Heard on the Hill

Ex-Staffer Started CrossFit Newsletter Because He Loved Talking About CrossFit

Justin LoFranco moved back to California to launch Morning Chalk Up

Justin LoFranco, right, was digital director for the House Oversight Committee under chairman Rep. Darrell Issa in 2013. (Courtesy of Justin LoFranco)

The first rule of CrossFit is you have to talk about it and one former Capitol Hill staffer has devoted his career to doing just that.

Justin LoFranco spent seven years working in communications while also trying to make time for his favorite workout.

He recalled “walking down the halls of the Capitol building in shorts, getting ready to get on my bike with my backpack to take it to CrossFit class before 7:30 p.m.”

In January 2016, the timing aligned for LoFranco to turn his passion for CrossFit into a full-time job.

Former staffer Justin LoFranco did CrossFit while working on the Hill. (Courtesy
LoFranco did CrossFit while working on the Hill. (Courtesy of Justin LoFranco)

“After seven years of [working on the Hill], basically at the highest level, I just really took a look at it and said, ‘I don’t think I have a whole lot left to offer, emotionally and physically,’” he said. “There was a whole new crop of young folks who are ready to step up and had a lot to offer.”

He said he realized it was “time for me to step out of the way.”

The California native decided to move back home to start his daily newsletter “Morning Chalk Up,” so named after the first thing CrossFitters, weightlifters and gymnasts do before approaching the bar: chalk up their hands.

“Once we added ‘Morning,’ it all made sense. The ‘Morning Chalk Up’ is the first thing you read every morning while drinking your coffee,” said LoFranco, now based in Southern California. 

The newsletter has more than 20,000 readers globally.

LoFranco started on the Hill in 2009 in California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa’s office, later moving to the House Oversight Committee to be digital director when Issa became chairman in 2011. He was also digital director for then-House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy.

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“At the end of the day, I’d been in digital politics since … really the [early] stages of digital politics,” he said. “Right after President [Barack] Obama had won, the House was sort of catching up a little bit, and the GOP was sort of catching up and making that a big component of their communications efforts.”

LoFranco was the Republican National Committee’s creative director for most of the 2014 election cycle. He also served stints in the presidential campaigns of both former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

All the time, he was doing CrossFit.

“I even had a mini, makeshift CrossFit gym built at Walker’s campaign headquarters in the garage,” he said. “We had a big garage there. I bought a bunch of equipment and I was CrossFitting there at night.”

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LoFranco recalled asking himself, “What would be the perfect confluence of this thing that I love on a professional side? I loved CrossFit and I loved digital and I knew there was such a hunger for that.”

His free newsletter “offers a bunch of different types of readers something worthwhile to start their day with. It’s grown and taken on its own life form and content structure now. But that was the idea,” he said.

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Editions cover everything from quotes of the day, songs to listen to, news updates, workout statistics, recipes, personal stories, shopping deals and events in various cities.

“If you’re in CrossFit, the first rule of CrossFit is you gotta talk about being in CrossFit,” LoFranco said “You think of that stereotype and play off of it and digital is the exact perfect way to go about doing that because it is kind of true, in a sense: CrossFitters love talking about CrossFit.”

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