… Don’t miss your chance to participate in 2013.

What were some of the growing pains you faced growing from an affiliate of less than 100 members to your current membership?
When it comes to coaching and programming, we are not stagnant and we continue to evolve, while staying true to the CrossFit methodology.
Chris: Space was the limiting factor for us and perhaps for any growing CrossFit gym. We have re-located three times in search of more space. We started with 2000 square feet, then 5000, and just recently we moved into a 10,000 square-foot warehouse.

How do you balance fatherhood and being an affiliate owner? What does a typical day in the life for you look like?

Practice what you preach. Get in the game and participate in CrossFit competitions. This is important as a leader of your community.
Chris: Fatherhood comes first. I am in love with our two-year-old boy “Jackson” and spending time with him is the highlight of my day. Most days, I drop him off at school, spend a few hours catching up to email and phone calls, then head into the gym where I love being on the floor. Maintaining client relationships and staying in touch with our members is very important for affiliate owners, and I continue to coach about 10 classes/week. My wonderful wife and partner Maribel, has built an amazing team to help run this business. When it comes to coaching and programming, we are not stagnant and we continue to evolve, while staying true to the CrossFit methodology.

What advice would you give to new gym owners for growing and building up a sense of community?
Chris: Get experience, do your research, and make a commitment to this as a career… Put 100% of your efforts into your business and be professional. Lastly, practice what you preach. Get in the game and participate in CrossFit competitions. This is important as a leader of your community.

What’s your programming philosophy for your general membership? How do you program for members who are training at a competition level?


Get experience, do your research, and make a commitment to this as a career
Chris: Programming is an ongoing experiment. It must evolve with the needs of your community. Stay open minded, look around, and continue educating yourself… You can’t go wrong with constantly varied, functional movements, executed at high intensity.

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