Checklist for Choosing a CrossFit Gym

Training in CrossFit is a big investment of your time, your energy and your capital. So you want to make sure that investment delivers a return. That’s why it’s important to compare CrossFit gyms before you decide which one deserves your membership and your money.

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If you’re considering joining a CrossFit gym, here’s a simple checklist to help you make the right choice for you and your goals.

1. Does the gym have the attitude and environment you’re comfortable with?

They may all have similar equipment and speak the same weird lingo, but every CrossFit gym is different. Decide what kind of gym you’re looking for based on your personality as well as your goals.

Would you thrive in a gym that’s focused on training CrossFit competitors and participating in competitions? Or would you be more comfortable in a family-friendly environment that’s more interested helping everyday people get in the best shape of their lives. Ask the gym to describe their particular priorities and see if it meshes with your expectations.

2. How long has the gym been open and teaching CrossFit?

With the escalating popularity of CrossFit, new CrossFit gyms are popping up everywhere. While some of these gyms may have experienced owners and coaches, it’s a good idea to ask about that experience: how long has the gym been open, how long have the coaches been training CrossFit athletes? You may decide to go with a gym that’s been doing this for more than a year, or a month.

3. Is it a CrossFit-only gym?

Some gyms offer CrossFit classes as part of their larger repertoire. They may also offer martial arts classes and other fitness programs. As a general rule, you might be better off going with a gym where CrossFit is a priority so you know you’re getting focused, knowledgeable training from bonafide CrossFit coaches – not Zumba instructors.

4. Do the coaches have multiple CrossFit certifications?

At the very least, make sure all coaches are Level I Certified in CrossFit. Even better — they have multiple certifications across CrossFit domains, such a Olympic weightlifting, nutrition, mobility and recovery, endurance, among others. This is a sign that the gym invests in ongoing education for its coaches, and that the coaches have a well-rounded base of knowledge.

5. Do the gym’s members represent all levels of fitness?

If you can, take a peak at a CrossFit class in action. Who do you see out there on the mat? Is it mostly hardcore CrossFitters (otherwise known as firebreathers) who chew through the workouts with an intensity that’s borderline scary? Maybe that’s the level of competition you want, and that’s cool. Go get ‘em.

But for anyone unfamiliar with or just getting started in CrossFit, we suggest looking for gyms where the members come in all shapes and sizes, young and not-so-young. Classes that have an ideal mix of fitness levels and ages indicate that the gym offers an inclusive, supportive, non-judgmental (and often less drama-prone) environment that promotes better long-term results and stick-to-it-ness.

6. Would you want to do a push-up on that floor?

CrossFit gyms are sweaty, chalky, and often even bloody places. Hands rips, faces perspire, athletes cry – or puke. And that’s the way it should be. But check to see if the gym actually cleans up all the body secretions and chalk dust. And how do they treat their equipment? Are the kettlebells thrown into a heap in the corner? Are the speed ropes a tangled mess? Are the medicine balls frayed and black with the grime of a hundred CrossFitting hands? Is that a blood smear you see on the rings? Is their bathroom a giant Petri dish of disease? Maybe it’s a sign to take your sweat elsewhere.

A well-organized, clean CrossFit gym shows that the owners and coaches care about their facilities and equipment, as well as their athletes’ experience.

7. Is there enough space and equipment for everyone?

The last thing you want is a swinging kettlebell in your face. Many CrossFit gyms are small, and equipment is expensive so there’s often not too much of it. But as CrossFit continues to grow in popularity, you’re going to see bigger classes cramming into smaller spaces, with each member vying for a handful of barbells.

If you prefer a smaller gym, you may want to ask what their average class size is and if they put a cap on class sizes. Or you may prefer to find a gym that has a bigger space and more equipment on hand.

8. What’s their coaching style like?

This goes back to the experience question. Ask the gym to describe their particular coaching style. How will they keep you accountable and motivated? How will they help you measure your results? And how will they help you maximize those results?

Look for a gym that offers a free class or introductory session so you can see their coaching approach in action. Does the coach spend the time to explain proper form and technique? Or do they throw you into the WOD and let you fend for yourself? Do they cheer you from the sidelines, watch you in silence, or get in your face to push you? Do they correct you mid-WOD and actually coach you? Do they really seem to know what they’re talking about?

Ultimately, you’ll need to decide whether their coaching style works for you, and for your goals.

9. Do they offer nutritional coaching and support?

Nutrition is a key component of CrossFit and its success. Most CrossFit gyms will (and should) offer some level of nutritional guidance for their members. If you’re serious about leaning out, living healthier and improving your performance, then look for a gym that provides more than the occasional Paleo pancake recipe on their home page.

Ask if the gym ever holds nutrition seminars, clinics, cooking classes or challenges – and get the details. Check their website for a nutrition section, complete with articles, research, links to resources, shopping lists, recipes, tips, videos, and other content to help you adopt healthier eating habits. Does the gym have someone with a CrossFit certification in nutrition? Do they have a community of members who share an interest in eating well? Your gym should not only help you with how you move your body, but what you put into it.

10. What’s their community like?

The awesome CrossFit community is one of its biggest draws. Look for a gym that has its own active community as well. Does the gym host community-building events like Fight Gone Bad and Barbells for Boobs fundraisers? Do they have the occasional potluck party for members? Do they invite members to attend clinics, workshops and other events?

And what about outside the gym? Do members get together for other activities in other settings? Are they friends? Are they a family? A good way to check out the community is by visiting the gym’s Facebook page and read what members are posting. The more inclusive, encouraging, close-knit and fun a CrossFit gym’s community is, the higher the success rate of its members.

11. How useful is their website?

Checking out the gym in person is a must. But take a moment to check out their website as well. See what kind of information they have available there. You’ll find some sites post a cryptic WOD (workout of the day) and little else. Look for sites that have content you can use to improve your training and performance: a nutrition section, tutorials and videos, links to resources for equipment and supplies, success stories and testimonials from members, photos and profiles of athletes, information about CrossFit in general, a class schedule. The quality of their website’s content is a reflection of the time and care the gym puts into helping their athletes reach their goals.

CrossFit is about pushing you past your comfort zone. But you should absolutely feel comfortable, welcome and at home in your CrossFit gym. Wherever you end up CrossFitting, RARE welcomes you to the community!

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