10 Questions With CrossFit Four Horsemen
The name may be intimidating—most people aren’t looking for a workout reminiscent of the apocalypse—but at CrossFit Four Horsemen in Stuttgart, Germany, the focus is on community and fitness scaled to every level, not the end of the world.
Owner Mike Seeger named the gym after the four horsemen of the apocalypse and the Four Horsemen training program. This program, heavily influenced by CrossFit and CrossFit Founder Greg Glassman, was developed as a training method for the special forces in the U.S. military.
“A friend of mine, who is in the U.S. military, introduced me to this program. It basically went like, ‘Hey Mike, you want to check out something that’s going to crush your soul?’ I loved it. And by the time we had to make a decision about the name of our affiliation, that popped into my mind,” Seeger said.
Seeger runs the affiliate, which opened on July 28, 2017, with his partner, Eva Baust. The affiliate has about 70 permanent members, 30 punch-card holders and about eight people in the on-ramp class. It’s located in a small industrial area in the suburbs with two major U.S. military bases as well as rugby, tennis and hockey teams. The gym is growing steadily, and Seeger is already looking for a bigger facility. Here, Seeger answered our questions about running a growing CrossFit affiliate in Germany.
CrossFit Four Horsemen owner Mike Seeger and partner Eva Baust left careers in physiotherapy and marketing to run the German affiliate.
1. What was your job before you opened your CrossFit affiliate?
I used to be a physiotherapist and now I go to law school besides (running the gym). (Baust) worked as head of marketing for an IT company.
I started CrossFit in Stuttgart in 2013. I got in touch with it before, while being in the U.S., but lost contact with the sport since there weren’t any gyms in Germany. Before I started CrossFit I followed a program for military athletes that consisted of a lot of running, swimming, pull-ups and push-ups. (Baust) started CrossFit when she moved to Stuttgart in 2016 when she met a friend who introduced her to CrossFit. Before that she used to be a competitive swimmer and basketball player.
2. What has surprised you most about owning an affiliate?
Most surprisingly it is the floor of our facility, still. It is really hard to find flooring that is shock-absorbing yet rigid and not too soft and somewhat affordable. We are still working our way to the best solution. We are in an office building and we want to be good neighbors.
The amount of suitable facilities in this area of Stuttgart is very limited. And if you are lucky to find something that is even affordable, you are against competition like Mercedes-Benz or Bosch, big companies that need space, too. I guess that’s the downside of a growing economy, if you will.
So being in an office building is challenging because of the noise of music and the vibration of dropping weights and so on. The thing with the rubber floor is that it only absorbs so much of a heavy loaded bar that drops. We haven’t had any complaints about it yet but want to be good neighbors. So we are looking for a solution that absorbs most of the impact and is still solid enough to lift and work out on. We came up with a sandwich of foam, oriented strand board, and on top, rubber tiles.
Because of the affiliate’s location in an office building, Seeger and Baust work hard to keep noise and vibrations to a minimum.
3. Why did you decide to affiliate with CrossFit?
We made that decision because CrossFit is an incredible way to work out and be part of a worldwide community. So whenever you travel, or if you’re on a business trip, or on deployment, or whatever, you can check in at a nearby box and automatically find people that are friendly and supportive and provide you with info about where to go for dinner or sightseeing. We just love the atmosphere.
4. What is the best decision you’ve made as an affiliate owner?
The best decision was to become an affiliate and open a box—simple as that. Our community is the best support we could ever imagine. It’s daily proof that we made the right decision. Also, we started small. We wanted to sleep at night and not worry about money too much. We have a small but fine outfit, and are looking for a bigger facility after having been in business for a year now.
Additionally we set up a blog for showing who we are and what CrossFit is. So people can get to know us and the sport better. For example, the “Your CrossFit Story” series shows our members and their stories and the vast variety of people doing CrossFit. And it’s about topics that we hope are useful to learn more about, like “Do I use Rx or scaled weights? Should I do an on-ramp class?” And so on. It is a mixture of sharing experiences like competitions, storytelling, and passing along some advice and help.
5. Do you track average revenue per member? If so, what is it, and if not, how do you measure the performance of your CrossFit affiliate?
We track the revenue of all members altogether. We should get a little more exact about this, probably. There is still room for improvement and as an affiliate owner you learn a lot, which is a good thing. It doesn’t get boring at all and you’re always facing new challenges.
Seeger said highlighting members’ stories on CrossFit Four Horsemen’s blog has been instrumental in the affiliate’s success.
6. What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone thinking about opening a CrossFit affiliate?
If you make the decision to open a CrossFit affiliate, take all your passion you have for that sport and your will to coach people and make it happen. And never, never, ever forget the fun! It should be every morning that you get out of your bed and say, “Yeah, here we go!”
Be passionate about what you do. Pay attention to details; every little thing counts. Love what you do, because that will make you jump out of bed for every early-bird class and stay until late night, till the work is done. Have a concept or a game plan so to speak, but be receptive to criticism.
I think for most people it is a “learning by doing” kind of thing. Follow your plan and if some things don’t work out, adapt them. There is almost nothing that can’t be rethought or reset. About handling any situation, my advice is don’t be afraid to make a decision. Any decision is better than no decision. One always knows better afterward. It’s like the German proverb: “Being in charge is not scary, it’s a challenge.”
And one simple truth: Nothing is ever going to happen without hard work.
7. What is your favorite feature of your location?
We started out pretty small so there are a lot of things we still need to get but one cool feature is the big roll-up gate.
8. What do you like to do when you’re not at the gym?
When we are not in the gym, which doesn’t happen very often, we like to hang out and enjoy good times with great people. So we basically hang out with the crew all the time. We used to travel a lot, but we just don’t have the time now.
The most essential ingredient for a successful CrossFit gym? Passion, Seeger says.
9. What’s the one thing you think you could do to move your business to the next level?
I don’t believe there is just the one thing, because there are so many things you have to keep in mind. But if I have to pick one, I would say it is the will to evolve. Trying to become better at what you do every day. It can be a bigger facility, having more crew members, improving your coaching skills, getting better at accounting—name it.
For the second year of CrossFit Four Horsemen we definitely want to move to a bigger facility, so we have more space to do all the fun stuff. That’s the thing that would bring us to the next level. We still want to keep the quality of our programming and the great atmosphere in the community. So it is not just bigger classes. We want to keep them around 10 members per class. It’s more about being able to offer a broader variety of exercise like Airdynes, more GHDs, etc.
10. What do you wish the members knew about your job?
That’s a tough one. I guess this is where one would mention how much work it is and all that, but first of all, we made the decision to do it, and second, I think people can see how much effort we put in every day.
We decided to open a CrossFit affiliate with all of our passion and motivation. It was the right decision—we just love the community. Of course there is a lot of work behind the scenes and sometimes there is a bad day, but even those only have 24 hours. We think our members know how much we care and that we think about their progress even when the gym is closed. Maybe that’s the answer for this question. We hope that they know how much we care.
About the Author: Hilary Achauer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health and wellness content. In addition to writing articles, online content, blogs and newsletters, Hilary writes for the CrossFit Journal. To contact her, visit hilaryachauer.com.