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All CrossFit Gyms Are NOT Created Equal

At least once a day, whether it be in the gym or at school, I am asked about the constant openings of new CrossFit gyms.  People are concerned as to how it’s possible to open multiple CrossFits in one town, how you can trust all of these new facilities, how it will affect the CrossFit name and our gym, and most importantly, how to know the good from the bad…

When our gym opened, we were the only CrossFit on 95 North until one reaches Rhode Island.  Since then, a slew of CrossFit gyms have popped up all over the State.  In fact, most cities have more than one CrossFit gym, and there are few cities that are remain untapped.

When I started CrossFit, I went to CrossFit Milford.  To be honest, at this point in time, it was a monopoly.  There wasn’t another CrossFit gym for miles. I had nothing to compare it to, and contrasted to Globo-gym, it was amazing. Fortunately, I stumbled upon one of the best CrossFit gyms in the State without even realizing it.

I was lucky.

Now, with so many gyms present, this situation may not be as likely.  And unfortunately, CrossFit “virgins” have the potential of walking into an under-qualified gym, and leaving with a bad taste for CrossFit in their mouths. Or, worse yet, leaving injured, not able to workout. Period.

So what do you do?

Well, with so many options in your backyard, it becomes ever-so-important to do your homework.  What are the qualities that a good CrossFit gym should possess before you make your commitment to joining?

Surprisingly, it has little to do with price.  In fact, I’d venture to say that you should question a “cheap” CrossFit facility.  Why are they devaluing themselves?  What quality are they going to give you if they are willing and able to “slash the market”?

In addition to this, finding a qualified CrossFit gym has nothing to do with the actual facility.  It doesn’t matter how big the facility is (afterall, they are called boxes, are they not?).  It doesn’t matter how well it’s painted.  It doesn’t matter how new the equipment appears to be, as long as it works.  And too be quite honest, the amount of equipment present doesn’t even dictate what makes it a “good” gym.

So what does?

Well, this is entirely subjective, but it is coming from an individual that has been in the CrossFit Community for 6 years (which is long for a CrossFitter), and in the fitness community for 18 years.  I’ve competed in small competitions, to the CrossFit Games, and I’ve been to CrossFits on every coast.  Here’s a simple checklist divided into three categories that I deem efficient when searching for a qualified CrossFit gym:

1. PROGRAMMING-  Is the program balanced or biased (i.e. all strength or all long cardio)?  Does it have a “one size fits all” mentality?  To be honest, this thinking can work when one first joins CrossFit, but as time passes, workouts will need to be tailored to athletes who have been present for some time, and others that are newer.  This will promote growth and decrease injury.

Also, is there a sufficient warm-up in the programming?  Is the coach insistent that athletes warm-up?

2. COACHING- Are your coaches experienced? What are their degrees and certifications?  Do they have more than just a CrossFit L1 Certification and are they working towards continuing their education?  This is not to say that there can’t be coaches with less experience and training, but there should be an “anchor” coach,  a “go-to” person who can decide on crucial matters.

Are the coaches credible?  Do they follow CrossFit methodology themselves?  Do they look like they do (this does not mean they have to be ripped, but they should appear healthy or as if they are working towards this)? Can they demonstrate most movements well and adhere to CrossFit standards during workouts?  Now, before you get crazy, I am not asserting that coaches should be CrossFit Games athletes; sometimes the best athletes cannot communicate this in a coaching environment.  However, a GOOD COACH should know and understand the movement standards, and they should be able to demonstrate this, or a modified version, for his/her athletes.  Are these movement standards explained, reviewed daily, and demonstrated before the lifting begins?

Does your coach have the knowledge to modify movements when you are injured, or does he/she push you to “work through” injuries?

Does your coach have a positive attitude with a blend of constructive criticism that will make you better?  No one ever improves from being told that they are always doing a good job.  You’re here to become better, not to be coddled.

3. COMMUNITY- Is there a motivational, positive atmosphere in the gym?  Is there good rapport between the trainers and athletes?  Is there camaraderie between athletes? Did you feel welcomed when you entered and inspired and accomplished when you left?

