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Choosing the Right Box: 7 Things to Consider

CrossFit leaders in  action

Deciding to be stronger, healthier and happier is easy. Accomplishing this is quite another thing. It takes commitment and support. It also takes some forethought, especially if it will involve CrossFit training.

First, it should surprise no one that not every CrossFit box is exactly same. Some have better coaches and programming while others have a more holistic health approach. These criteria (plus several more) should be taken into consideration before choosing a Crossfit gym.

There are literally hundreds of criteria one should consider before joining a CrossFit program, but there are seven which carry more weight, and therefore will likely help you lose more and lift more.

  • Make a List of Your Goals
  • The old adage is true. “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” When choosing a CrossFit program to join, it is important to first make a list of your goals and use this list in your discussion with potential coaches.

    If, when discussing these goals, the coach is not asking you questions and offering his/her opinions, this may not be the best box to join. The good CrossFit programs want to help you use their programming philosophy and equipment to help you meet your goals. It’s not about them. It’s about you.

  • Evaluate the Owners and Coaches
  • CrossFit coach

    The leadership of every CrossFit box is more important than any other factor. According to Antony Lo, in his article on choosing a gym, “The leadership drives the culture of the box. Some are competitors. Some are young. Some are older, ex competitors, some are ex personal trainers, some are mid-life career changers. To be honest, it doesn't matter… choosing a Crossfit gym is about what's good for you.

    What does matter is their commitment to their members and to safety. A focus on technique is obviously desirable. CrossFit preaches "mechanics, consistency, intensity" which means you get the technique right, you do it consistently and then, and only then do you try to go a bit harder or a bit faster or a bit heavier. A good coach will hold you back a bit if you don't have the technique right. It can be infuriatingly frustrating but it is the right thing to do.”

  • Location, Location, Location
  • Typically, you shop at a grocery store that is near your work or home. Why? It’s convenient. You don’t have to worry about traffic, finding a parking place or anything else. You get in. You get out. You get on with the rest of your life!

    When choosing a CrossFit gym to join, its proximity to your home or work is very important because if it is too far out of the way, this presents another excuse for avoiding your workout. Of course, great coaching and the camaraderie of the other participants can overcome this location inertia, but why put up another obstacle. Look for a good box near you.

  • Check Out the Programming
  • CrossFit group working out

    As noted above (see #1), the goals of the individual are paramount in the choice of a CrossFit program. These goals are met by the types of programs – strength, conditioning, technique – the coach and gym uses.  Antony Lo notes, “In my experience, programming that has a bit of strengthening or technique work every day is usually a good sign of a coach who knows what they are doing. Some people will do just the CrossFit "Mainsite" workouts that come up and that is ok too if you want a general program - personally for me, you would have to add your own accessory exercises to get your strength up, especially if you are a beginner. Usually, if the box you are at is doing the CrossFit "Mainsite" workout, they will do technique or strength in addition to the workout.

    “Check out different boxes and their websites for a history of their programming. If you see lots "Hero WODs" which are brutal, LONG workouts, I would be wondering if they have a systematic approach to strength and conditioning.”

    It’s also important to evaluate the attitude of the leadership of the box about all aspects of a healthy lifestyle – sleep, nutrition, warmups, recovery.

  • Talk to the Members
  • Unlike any other workout regime, CrossFit training is heavily focused on the community of fellow fitness fanatics! Talking with members will help clarify whether this is a group you want to go to war with.

    According to Tim Huntley, writing in My Athletic Life:

    • Avoid gyms that do long metcons every day.
    • Avoid gyms where members praise their inability to move for days on end from perpetual soreness.
    • Avoid gyms that overemphasize competitiveness and highlight top athletes over everyone else.

    Another tell-tale sign about the camaraderie of a CrossFit box you might be considering has to do with the attitudes of the members.  Are they friendly? Do they enjoy the workouts or dread them? Are they people you would like to hang out with?

    If it is impossible to talk with members, read the organization’s blog or website. If there is no blog or website, this might be a red flag.

  • Equipment
  • Rally Fitness - Fitness Equipment

    The coaching staff of any box is much more important than its equipment, but a good gym will have adequate, safe equipment for its members. In order to get the best bang for your workout buck, the equipment – barbells, kettlebells, slam balls, wall balls, exercise ropes, plyometrics and others – are important.  

    The equipment doesn’t have to be fancy (e.g. old, used tires for flipping), but the range of physical activities is greatly expanded when the gym has adequate equipment. Before signing up, ask to see what types of equipment the box has.

  • Try it out and Then Decide
  • Any reputable CrossFit box should encourage potential members to try out the programing, coaches, other members and equipment before signing a contract. Perfectly good gyms may not have the kind of vibe you are looking for. In other words: it’s not them, it’s you. However, YOU are the most important part of this equation, so if the fit is not right, move on and find a program that is.

    Have you recently evaluated CrossFit programs and facilities? Tell us about your experience and we will share with our readers.