You typed “best Crossfit gym near me” into your search bar, and if your city is anything like Austin, there are probably 5 gyms (“boxes”) in a 5-mile radius of you. So how do you know which ones are good and which aren’t? Since every CrossFit gym is independently owned and operated, there can be huge differences in quality from one gym to another. Yelp and Google reviews don’t always tell the whole story, so here are a few clues to look for when you’re making a decision.
I strongly believe in offering the best quality coaching and training at the best value. If you’re not interested in the best coaching and training, then this post might not apply to you. I’d encourage you to choose based on a little more than price (which we’ll talk a little bit more about later) and distance from your house, so here goes.
How many of the coaches are fitness professionals?
Are you interested in being coached by someone who’s concern for your health and wellness is their full-time job? If the answer is no, then it probably doesn’t matter to you if your coach is a full-time fitness pro or not, and that’s fine.
For clarity, in our business, a full-time coach does somewhere between 15-20hrs of coaching each week, in addition to continuing education pursuits, personal training, nutrition counseling, and probably helping the business owner do some admin tasks. I would consider anyone under 10 hours per week part-time, although there are varying degrees of part-time coaches, as should be obvious. Someone who works in an unrelated sector, and coaches 2 hours a week in exchange for a free membership (very common practice at many gyms), is different than someone who works or studies in a related industry, and coaches more than 5 hours a week.
I fully understand that it’s difficult to staff a box with only fitness pros. Our approach is pretty radical, and I don’t expect every other gym to adopt it. Many boxes will need a few part-timers on staff for scheduling flexibility. To fill in when someone gets sick, is on vacation etc. While most of us would probably assume that a gym with a ton of coaches is good, I’d argue the opposite. I think close to a 1:1 ratio of fitness pros to part-timers is ok, but the more pros the better.
Asking the owner how many coaches they have on staff who do less than 5 hours of coaching a week will give you a pretty good idea of what type of operation they’re running.
What is the level of certification and experience of the coaches?
Here’s a dirty little secret, you can open a CrossFit gym after getting a level 1 CrossFit certification. I doubt Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit intended for his gyms to be run by people with the minimum level of certification. I’m sure he intended for his coaches to continue their education. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen as often as it should.
Are the coaches certifications only from CrossFit? Or are they from a variety of respected strength and conditioning institutions? Do they have a degree in a related science? A varied educational background means that you’ll be getting the best of ALL the information out there in the strength and conditioning universe, not just from one source. The reason I feel this is especially important in CrossFit is that CrossFit itself is a blend of other disciplines.
As far as experience, just like anything else, the more we do something the better we get at it. The part-time coach who does two hours a week will take NINETY-SIX+ years to put in their 10,000 hours. A full-time coach working 20 hours a week will take 10 years to reach 10,000 hours. Interacting with people with different learning styles, with different goals and backgrounds is a skill that takes time to develop, just like anything else in life worth learning. A more experienced coach will be able to see more, and give you the best cues appropriate to your learning style to improve your movement.
How do they start with brand new clients?
Any gym that really believes in delivering the best service to new clients is going to start with some sort of one on one evaluation or assessment. One client, one coach.
Any gym that doesn’t do that, is either:
Not confident enough with their coaches’ skill set to charge for a higher level of service, or simply trying to get as many people through the door and into classes as possible, since they know that many of them will drop off quickly. In the business, this is what we call churn rate. We strive to keep ours as low as possible and that means taking more time up front with each new client.
If everything else you’ve seen at a certain gym looks good, but they don’t offer a specific one on one intro plan, I’d approach the head coach or owner and ask if they can put one together for you. I’m sure they’d be thrilled to!
If you’ve read this far, you’re probably starting to understand that highly certified fitness professionals that provide the best service they can aren’t doing it at Groupon rates, but that doesn’t mean they have to be the most expensive gym in town. Our gym, for example, is competitively priced, despite the fact that we only hire full-time fitness professionals and have a commitment to quality that’s evident everywhere else in our operation.
Facility and website.
Don’t judge a book by its cover. Although I think someone who takes a lot of pride in other areas of their business would probably keep their facility clean, organized and up to date, and their website beautifully designed, this doesn’t mean that an ugly gym or a gym with an unattractive website is a bad gym. I’ve been in pristine facilities that had a horrible program and coaching, and in grungy gyms that had an awesome program and coaches. It can be easy to get caught up in the literal shiny objects, but the real difference at a CrossFit gym is the coaching.
That’s the product we’re providing, and that’s why I started off this tip list talking about it. There are tons of big corporate gyms that are immaculate. There are also tons of online programs you can download, and it’s easier than ever to order equipment online. What can’t be replaced and undervalued, is the relationship and guidance you get from a sterling coaching staff.
Best of luck with your fitness journey, we’ll see you in health!