You’re finally ready to take the plunge. You’ve been bombarded by your friend’s posts on Facebook, and it’s not helping that your pants are feeling a bit tighter than normal. There’s no more putting it off. It’s time to choose a CrossFit gym and start sipping the CrossFit Kool-Aid.
Choosing a CrossFit gym is not as easy as you think. And it’s surely not as simple as a Google search and selecting the closest. With over 11,000 CrossFit affiliates worldwide and growing, there is a good chance you have many nearby your home or work.
Picking the perfect CrossFit gym, or box as they call it, is not black and white. It’s a completely different animal than picking a Gold’s Gym or LA Fitness. When choosing between those types of gyms, you often compare price, travel time, and amenities. One may win you over because they have a basketball court or swimming pool (that you will never use).
When picking a CrossFit box, the choice is a lot more…human. Each CrossFit box is individually owned and operated. It’s atmosphere, programming, coaching, etc. are all dictated by the humans inside the building. Spend the extra time and effort to truly learn who these humans are and what they stand for. It will only be then that you can make an educated decision on which CrossFit to call home.
Here are 5 Key Things to Look For When Choosing a CrossFit Gym
- Contact them all. Try them all.
You must physically step foot in all of them. Most will offer a free intro or training session to get you into their doors. Take advantage of this Some of the best CrossFit gyms have shitty websites, while some of the worst gyms have amazing websites. Simply window shopping the “pricing” pages of the nearest gyms will only guarantee one thing, a very short, unsatisfied CrossFit career. If one just has bad ratings, gross pictures, and no community then it may be ok to skip stepping into that one, but for the most part, don’t judge a book (or box) by its cover.
- Find a CrossFit gym that will give you a lot of personal attention from Day 1.
The beginning is the most crucial time to grow as a CrossFitter, and it’s where most people will drop off. Unless you’ve been following a CrossFit workout program at home religiously, it’s safe to say CrossFit will be a shock to your system. You need someone who will be attentive and focused on your goals and abilities at all times.
When you first contact the gym via phone, email, or walk-in, they should be able to spell out exactly the best way they introduce people to CrossFit. If they can’t do that then they probably can’t do a lot of other things right.
Assuming you have no actual CrossFit experience, the coaches should not allow you to take a regular class to start. Injury rates are much higher when athletes are just thrown into regular classes without the proper teaching.
Many gyms have on-ramp programs in the form of classes or personal trainings. They will most likely charge a good premium to enter these programs as well since there should be a huge amount of personal attention within them. If this is the case, you will most likely find a more quality program with better members on the other side.
- Prioritize your health and fitness. It’s the most fundamental need to living a happy, fulfilled life.
You’ve already decided that you’re going to invest in your health by trying CrossFit. Simply finding the cheapest option is poor investing advice. In the grand scheme of things, a CrossFit gym that charges $20 more a month means you could be paying a whole dollar more per class. For better teaching I’d happily pay the extra dollar, possibly an extra $5 more if it’s really good. Let’s reiterate the fact that this should be a process so you can make a well educated decision. This is your health we are talking about!
- Pick a CrossFit gym with good programming. What’s good programming?
We’ve run into many newbies who just assume all CrossFit boxes do the same WODs each day and they all follow CrossFit.com for their WODs. This could not be further from the truth. If I had to guess, I’d say only 3% of CrossFit boxes follow the mainsite programming religiously. We should assume each CrossFit box is coming up with their own original programming, and hopefully they post their WODs online. If they do not, they may not be confident in what they program.
When looking through a CF gyms WOD posts, see that they take the time each week to do skill work and strength WODs. Each week should be well rounded and not just stuffed with 20-30 Min AMRAPs or benchmark workouts. Benchmark workouts are usually named WODs, like “Fran” or “Murph”, girl WODs or Hero WODs. Having prescribed weights (Rx) for each movement is also a sign the coaches are putting in the extra effort to really design a workout with purpose.
- Visit the class times you look to attend.
This tip is last because it can really help if you have two CF gyms you really like but can’t decide which to go for. At our box, each class time really has its own personality and flavor.
There are going to be classes that have more young professionals, college athletes, parents, or even grandparents. If you have flexibility in your schedule, try to attend the lower attended classes when you first begin. This will ensure you get more guidance from the coaches. Watching a class will give you an idea of how the coaches operate, if a proper warm-up is run, and what kind of atmosphere is promoted It can also ease your mind into starting since you will know what to expect.
It’s time to make some calls, visit some boxes and find your new CrossFit home. Remember to use some common sense, if a gym has been around for a couple years and has several hundred members, they are probably doing something right. In the same sense, you want to make sure they are “small” enough to focus on each individual and their goals.
Each box can promise personal attention and say the things you want to hear, but see if they actually have the systems in place to back up their words.*
Finally, don’t be afraid to straight up ask the owners and coaches, what makes them great? Don’t ask them why they are better than the CrossFit around the block, because you will probably just get a sweet, politically correct answer. Ask them why people do CrossFit at their gym?
For those interested, let me describe our system for incoming members.
*At CrossFit Palm Beach, we set up every new member with a “Coach for Life”. This is their coach and point of contact for anything they might need over their CrossFit career. It helps tremendously in the beginning, but also ensures a long term career with CrossFit. We recommend each new member does 10-15 personal training sessions with their Coach for Life before starting regular classes. (This is the Cliff’s Notes version, for more info just contact us.)
If your new CF box doesn’t do this formally, try to find a coach that you can buddy up with and bounce questions off of. That coach should be there for you for whatever you need, even if its questions about diet or lifestyle. Having one or two coaches that you really like and trust can make your time at CrossFit so much more enjoyable, and they will keep you going after that initial excitement of starting has worn off.
What questions or concerns do you have in your search for a good CrossFit gym?
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