I realize that this may seem like a lot, but it is important to do your homework when making an expensive investment; no, I am not referring to the money that a CrossFit gym costs, but the investment that you are making in your greatest asset: YOURSELF. As the market becomes more and more saturated, on the outside it may seem difficult to differentiate the good from the bad.  If an educated decision is made, I guarantee you that CrossFit can be the BEST investment that you can ever make.

Danielle B, shedding those lbs in the Lurong Paleo Challenge!

Danielle B, shedding those lbs in the Lurong Paleo Challenge!

Bianca, going hard in tonight's workout!

Bianca, going hard in tonight’s workout!

Newer members, Brenda, Henry, Hannah, Lauren, and Ford working extra hard in Monday's WOD.  We're so glad to have you at SCF!

Newer members, Brenda, Henry, Hannah, Lauren, and Ford working extra hard in Monday’s WOD. We’re so glad to have you at SCF!

Quong-always focused...

Can’t get a bad picture of Quong…

Rock, looking focused

Rock, looking focused

A lean, mean, Mr. Foster...

A lean, mean, Mr. Foster…

7 Responses for All CrossFit Gyms Are NOT Created Equal

  1. Teresa:
    October 31, 2013 09:33 am

    The bottom line is you get what you pay for. People ask me all the time about the cost and why is there such a price difference. I tell them if you are serious about your training and you want to achieve your goals, then go to SCF. If not then go anywhere. I think that is proven everytime there is a competion and SCF always places high in the placements. That alone shows what kind of athletes SCF does produce.

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  2. Tricia Anderson:
    October 31, 2013 10:13 am

    SCF is worth every penny! I am just so happy I can play along :-)

    Leave a reply  
  3. October 31, 2013 03:41 pm

    Excellent, excellent piece. Extremely well-written and informative, in my opinion. I have had the good fortune of training in a gym that has all of the above in spades. The community aspect is first and foremost, which I believe is the #1 factor in creating a good gym. The programming is consistently varied and balanced, eminently scalable, and with different levels of expectation for different levels of athlete. The owner, head coach, and “go-to” guy is well-educated and trained, a regional-level CF athlete, and continued student of CF and fitness in general.
    I am involved in a nutrition business that has taken me to many, many boxes over the last few years and I have seen all sorts of good and bad, mostly good, to be positive. I agree you should shop around, stop in and check out some boxes and see how they operate. Talk to the coaches, research the websites and look at their programming, try to get a feel for the community. Then go for it!

    Leave a reply  
  4. Christopher Scanlan:
    October 31, 2013 04:03 pm

    Thank you for the article. I especially liked the one size fits all statement. Most crucial to being all inclusive instead of athlete exclusive. Standards are a must. My girlfriend was injured at a box and is just trying to get back into light working out and wouldn’t consider cross fit again. She was pushed beyond what was healthy for her. Please keep the knowledge coming. Most imperative to everybody who walks into a box. Whether they stay or go. Just so they won’t get hurt in the meantime. I am still in my box. Their standards are of excellence as far as I am concerned.. They are constantly improving their knowledge and always watching to keep us healthy if nothing else. CrossFit 321 In Brunswick Maine. If we learn to listen to our body and lift with it and not the ego we will survive and hopefully not injure another new cross fitter. Trainers need to do the same when training.

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  5. Samantha acuna:
    October 31, 2013 08:27 pm

    I am not in the best shape compared to my other fellow crossfiters but Monmouth Crossfit in shewsbury has changed my life. Every coach treats me just the same as everyone else they always make sure my posture is correct and they always push me no matter how hard the workout is. I can never go back to a regular gym after going to Monmouth crossfit it’s not just a workout anymore….it’s a life style.

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  6. Carol Strong:
    November 04, 2013 08:13 pm

    I belong to Walnut CrossFit in Walnut Ca and I can honestly say that this box truly embodies the characteristics of a good CrossFit gym. I am proud of my coach Rob who inspires his members and is willing to help in any way and he has the knowledge to help those of us who can quite RX just yet. Walnut CrossFit all the way!

    Leave a reply  
  7. Carol Strong:
    November 04, 2013 08:13 pm

    I belong to Walnut CrossFit in Walnut Ca and I can honestly say that this box truly embodies the characteristics of a good CrossFit gym. I am proud of my coach Rob who inspires his members and is willing to help in any way and he has the knowledge to help those of us who can’t quite RX just yet. Walnut CrossFit all the way!

    Leave a reply