Fitness for Life: Choosing a Gym for Crossfit Workouts
© 2012 by Aurelio Locsin.
Through Crossfit workouts and sensible eating, I lost 30 pounds in 40 months and managed to keep the weight off for two years. This is quite an achievement for a 50-something couch potato whose idea of exercise was plugging cables in the back of my computer.
Crossfit is an exercise program that is “broad, general and inclusive,” to quote its home page. It uses varied and scalable functional movements to train your core, which also improves fitness for your body parts. You can read about my adventures with the program in How I Lost Weight and Gained Health with Crossfit Workouts. If you want to get started with these effective techniques, here’s how to choose the best Crossfit gym for you.
The simplest way to find a Crossfit affiliate for your workouts is to browse the Crossfit Location Map. (This uses Google Maps as its engine.)
- Enter a city name or complete address in the search bar and press the Enter key. The map of the location appears with pins to nearby gyms.
- You can zoom in and out, show a map or satellite view, or scroll through the streets.
- You can also click a pin to show a popup with the name and address of the affiliate.
- Clicking on the name displays the home page of the Crossfit gym.
Check the Gym Website
Crossfit gyms are individually owned, and do vary in temperament, size and equipment. Browse the website of he affiliate you’re interested in to check for the basics:
- History. How old is the affiliate? Crossfit gyms are sprouting like weeds in urban areas, so you want one with staying power. Look for a facility that’s been around for at least year or two.
- Costs. These average about $150 a month but can vary by the number of workouts you go to per week, and whether you sign up for month-to-month or longer. Some offer discounts for couples, families, military, law enforcement and fire fighters.
- Schedules. You can generally perform Crossfit workouts only in one-hour classes, so look for a training calendar that matches your schedule.
- Multimedia. Pictures and videos give you some idea of the character of the gym. Look for the workout space, the amount of equipment and how it’s used, and the participants.
Check the Trainers
The gym’s home page contains the bios and athletic backgrounds of the trainers or coaches. The people leading you through your workouts should have a minimum Crossfit Level 1 certification. Most will have other credentials like Olympic lifting, nutrition and sports skills.
More trainers mean more classes scheduled and more types of workouts. If you’re a woman, you may want staff with some women. Classes and teachers are not segregated by gender, but it may be helpful to know that female coaches can address your concerns.
Check out their physical condition of the coaches. Do they have the shape you want for yourself? In the multimedia, how are they instructing and interacting with the gym-goers?
Visit the Facility
Contact the Crossfit gym and make an appointment to visit the facility. Come during the time you’d like to normally work out. Crossfit facilities are normally sparse affairs located in industrial spaces. There may be an office, a restroom or two, and some shelves for your stuff. Don’t expect air conditioning/heating, showers or locker rooms.
What the gym shouldn’t skimp on is workout space both indoors and out, and equipment.
- How clean and organized is the space?
- Is there enough room for the crowd, and is there enough equipment for everybody?
- What are the ages, fitness levels and genders of the students? The class composition may depend on time. I’ve attended workouts where I was the only guys, and others which had only one woman. Most of my classes, however, have been mixed gender at all fitness levels from super athletes and police officers to out-of-shape executives and soccer moms.
- How supportive/competitive is the environment? My gym challenges us to do better all the time but even the hotshots take the time to help out and cheer on the beginners. This is the ideal situation.
- How structured is the class? If the individuals are left to their own devices, chatting and fooling around, then you shouldn’t be paying so much money for such lack of organization. Socializing is great before and after, but during the class, everyone should be focused on the workout.
If possible talk to some of the Crossfitters away from your tour guide to get their take on the gym. If they’ve been there awhile, they should obviously be enthusiastic. You may need to ask direct questions such as What’s the worst thing about this place? or Who are the best and worst trainers and why?
At the end of your visit, the gym owner may offer you a free beginner class. This is the best way to determine if the Crossfit gym is the best for you.
Take a Free Class
Before a newbie is allowed to participate in a regular workout class, he or she must undergo about five hours of training on the fundamentals. You’ll learn how to do basic moves like pull-ups, pushups, box jumps and wall balls correctly. You’ll also tackle more advanced equipment such as Olympic weights and kettlebells.
For example, you’ll try barbell complexes with empty hands, then with a dowel or plastic pipe, and finally, with bar that has no plates. If you’re skilled enough, you may try the moves with weights on the bars.
How well does the trainer instruct the class? How does he combine both verbal instruction and visual demonstration? Though individual styles may differ, the general method and coverage of technique are defined by the Crossfit affiliate owner. You should at least be able to learn the basic techniques to where you can participate in regular workouts. Mastery may take a lifetime.
If you’re feeling comfortable with the gym after that first workout, sign up for a membership but for no more than a month. It’ll take you at least that long to get the feel of the place. Depending on the size of the staff, you’ll be taught by several different coaches in that time, so you can gain a better understanding of Crossfit workouts. If one class is not right, you can always try going at different times until you find one that fits.
If the Crossfit gym isn’t acceptable, don’t be afraid to quit and try another gym. As I’ve said before, most metro areas will have several you can check out. If you only have one affiliate available, you need to decide whether the money you spend is worth what it can offer.
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