Picking the right gym – whether it is a CrossFit Affiliate or not – is important. Not like picking your spouse important, but it is definitely more important than picking what kind of dressing to have on your salad at lunch. It falls somewhere in between that spectrum of important stuff. But, you will be spending several hours a week at your most vulnerable state of being while working out and sweating with these people. Blood, sweat and tears for sure. Be sure to pick the right one for you.
Any gym should welcome you with some sort of meet and greet intro session (we call ours a No Sweat Intro.) No workout involved, just you and a Coach sitting down and getting to know each other. Kinda like a first date. You’ll want to make sure that the gym is a good fit for you and your needs. Not many gyms offer free trial classes anymore for safety reasons and to make sure you have an amazing first experience. But you can still go to a few different gyms in your area to get a feel for what each of them is like. Each gym is different and will certainly have a different vibe – hopefully one that works for you.
Now, more than ever, safety should be a big concern. How has the gym handled COVID Safety Restrictions? Are they following the mandates and guidelines? Do they go above and beyond to keep everyone safe? Do they disregard the mask orders, social distancing, and class sizes? Maybe the safety measures aren’t a concern for you. Pick a gym that aligns with your values.
If you work 9-5 you need a gym that offers early morning, evening and weekend classes. If you are a stay at home parent, or work from home, you may prefer daytime or lunch time classes. Be sure the schedule works for when you are able and most motivated to be working out. Also keep in mind that some gyms may be able to try and accommodate you if you have a request for a certain class time, just be sure you are able to attend class on a regular basis if they set up a class time at your request.
Daily workouts are certainly the mainstay of why you are going to a gym, but other ancillary classes may be of interest to you as well. And many can even improve your daily workouts! Many places offer a Strength Program, Olympic Lifting Classes, Mobility, Nutrition, and the like. If these are things of interest to you, be sure they are offered at the gym. Also check out how those classes are paid for. Do you pay for them even if you have no interest in going? Is there a special price for those classes? Also consider if the gym offers Personal Training and Nutrition Services, those are 2 things that may be of great interest and very useful for you going forward. This is your time (and money) make sure you are getting the best value for both.
Workouts work best when designed to be constantly varied, but that is NOT the same thing as random. Ask the Coaches/Owners how they do their programming and ask them the purpose of each workout they do – they should be able to tell you. They should have daily, weekly, monthly and longer term goals for athletes. A gym and a Coach that can tell you the goal time and weight of each workout every day to best help you modify and to reach your goals is invaluable. Workouts don’t have to be fancy, complicated, or long to be effective. Find a gym that really understands that.
If you have children, this can be a big deal. Does the gym have a safe place for kids to be while you work out? Are they safe and away from the people working out on the gym floor? Do they offer kids programs? If you have kids, your life is busy already, you don’t need another excuse to not get that workout in today. If child care can be an excuse for you to not work out, look for a place that offers some sort of space for your kids to safely be while you work out. The kids can have fun meeting new friends at the same time you are.
If you are new to CrossFit or to working out, be sure they offer some sort of program to get you acclimated to all the movements and standards used in the workouts. Many gyms will take the best of endurance and gymnastics and Olympic lifting and body movements and kettlebells and powerlifting and then roll it all into one. These movements are technical and should be taught to be done with care to avoid injury, to make sure you get the most of each movement, and to keep everyone in the gym safe. A good starter program will be the basis for the rest of your daily gym experiences.
Are the Coaches qualified, do they seem to care about your goals and needs, do they take the time to get to know you and learn how to best work with you, are they knowledgeable? An alphabet soup of letters after their name doesn’t necessarily make them qualified and knowledgeable. And it certainly doesn’t give someone people skills. You need someone that is at the very least some level of accredited certification, of course, but you are going to be taking a lot of direction from your Coaches, you need to make sure they jive with your own personality and are taking the time to get to know you and help you in the best way possible. Look for a gym that sits down with you when you start, gets to know you, asks about your goals, asks about where you are now and where you want to be. Athletes are not made from cookie cutters, make sure you are getting what you need.
While it may not be everything, it is certainly something to consider. Is it near your home or work? Is it easy for you to get to on your daily route? Is parking available? People are willing to drive out of their way for a gym that fits all their other needs. But make it easy to avoid excuses by picking a gym you drive past every day.
This certainly isn’t a deal breaker, but if you are going to workout in the morning before work or over your lunch hour, having a gym with shower facilities is certainly something to consider. Again, eliminate any excuse you may have to avoid going to the gym on a day when you may not feel like it.
The Way They Make You Feel/Community
This is a huge part of your gym experience – people very quickly become a community. When you step in the door, are you greeted? Do people come up and introduce themselves? Were you made aware ahead of time what to wear and bring and what to expect when you got there? Are the other athletes having fun? Do you feel like part of the group? Are these the type of people you want to be around each day? Find a place where you feel comfortable, you will find that your workouts will go better if you are comfortable being in the space and around like-minded people.
Very lastly, Price
Yes, a good quality gym is going to cost more than a Globo-Gym. You get what you pay for and what you pay for with many CrossFit gyms and other functional fitness facilities is small group classes, individualized attention, and knowledgeable coaching. You get to know the people you work out with on a regular basis. No one in a CrossFit gym puts in their ear buds and reads a magazine while walking on the treadmill. You get an instructor lead warm-up, mobility, skill and strength work and then the workout of the day, followed by some stretching. You get advice on recovery, nutrition, and supplements. You get people that notice when you don’t show up to the gym that day. You get people that cheer you on during the workout. You get people that cheer the loudest for the last one finished that day. You get to be with people that don’t care that you were the last one done, but do care that you were better than yesterday. You get people that don’t care how slow you were, but that you did every rep and finished even when you thought you couldn’t. You get community. And that, my friends, is priceless.
CrossFit and other functional fitness gyms are certainly growing at a rapid rate. There should be a few options in your area to choose the gym community that is best for you. Find a place that makes it difficult to find excuses to not go (especially on those days when motivation is lacking.) The best gym is the one you will actually go to consistently!