The truth is that not all CrossFit gyms are created equally. Simply put, there are CrossFit gyms run and managed in a way that will see its members grow from strength to strength, churning out fire-breathers naturally over time, and then there are their lesser counterparts that will potentially see their members never really reaching their maximum potential, and even worse, possibly gaining unnecessary injuries.
What is important, is knowing the differences between good CrossFit gyms and bad ones. We’ve highlighted several important factors you need to consider when choosing where to train.
How to Choose a Good CrossFit Gym
One of the key elements that CrossFit coaches are taught is safety first. Coaches should teach you every movement you’re expected to do, before you do it. In addition, if you’re doing something incorrectly or at a weight that is too heavy, and it could cause an injury, they need to advise you on de-loading or correct movements.
Even if you have past experience with training, outside of CrossFit, you should be starting CrossFit in a beginners (or on-ramp) program.
The goal of the beginners program is to teach people the basic skills, positions, and movements, in the correct safe manner. It allows CrossFit newbies to be taught the correct movements and skills, and allows coaches to identify problem areas, bad habits, or physical restrictions that need to be worked on (or around) safely.
Each class should have a regular routine. You should start with necessary warm-ups, then the coaches should teach you the skills required in the WOD (e.g. how to properly squat, deadlift, or even do push-ups), they should then monitor, motivate and possibly correct unsafe or incorrect movements during your WOD (without being overbearing), and you should then do some cool-down, mobility or stretching to finish off.
As a regular part of training, commonly seen in each class, there needs to be a level of skills and strength training included regularly. This means that you are not simply warmed up and told to do a WOD every day – instead, time is spent on how to properly perform Olympic lifts and gymnastic movements, etc.
A good CrossFit box will ensure that scaling is always an option. By scaling, we mean that your coach should advise on how you can scale-up/down the weights, movements, or intensity, appropriately for you. In fact, that should be something a coach should be able to advise you on before you have to ask, or before you attempt a WOD.
Virtuosity is the ability to perform the common, uncommonly well – that means you need to be able to master the basics first. A common fault is for novices to want to move quickly past the fundamentals and move onto more elaborate, more sophisticated movements, skills, or techniques.
This, unfortunately, is something that is a problem found in some athletes and coaches alike. There is sometimes the desire to entertain athletes, especially beginners, with impressive knowledge or skills, and some coaches will move onto more complex skills when the fundamentals are not yet honed – this increases the chances of injuries, delaying advancement and blunting the rate of return for athletes.
Seminars and Challenges
A good CrossFit gym will see a regular rollout of seminars and challenges. It is in the interest of a CrossFit box to get you involved, holistically, in healthy lifestyle changes, beyond your WOD training.
They should be spending time advising you on various lifestyle elements, like nutrition, mobility, rest, recovery, etc. They should also be setting goals and challenges whereby you’ll aim to achieve certain goals in these respects – like changes in your performance, body composition, etc. A good sign of this is the regular hosting of seminars and lifestyle challenges.
A bad trait for a CrossFit box to have is for them to overemphasize competitiveness and to only focus on their top athletes. While it’s a good idea to promote healthy competitiveness, focussing on that alone means that they’re more interested in you getting good times or pushing heavy weights, rather than performing those same movements safely and well.
Most people understand CrossFit as a completely randomised training program – different movements with various rep schemes and load variations. However, that’s not quite the case. Although randomised, a quality program is actually very carefully planned, sometimes weeks or months in advance.
Mediocre or less competent CrossFit boxes are recognizable, in this regard, in that their WODs are either always “hardcore”, only follow the main CrossFit site WODs, and often and regularly use benchmark “Girl” or “Hero” WODs. The best CrossFit boxes have their own specific programming, and it shows in the depth of skills and results it churns out.
Setup, Cleanliness and Community
A CrossFit box can have a basic setup, but that setup needs to support its community of members, it needs to be clean and it needs to be well organised. It is very important that a CrossFit box has enough quality fitness equipment, which is well looked after. It is also important that there is a strong sense of community, that every member is as important as the next and that everyone has a healthy sense of camaraderie.
Each CrossFit box is unique and will offer something different to the market – that’s a good thing. However, besides being geographically convenient, the CrossFit box you choose should tick off all of the above and it should gel well with your personality and your goals. Don’t settle for anything less and support those CrossFit boxes who look out for your best interests.
Has this feature helped out with your decision on where you want to start CrossFit, and/or has it highlighted any points which are important to you about your current CrossFit box?