How to Choose a Good CrossFit Gym

In Coaches Corner by Eric Griffith

CrossFit is CrossFit – right? Well…Not really. CrossFit gyms are not franchises. True CrossFit gyms are known as “Affiliates”. To be an affiliate, one needs only to be a CrossFit certified Level 1 coach and classes must be taught under the direction of a level 1 coach. There are a few other legal things like insurance and proper use of the CrossFit trademark but those things are irrelevant to this discussion. The point is that each CrossFit is a unique business entity that is operated completely independently from CrossFit Inc. Affiliates have no fixed business model or operating guidelines. They are allowed to run their businesses in whatever fashion they see fit. Because of this, things like quality, culture, branding, etc. can vary widely from box to box. In this article, I will outline several key considerations one should have when deciding if a CrossFit gym is a good fit for them. If you live in Chattanooga, TN and would like to learn about how CrossFit Brigade addresses these topics, I have covered our position in detail at the conclusion of this post.

The Why

Affiliate owners are very quick to tell you what they do and how they do it. These things are super important for sure but I believe a much more important thing to discuss is “why” they do it. What is the gym’s story? Why did they open an affiliate? Why are they in the fitness business? Answers to these questions will help you to truly understand the mission and values of the gym you are considering. You will be able to quickly assess what it is the owners and managers care about. If they care deeply about their people and their craft, you have found a good gym. All of the topics discussed below don’t matter much if they don’t and caring about you is infinitely more valuable than the “hows” and “whats” discussed below.

Gyms that care about the “Why” will want to know your “why” also. Look for them to ask about your goals. They should want to know why you are there. What do you want to achieve? How will you know when you have achieved it? The trainer should be attentive and listen to what you have to say. If they aren’t asking – they probably don’t care.

Coaching

You need to know you have qualified and skilled coaches leading the workouts. Any good box will prominently feature the profiles of each coach that you may encounter. If you have a hard time locating the credentials of the staff at the gym you are considering, BE WARY. Check into the background of the coaches at any CrossFit you are considering. What have they done outside of CrossFit? How long have they been coaching? Where have they coached and learned? Do they have other certifications? Have they been athletes themselves? Was their life transformed by CrossFit somehow? What is their reputation amongst other people in the fitness industry? Find these things out and take from it what you will, but do some research.

Actual Coaching

Beyond your coach’s background, the next thing to look into is what sort of coaching you will receive. Do you have access to the coaches outside of class? How much time do they spend on skill work? Are they able to coach beginners as well as advanced students? Do they seem to have good communication and class management skills? The trainer should assess your movement for any flexibility or motor control issues. You should be asked about any pain you experience. Progressions and scaling options for different movements should be covered, as well as the next steps to achieve the full movement. Are you given mobility exercises to do to assist in achieving quality movement?

Just look at the basic movements of the members – like a push up. Are the majority of the members doing it correctly? Are the coaches helping those who aren’t? Do they care?

Most importantly, Coaches should ask more questions about you than they tell you about themselves (or their gym).

Structured and Varied Programming

Quality CrossFit gyms recognize the value in structured programming with an objective. There needs to be a reason behind the workout or WOD and the coaches should be able to quickly tell you what it is. With good programming, you should be squatting, hip hinging, pulling, and pushing on a regular basis. Check to see if the CrossFit you are looking into programs skills to work on or lifts to get stronger in. If they only program a workout without training skills or strength, then how are you supposed to get better? Just doing a workout will only take you so far.

Some questions you might want to ask the coaches are:

Do the workouts vary during the week in duration or are they all the same?

Are all the workouts performed at maximum intensity or is there a focus on quality of movement?

Does the gym have original programming or does it program “Hero” and “Girl” workouts or just stick to the main CrossFit site on a regular basis? It is okay to program these workouts on occasion, but using them as a main source of workouts shows a lack of experience. Chances are that box has no real grasp of how to program.

Do they discuss and go over recovery and mobility with their athletes? Everyone gets injured and although CrossFit is an amazing way to get and stay fit it is still a sport. Proper recovery is always key.

