So you’re ready to take the plunge and try CrossFit. Maybe you watched the CrossFit Games on ESPN or know someone who raves about it.
Whatever your reason, choosing CrossFit gyms is equally as important as the initial step to begin your CrossFit journey in the first place.
For some, choosing a CrossFit gym is as easy as driving to the closest and only CrossFit location, often referred to as a “box”. But what if there are multiple CrossFit gyms in your surrounding area? Or what if you are like me, and you move to a new place? How do you choose an affiliate?
5 Things to Consider When Choosing CrossFit Gyms
For some, the choice is easy. There may only be one CrossFit affiliate within an hour of your house. But what if there are multiple CrossFit gyms in your area? Proximity is important.
How close is the location to your home or place of work? Is that location easily accessible at different times of the day? Consider peak time traffic, accessibility from your location and weather concerns.
My old affiliate was on a 2-lane road that ran next to the Delaware River in New Jersey. There were times during the winter when weather didn’t permit me to get to the box. Other times, roadwork or an accident prevented me from attending a class that I really looked forward to.
Are you going to need to change before or shower after? Does the closest affiliate have facilities to do so or are you going to find yourself running home before work or dinner to get cleaned up? What if your affiliate is in a completely different direction than the majority of your life events causing you to backtrack?
As they say in real estate: “location, location, location.”
2. Gym Price
For starters, joining an affiliate isn’t cheap. I admit, If you do the math, CrossFit can come out to be quite a bit more than a typical gym membership. If you are like me, I like to get my money’s worth.
One thing to really consider though is that prices can vary wildly from affiliate to affiliate. Some CrossFit gyms in large cities charge a premium with unlimited memberships costing upwards of $300-$350 per month.
However, more affiliates popping up has had the effect of driving prices down, with most unlimited memberships generally running between $140-$200 around the country. Additionally, a few boxes here and there also charge “initiation fees.”
The good news is that some affiliates offer discounts for military servicemen/women, police, firefighters, EMTs and occasionally students. Further, 6- or 12-month contract memberships are offered by some boxes at a reduced monthly rate. The reduced rate with contracts help if you are willing to plunk down the coin upfront, but can hurt your wallet if you decide to cancel.
I would not recommend the long-term contract if you are new to CrossFit. Try it out month-to-month for a while and see how you like it. Some stick with it for a while and then get injured, lose interest or don’t have time to attend. Sometimes, quite frankly, life happens.
3. Gym Size
Some CrossFit affiliates are small with one or two part-time instructors and limited class offerings throughout the day. Other affiliates are competitive super-boxes with full-time coaches, a ton of gadgets and lots of space.
So which is better: large or small? There are advantages and disadvantages to both.
Sometimes smaller equates to a more intimate setting, the coach being able to offer more personal attention and a more connected experience overall. Conversely, small can be limited in offerings and can feel cramped when the class attendance is high. Large boxes can offer greater choices of clinics, class options and schedule flexibility. However, with large boxes, you may get a sense of feeling a little lost in the crowd.
Once, while I was doing a set of wall balls in an open gym session, I heard a CrossFit coach tell a prospective client that CrossFit is great because its like having a personal trainer help you with many of the movements. Sometimes this really is the case.
But what if there are 10, 15 or 20 plus in a CrossFit class and the coach is moving around the room? The personal attention can be reduced to a few comments here or there. Sometimes larger locations have multiple coaches or size limits for the classes to compensate; sometimes not. Although thinking of CrossFit as “just like having a personal trainer,” is really a nice thought, it isn’t always accurate.
New members often sign up for “on-ramp” or “101” beginner’s courses which are usually quite small and offer a great deal of personal attention. Once you graduate to advanced CrossFit classes, class size can depend greatly when you go.
4. Class Availability
Let’s face it, life can get crazy. For most people, CrossFit is that little bit of time to yourself. Its a place where you can find your sweaty Zen and get some camaraderie away from your daily life.
Whether you go before work, on your long lunch break, or on your way home, class availability is important. Some locations offer classes early in the morning and in the evening with nothing during the middle of the day. If you are a student or work anything other than a standard shift, this might not work. Other affiliates are closed on Sunday, while some may be open for part of the day.
Larger affiliates with lots of classes run like clockwork and sometimes it can feel a little regimented. Your coach says “great job,” pats one group on the back, and runs over to get the next group started.
Sometimes we only have just a brief sliver of time to workout. Can your prospective box accommodate the fact that you are a stay at home parent, student or may only be able to come on the weekends for that matter?
Lastly, and probably the most important consideration:
When I spoke with Eugene, my old CrossFit coach, I told him I had narrowed down my search to two different boxes in the area, I was having trouble deciding. One location was super tiny, but was the least expensive. The other was larger and closer to my home but more expensive.
He told me to “drop-in,” CrossFit slang for visiting a box you aren’t a part of, and check out the vibe of each place. It was great advice I needed to make my decision.
With the first location, I quickly had reservations about the coach being distracted with her kids and with the facilities in general. I have a son and have worked in adolescent education for the past four years, so I truly understand the challenges parents face. But then again, if you have ever tried to have a meaningful conversation with a very distracted person you know what I mean: “Uh-huh, yeah” and “Oh yeah? Totally!” followed by, “Cool! Hey, can you hold on a sec?”
If you are committing your time and money for a service, moments like this should really give pause to think about if this may be the shape of things to come.
My other concern were the facilities. It was small almost to the point of being cramped. Additionally, some of the equipment was worn and a few pieces were actually broken. If the class were any larger than three people we would have to take turns for the workout. I went home and told my wife “It was good; I could make it work.” Yet in my heart I knew it was not exactly what I hoped it would be.
The second location was 5 times the size with full-time coaches and tons of cool gear, much of which I had never used. Although the place was very large, it required a series of test-outs (that you had to pay for) before joining. I didn’t get the best vibe from them over email, but after my “drop-in,” I knew this is the place where I wanted to be. Even my wife pointed out the difference in how I spoke about this location when I returned home from my workout.
The vibe or feel of a place is important. Most CrossFitters are awesome folks. With that said, given the fact that you will spend 8 to 20 (or more!) hours per month with these people…you really should enjoy their company.
If you are completely new to CrossFit, most affiliates offer a free intro class. Take advantage of this and use it to meet the coaches, ask questions, inspect the facilities and get a feel for the place. If you are experienced and relocate like me, then drop-in to a couple locations for a fee. Some places even include free shirt with your drop-in.
While I miss my old CrossFit family back on the East Coast I am enjoying the journey with a new group out here in California!
For more information about CrossFit gyms in your area, click here.