I decided to write this because I have a good friend that lives in Dallas that is having a hard time finding a CrossFit gym that is a good fit for him. Currently, he lives in Dallas but drives more than an hour round trip just so he can train with me. He does this simply because the gyms in Dallas aren't a good fit for him. After dropping in on classes and free classes, he didn't think the culture/atmosphere of those gyms were a good fit for him. He did the right thing. This is what you’re supposed to do. You have to find what works for you.
Are all CrossFit Gyms the same?
NO! Absolutely not! While all CrossFit gyms (aka boxes) will meet the same minimum requirement; which is having all of their coaches get CrossFit Level 1 certified. After receiving this certification, CrossFit owners/trainers are pretty much allowed to run their boxes anyway they want. When I started CrossFit almost 7 years ago, there weren’t that many boxes available. I choose my box because it was the only box (CrossFit Rockwall) in my city. I ended up being really lucky; Mary at CrossFit Rockwall runs an amazing gym and is one of the best trainers I’ve ever been around. On top of that she’s a phenomenal athlete and now a top notch mentor. All you have to do is check her resume (we’ll talk more about coaches resumes later). So I didn’t have many choices but was extremely happy with where I ended up. Today is different; CrossFit is now “the sport of fitness”. CrossFit boxes are popping up everywhere so you have lots of choices. You will see a broad range in experience, equipment, quality, and size. Will you get the same experience in each gym? Not at all. If you’re new to CrossFit, you will not know the difference. Ignorance is bliss but you should be getting the most out of your box!
Like martial arts, dance, or any other sport, a CrossFit is gym is only as good as it’s…. What? If you have no Crossfit experience, what are you supposed to look for in a gym? Let’s just say you want Mr. Miyagi and not the Cobra Kai dojo. If you want my 2 cents, then keep reading.
Find A CrossFit Box - If you’re looking to do CrossFit, go to CrossFit.com to find all the CrossFit affiliates in your area. http://maps.crossfit.com/ If someone tells you they’re a CrossFit gym and do not appear on this map, they are lying to you! Until you’re on the list, you are not an official CrossFit gym. What they’re really doing is stealing intellectual property from CrossFit. These people may not even be certified to teach/train CrossFit. Do yourself a huge favor make sure you’re going to a legit CrossFit affiliate. Can other people train functional movement? Absolutely! But they cannot call it CrossFit. If these people are not certified they can teach the wrong standards of the movements which would end up hurting you. You do not want that happening.
Layout Of Space - I have been to several CrossFit affiliates throughout the country and have never been in two gyms that look exactly the same. When you walk in, assess the layout. Ask yourself, “Is it inviting?” Is it too cramped? Would you feel safe if barbells were flying all over the place (which they will)? Is the equipment organized well? Are the floors clean? Is there an appropriate timer? What do their white boards look like? Are there restrooms/showers? Is there a place to leave your belongings? Some of these things will matter to you and others won’t. Read our article in Box Pro Magazine here!
Equipment - Is the equipment safe? Is there enough of it? Is it easily accessible? You don’t want to have to jump up on one or two different boxes to get to your pull up bar because it’s located too high. Are the bumper plates stacked all over the place causing you to have to move several 45lb plates to get your 25lb plate that you need? Equipment needs to be organized properly so athletes can access it with ease and put it back. As far as amount of equipment needed, I’m not saying you need a bar or kettlebell for every person but there should be enough to make the workout go the way it was planned. Does the gym respect and take care of their equipment? Chances are, if a gym takes care of their equipment properly, they’ll probably take care of you as well.
Class Structure - Is there one? I’ve heard of some CrossFit gyms that allow you to come anytime and start the wod by yourself or do your own workout. In mind opinion, that’s NOT how it should work. That’s an open gym with CrossFit equipment and suggested wod. You want a gym that starts a wod together. You might warm up on your own and maybe do mobility on your own but you want the coach/instructor to demo the movements of the wod and check your form before starting. Classes should have a process and each part should flow into the next.
Coaches - For me, this is the most important part. Your coaches will set the atmosphere and culture of the gym. Coaching is alot more than pointing at the whiteboard and saying 3-2-1 Go. Ask the head trainer/coach some questions. Ask them about their CrossFit experience. Make sure your coach is CrossFit Level 1 certified but there needs to be more! Yes, there are gyms that have “coaches” that aren’t certified. You wouldn’t let a fake doctor treat you so don’t let a fake coach train you. What other certifications do they have? How did CrossFit impact or change their life? How long did they do CrossFit before they started coaching? How long have they been coaching? Find out what their reputation is among the CrossFit Community. Find the answers to these questions and take them for what you will but do ask and do your research. Do you really want a coach that was never an athlete in another CrossFit gym? Do you want to be coached by someone that just got their CrossFit Level 1 certification and then decided to open up their own CrossFit gym? Yes that is happening! A question that is asked at every CrossFit Level 1 Certification is “How many here have never done CrossFit? If so raise your hand.” Believe it or not lots of hands go up every time. Do you want one of these people coaching you? If a coach was never part of another CrossFit gym before opening one, chances are that gym will operate poorly compared to most CrossFit gyms. You should watch or participate to see how that coach runs their classes. If a coach is on the phone or text messaging while the classes are going on, how are they making sure you’re safe?
Gym Culture - COMMUNITY. This is why we continue to do CrossFit. Can you do CrossFit on your own at home? Absolutely! What you don’t get is the coaching, proper standards of the movements, camaraderie and competition from other members. This is a huge reason why most people won’t and don’t CrossFit on their own. If you like competition, then you’ll find it in a gym. You’re either the top dog or you’re chasing the top dog and that’s what keeps it fun and you motivated. Somehow beyond the sweat and competition, we build something greater. All of the sudden, this crazy CrossFit gym has become your extended family. Most members at CrossFit gyms aren’t just members- they’re friends. You’ll hang out after classes and do things outside of the gym together. This is what makes CrossFit different from anything else out there. As CrossFit athlete, we do certain things that make us stand out among the world of fitness. We wear certain kind of clothes and shoes. For example, I love my zero drop shoes and my lulu shirts. We eat meat and vegetables and have a strange love for bacon. I don’t mind blood on my shins from deadlifts and cleans. Getting a rip on your hands from doing pullups is a rite of passage. These are things that I’m use to as a CrossFit athlete. You may never adopt all of the little quirky CrossFit behaviors, but you can be confident in a CrossFit gym where you see these things.
You - Ask lots of questions before deciding on a gym. Visit the other gyms and try them out. You owe it to yourself to find the best fit for you. You need to know what will work for you. Know what you want out of your training. Are your fitness goals being met? Does it fit in your budget? How can you make it fit? If you’re consistently going to the gym but not consistently getting better, something isn’t right with your gym.