Is nutrition discussed? No matter how hard you workout, if you are not eating properly then you will never see the results you truly desire.

Do they post their programming online for everyone to see? If a CrossFit truly is confident in their programming then they will allow everyone to see it. If an excuse is used that they do not want anyone to steal it, therefore it is hidden, then they most likely have no idea what they are doing. CrossFit is not rocket science. There are a ton of gyms out there posting workouts.

Community

Part of the beauty of CrossFit is the community. In fact, it forms a large part of the experience. You only have to look at social media to see how competitors are friends, gym owners are friends and how everyone tends to get along with each other. If you land in a box which isn’t friendly, that would be rare. Believe me, when you are suffering through a workout, it is nice to have a friend who is there suffering with you…even a breathless “c’mon” (which may be all that they can manage) is helpful.

Happy, friendly members is a good sign of a healthy CrossFit box.

“Extras” put on by the box.

The little things that a box does usually shows their commitment to their members. It could be a challenge or seminars or little talks. It could be putting on special sessions for extra technique work. It could be getting some outside help in or having supplemental series like a PT, massage therapist or even yoga for the members. It is the gym owners going to support their members at an local comp…sometimes that is hard to do because they run a business but boxes that care – show up and cheer.

Equipment

To be honest, this doesn’t matter so much. It is nice to have all the bells and whistles but coaching is much more important than the brand of barbells they have. But a good box will continually be adding to their current equipment and slowly replacing old items. Equipment costs money. What you want to hear is about how the owner wants this or that and has a plan on how and when to get it. Just look for equipment that is safe and does the job. You don’t need competition plates to get a good workout.

Thanks for reading this and good luck finding your new home!

About CrossFit Brigade:

Our “Why”

Emily and Eric Griffith founded CrossFit Brigade to share their love and passion for CrossFit after if deeply and profoundly changed their lives. Our mission is to help others find health and happiness through optimal fitness and nutrition. We believe in putting people before profits and running our box with a constant and unrelenting pursuit of excellence. Emily Griffith is affectionately known as “HBIC” and you can learn all about her and her story here:

LULU LEMON AMBASSADOR ARTICLE

and here:

WARRIOR MOMMA BLOG

CFB is truly one of the best boxes in Tennessee and the Central East Region. Our coaching staff is absolutely incredible. All of our coaches are Level 1 CF certified and 4 of us are L2. We also have 5 coaches with a USA Weightlifting Cert. Beyond that, our coaches hold other various certifications from CrossFit like Endurance, Mobility, Gymnastics, etc. Furthermore, being full time coaches and competitive athletes, you will find our coaches to be extremely well versed and experienced. Along with their fantastic credentials, our coaches genuinely care about each athlete we train. We are all continually educating ourselves on the latest and greatest methods in the world of strength and conditioning, giving us the ability to help our athletes reach their goals and stay healthy. Emily and Coach Z recently retuned from San Diego where they were studying under Julian Pinot (StongFit.com) at the world renowned CF Invictus and most of our coaches attended a weekend seminar on coaching adaptive athletes hosted at CrossFit Brigade.You would be hard pressed to find a more qualified staff in Tennessee. You can read about each of our coaches here: CROSSFIT BRIGADE COACH BIOS

Our awesome coaching is just one ingredient in our recipe. There are many other things that combine together to make Brigade what it is. One of those things is our programming. Tons of hard work and experience go into each workout we write and our system is well planned and time proven.

The experience at CF Brigade doesn’t stop there. We love what we do and helping others is our #1 goal. We offer 1 on 1 goal sessions and reviews, nutritional coaching and challenges, competitor programming, and much more. I know of very few gyms that work as hard as we do for our athletes.

Finally, I would like to say that our members are AWESOME! We had more athletes participate in the Open than all of the other boxes in Chattanooga combined and in 4 of the 5 years we have been in business, CF Brigade has been represented at the Central East Regionals. Brigade is really a very special place.