Leo’s weekly soap box….


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!

9 Responses
  1. nicolle dipretoro

    Loved this article..since everyone is opening their “boxes” as quickly as possible ..maybe they should learn the movements first. We spend hours upon hours on programming and their is so much garbage out there.

  2. Jeremy

    Solid read. I think it’s also important to realize that boxes are now programming for specificity in particular areas now- whether it be strength, endurance, Oly lifting, etc. Looking at a six-month window of a particular box’s programming can provide an accurate idea of what to expect as far as it’s primary focus, IMO.

    1. admin

      Very solid point Jeremy. My first gym was dedicated to Endurance programming. Multiple times I had athletes come in with the goal of wanting to compete at CrossFit. I told them that there was actually better places for that in the area. Things are different now. haha

      1. Sean

        Good stuff..Programming for an entire gym when GPP is your goal is still challenging. So many of your (Leo’s) questions are valid and highly individualized; including metabolic pathways-they are not as black and white as HQ wants you to think and vary from one individual to the next. Overuse and replication of movement is chief concern but the reality is, it is going to happen-for CFS it will usually occur Tuesday to Wednesday or Wednesday to Thursday. With that being said we are prepared to give you a scale/substitute in any movement… or an alternate WOD. As I look at the Programming out there, my biggest concern is the “beat down” I see most place delivering on a daily basis-METCONNING folks to death and at long duration. I am outspoken in believing most of the HERO WOD’s suck…especially at my age-2-3 days to truly recover. This is what gives Crossfit haters plenty of sound ammunition. You can’t sustain this and isn’t that why you Crossfit? To keep doing it? Recommended reads Leo?

  3. admin

    I completely agree about the “beat down” effect of most programming. This was something that I saw in abundance in the endurance community and is now becoming more and more frequent in CrossFit. I have begun using time under tension sets as a form of active recovery. The beautiful thing about them is there benefits for tendon strength. Charles Poliquin has written about their benefits in his blog. http://www.charlespoliquin.com/blog.aspx

    As far as other reading, I have resorted to re-exploring Kineseology, Anatomy and Physiology. I took all of these classes 7 years ago at the 18D course but feel like it is time to dive back into the fundamentals.

  4. Tom

    Thoughtful post…I am on my second box, largely as the result of a job change, and the difference is night and day. The first was OK, but small and not a lot of equipment – maybe 1500 pounds of bumper plates, a rope, GHD, some tires and pullup bars. Box #2 is much larger – at least 50’x50′ – with a ton of equipment including nearly 6000 pounds of new bumper plates this week along with 5 GHDs, 5 ropes, 5 sets of rings, dozens of dumbbells and kettlebells, and nice locker rooms with showers. The big difference, however, is the staff and programming IMO. Box #2 has 6 coaches with a variety of certifications and I always feel challenged, even when I need to scale (which is just about every WOD).

    One point that I think you miss, however, and this may be very subjective, has to do with the people you are working out with. CF seems to attract a range of personalities and I have made a lot of friends here. WODs like Murph seem easier in a strange way with people you get along with. I have friends at other boxes who wish that people talked and injected some fun into things. Not that I would pick a box based solely on the people working out, but all things being equal this is worth considering.

    1. admin

      Good point Tom, there is a post on here regarding “why we compete” that touches on that a little. And while the other athletes that train there may not be reason enough to choose the gym initially, they can certainly make sticking around a lot easier.
      Thanks for the comment.