Thousands to sign up for CrossFit Open online challenge

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KTVU) - Next week and for the next five weeks hundreds of thousands of people from around the world will compete in what is the only online fitness competition of its kind. It's called the CrossFit Open.

Anyone can participate. All you have to do is register online and pay $20.

Workouts are released every Thursday and people have to submit a score by the following Tuesday.

Most participants do the workouts in CrossFit gyms but CrossFit games Host, Rory McKernan says the beauty of this competition is anyone can participate.

"You can do it in your garage gym and anyone with internet access can submit a score" McKernan explains, "they can actually submit a score and see where it stacks up against the best athletes in the world."

The goal of this competition is to eventually crown one man and one woman with the title Fittest on Earth.

Last year that title also came with a $275,000 prize, but McKernan admits most people who participate don't have any delusions that they will wear that crown.

In fact many are like 63-year-old Carole Mulford who has been a Crossfitter since 2008.

"My kids opened up CrossFit Santa Cruz one of the first gyms and I did it to support them," says Mulford, "I had no idea it would grow and people would do it all over the world."

The growth has been impressive. CrossFit started in Santa Cruz after founder Greg Glassman couldn't find a place for his fitness philosophy in the traditional fitness world.

CrossFit is defined as functional fitness and consists of constantly varied movements at high intensity. Walk into any CrossFit gym and you will see people doing a wide range of movements that include things like pull-ups, box jumps and Olympic lifts.

The first affiliates opened in 2008 and there are now more than 11,000 across the world.

Mckernan says he doesn't see it slowing down "In Asia and Australia and Africa tremendous growth numbers so really there's no end in sight."

A big component of the CrossFit philosophy is that fitness must be measurable and people who do it should be a part of a community.

The CrossFit Open brings all of those CrossFit gyms together for five weeks, so as a community they can measure their fitness globally. While only a tiny percentage will go on to regional competitions and the CrossFit Games, that hasn't stopped people from signing up.

In 2011 during the first open there were 26,000 participants. In 2012 there were 69,000 participants. Last year 209,000 people from 86 countries took part.

McKernan says there is still time to sign up and told KTVU "I think a very conservative claim is we'll have a quarter million people in the Open this year."

The workouts are kept top secret but Mulford says she already knows they will be a challenge for her.

"These things are hard for me." She admits, "I didn't want to do it. I hate it. It's really hard - and then I decided I had to."

Mulford says she does it because she can. She says with six grandchildren and another on the way she wants to be able to help take them in and out of the car and the 63-year-old beams with pride when she talks about being the one person in the office who could put the 5 gallon water jug refill back onto the water dispenser.

The CrossFit open begins on Thursday February 26th.

Find more information on signing up here.