We all know crossfit is great, and so is Greg Glassman, blessed be his name, but how do we know if our own gym is any good? This is a more complicated question than it initially sounds. There are a lot of different types of boxes, with a huge diversity of coaches, and programming. This article is going to give you some key tips to picking your crossfit gym.
Statistically speaking most gyms are going to be average. That isn’t to say that they aren’t good. I’d argue that an average crossfit gym is far and away better than the best 24 hour fitness! There are also going to be gyms that are way above average, and gyms that are downright terrible. After having participated, competed, and coached in crossfit for over 10 years, I’ve seen a good amount of all of the above.
THE FIRST THING:
you need to look for when contemplating joining a gym is the gym’s overall focus. Some are competitively oriented and produce great athletes. These are going to be great places if you have competition in your future, but if you are there for the community, this isn’t the place for you.
- If a gym advertises their competition teams, or if they state that is their aim, I encourage you to see how they treat their less fit gym members. I’ve dropped into gyms where I say hi, and introduce myself, only to be met with weird stares. Oddly enough, no one started talking to me until I beat their times. Honestly, this really pissed me off. Crossfit is not about being better than other people, it’s about helping others as you help yourself.
- If the gym isn’t open and friendly to all of it’s members, then it isn’t a place to join.
The next type of gym I see very often is the poorly organized social club. These gyms have genuinely random programming that is written minutes before the first class of the day.
- Let me give you a big tip: If your gym works this way, then you will not see any appreciable fitness gains past the first 6 months or so.
A lot of these gyms are basically hangout spots for sweaty people, which is great if that’s what you want, but you will quickly plateau. The gyms we’ve spoken about so far have few relatively minor problems, but they pale in comparison to the worst crossfit gyms, which I’m convinced, are responsible for the vast majority of crossfit fail videos on Youtube.
- If you see a gym where coaches are legitimately yelling at newer less experienced members, or encouraging members to continue a workout when injured, you should use your fitness and run like you’re on fire.
There is a big difference between coaching someone, and chastising them. Yelling boot camp style is a deal breaker. If that’s what the coaches have to do to “motivate” people, then their competence if very much in question.
Hell I lead Marines, I even lead Marines in Afghanistan, and I didn’t treat them that way because it’s a lousy way to treat anyone.
- The other deal breaker is a coach who does not care, or knows enough to prevent creating or exacerbating injuries. I’m going to be honest here, injuries will happen. Any hard training plan will create injuries given a big enough population. Fortunately, these are almost always minor and are cured with some rest and regular recover methods.
At no point in crossfit is your overall health worth jeopardizing for the sake of one workout. I’ve had several workouts where I felt something odd in my back, or knee, and stopped immediately. This allowed me to get back to training after a day or two off, rather than push through something that is minor, turning it into surgery later on.
- A good coach knows that pushing through burning, or aching is fine, but sharp, shooting pains indicate real injury, and require that you stop.
So far we’ve talked about some of the things that make gyms less than ideal.
Let’s move on to what makes a GREAT gym.
I believe community is one of the most important aspects of a good crossfit box. A diverse group of people with all different types of goals is what you should look for. You really want folks that are better crossfitters, and a little worse than you at the gym. You will chase the ones that are better, and keep pushing not to get caught by those chasing you.
- good solid programming
There should be a strength or skill component that is done before the WOD, and then a well thought out WOD. The programing should be done at a minimum of one month at a time, and ideally in 3-4 month chunks, that allows for real progress.
I also think that a variety of coaches are better than just one or two. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone describe something to me only to finally understand it because someone said it, or demonstrated it slightly differently.
A good variety of coaches that are strong leaders in the gym are what you really need. They don’t need to be a games athlete, but they do need to be pretty advanced, and ideally they should be able to do all crossfit movements.
- location and equipment need to be good enough*
Notice I don’t say top of the line, and right next to your apartment. You need a location that isn’t out of the way, that you will actually go to. You will also need equipment that is good quality, but you don’t need anything fancy. Remember you can get world class fitness with a minimum of equipment. You don’t need 50 rowers and zero gravity treadmills.
When conducting your search keep an open mind, and try several gyms for about a week or so. That is long enough to get the gym’s vibe. Look for a good community, solid coaches, and good programming. Remember crossfit is made great not by the small things like WODs and workouts, but by the people that come everyday to build a great community.