Those who know me know that I love writing opinion pieces almost as much as I love CrossFit. Since I don’t have enough going on already, every Friday I am going to pick a topic that is salient to the CrossFit community and deliver it to you. Some of you may have checked out my review based blog about local CF gyms, (Box Jump Journey) where I visit various gyms and write a fun review letting people know the unique aspects of different gyms. The first “soap box” that I am going to hop on is….
“How to choose a CrossFit gym”
The last time I checked Colorado had over 130 CrossFit gyms, that is a far cry from the 12 worldwide that were open when I started CrossFit nearly a decade ago. As an athlete you now have your choice of which gym you want to attend. Each one is unique because it is an affiliate rather than a franchise. What that means is each gym owner has the autonomy to set there own schedule, pricing, programming, location, and type of equipment. These are all key factors in an athlete’s decision making process in choosing their gym. CrossFit Headquarters provides no guidance for these things so the level of experience that the gym owner possesses prior to opening will have a significant impact on their success. This is the most important factor in my opinion because it effects everything else at the gym.
Experience of the owner/Head coach:
Let’s be honest experience isn’t a requirement to open a CrossFit gym. You could have literally started CF 6 months ago and apply for an affiliate and be approved. Personally I don’t want a Doctor with less than six months experience conducting open heart surgery on me. Hell, I don’t want a mechanic with that little of experience working on my Dodge. So why would I let someone with minimal coaching experience write my programming and teach me how to do advanced gymnastic and Olympic lifting movements??
How to check- First simply go to the gyms website and look for the “About us” or “Coaches” tab, there should be bio’s about each of the gyms trainers listing practical experience as well as degrees and certifications. If it seems like they may know what they are talking about then put them to the test. Most gyms offer a free class once a week (Usually Saturday mornings) Drop in and take their class. Hang out afterward and ask a few questions about how they program, how they got into CrossFit and how they can help you achieve your goals. Experience in sport and fitness outside of the gym is just as important as it is inside. There is no set number of years that defines a good coach, it is more about how they apply their experiences to making you a better athlete.
Most people know better than to ask me about this topic unless they have a few hours to kill. I will literally talk to anyone about this for hours, I am obsessed with programming. The way that a gym programs is one of the best ways to tell how experienced their head coach is. Many gyms take workouts from other sources such as CrossFit.com and “Outlaw” I check each of these sites on a daily basis and while I think that what Rudy Nielsen is programming is very very well done, I don’t see how plagiarizing his work is helpful to anyone. Rudy has spent years studying top strength and conditioning programs to become the best coach that he can be. If you want to be a great coach don’t copy and paste his shit, coaches do your due diligence and study. Athletes, demand that your coach has or find a new one! If the head coach/programmer at your gym can’t answer basic questions like, what is the SAID principle? What is a typical liner progression for achieving strength gains? What is the overload principle? what is the proper meso cycle for an Ironman? What metabolic pathway is this WOD training? What is the proper recovery period for power vs. strength? Then you should rethink paying them to write programming for you.
CrossFit isn’t cheap, but neither is diabetes! Price can’t be looked at in a vacuum. If one gym is charging $200 a month and the one down the street is only charging $150 you should ask yourself why. If the facility offers more amenities or is in a nicer neighborhood chances are their overhead is higher and they have to charge more. If someone has spent years of their life and tens of thousands of dollars educating themselves they may feel justified in offering their services at a higher rate than someone who just started. You pay more to watch an NFL game than a high school football game because those guys are professionals.
The more convenient the gym is to get there the more likely you are to go, the more you go the more you will get out of it (Assuming the programming isn’t garbage) If the location is on your way to/from work you will also be more likely to attend with greater frequency. Personally I love doing workouts outside when it is nice out. If this is important to you, choose a spot that will be able to offer that safely.
Equipment / Amenities
I have owned four different gyms now and the one thing that I still shake my head at is when people ask me where XXXX piece of equipment is. Because we see pictures of people flipping tires and climbing ropes in CF we assume that is what it is all about. I admit, those things are really fun in a workout but are somewhat secondary. The best movements are the ones that you get multiple benefits from. I would have to say that CrossFit.com and Rudy Nielsen would agree considering the frequency that they program Olympic/ Power lifting movements. What do you need for those movements? A decent bar and matching bumper plates. A bar that doesn’t spin can cause serious damage to your shoulders when preforming movements like a snatch or clean. Also, it is REALLY annoying to have to put your bar back together mid WOD because the ends are falling apart. As far as the bumpers are concerned, they have different bounce ratings and when they are mixed one side of the bar can bounce more than the other. Personally I have seen this send a weighted bar bounce and roll into a nearby athlete. As far as amenities go, having a shower facility can be the difference for anyone who will be going to work from the gym. Having little extras like nutrition products and food for sale can be very convenient. Also, having a gym that offers more than just straight CrossFit classes at no extra charge is a plus especially if they fit into your schedule.
CrossFit is a big commitment but having the right coaches will make all the difference in your journey. Your health and wellness is not something that you should be frugal about. So do some research, make a good decision and then enjoy all of the amazing benefits of the fitter, healthier version of yourself!