You've got the lingo down - you know that EMOM and WOD translates to a challenge you're psyched to tackle.
Kettlebells, rope climbs, and clean sweeps? Sounds like your idea of a fun Saturday. If you're ready to pull the trigger on a CrossFit membership, here are the ten things you should look for before signing on the dotted line:
1. AN EMPOWERING COMMUNITY
We say this realising that community means different things for different people. Whether you're looking for a large gym where you can slip in and out without a big to-do, or a close-knit cadre of new workout pals, trust your gut when you're getting a feel for your new box. "Each culture, coach and [workout] space is very different," CrossFit athlete Anna Willard told Daily Burn. "Don't necessarily go to the place that is the most 'convenient,'" she adds. It might take a few tries - or a few coaches - to find the place that works for you. Most important? You should feel welcome, confident in the skill and teaching ability of your coaches, and excited to go back for another WOD.
2. BEGINNER-FRIENDLY COACHING
There's no two ways about it - CrossFit isn't easy. Beginners, especially, face a steep learning curve - even those who've excelled at sports in the past. "Getting good at CrossFit is embracing the Zen of sucking," Josh Newman, co-founder of CrossFit NYC told Self. "The people who succeed are not the people who are the best when they come in, but the ones that have the attitude that they expect they will not be that good at it and are OK with not being that awesome initially." Look for a box - and a coach - that can meet you where you're at and help you to get better. As a newbie, you should look for in-depth class offerings at your box that break down important - basic - moves for you to master. If your potential box doesn't have this, it might not be the safest place for you as a beginner.
3. PROGRAMMING THAT PUSHES YOUR BUTTONS
According to strength coach Mike Tromello at Breaking Muscle, one of the signs of a top-notch gym is original programming. "It is okay to program ["Hero" and "Girl"] workouts on occasion, but using them as a main source of workouts shows a lack of experience," writes Tromello. "Chances are that box has no real grasp of how to program." If you're going to invest in a box, you should look for expert strength coaches who understand how different WODs work together - as well as programming that helps you meet your fitness goals. For beginners, that might mean mastering a new skill in a workshop that helps you crush a new WOD later in the week. More experienced? Scout out programming that will help you push yourself to new limits.
4. DEDICATION TO ATHLETE DEVELOPMENT
After months or years with your box, your body will probably look - and feel - dramatically different. And for many CrossFit athletes, performing exercises at a high level doesn't just mean getting a stellar workout - it also means working toward competition. If you're serious about your CrossFit training, keep an eye out for boxes that help athletes develop competitively. "You have to know what your goals are, and then make an honest assessment as to whether the vision of a given box matches your goals," advises Patrick McCarty at Breaking Muscle. No coaches, programming, or expertise to get where you want to go? Then it might be a box best for beginners. It could be that a beginner box is just fine! However, the sign of an excellent box is how well coaches help their athletes scale exercises to their ability - from serious competitors to newbies. "It is a programmer's job to be aware of how the workouts affect the masses, and track accordingly to encompass everything for everyone, even if it means adjusting to individual levels," reminds strength coach Mike Tromello.
5. SPECIALTY CLASSES AND SKILL WORKSHOPS
As you might have already gathered, finding a box that offers a diversity of programming - both in daily workouts and specialty classes - is a sign of good coaching. In her description of the Reebok CrossFit in New York from Men's Fitness, Mattie Schuler emphasises this exact quality. "Get bored easily? Switch up your routine by joining one of the gym's specialty classes. Think: Rowing or Olympic Lifting for higher intensity, or Yoga designed to boost your mobility and even prevent injuries," Schuler writes. Notice how these course offerings are designed to spark your interest in a new skill, complement your WODs, and help you with your flexibility and recovery.
6. COACHING DIVERSITY
Just like every box is different, each box will have multiple coaches with different levels of expertise and styles of coaching. If you don't quite click with the first coach you meet, it might be worth sticking it out to see who else works at the box. "The problem with hiring a coach or a personal trainer is that you can only rely on their 'certification,'" cautions Cassie Smith at Bodybuilding. "If you're unsure about what that certification even entails, then you're just making a judgment based on the trust you have in that establishment." In addition to asking around about your potential gym's reputation amongst other CrossFit athletes, have conversations with box staff and coaches about who works there - and how qualified they are to help you meet your training goals.
Just like the CrossFit brand posts its WOD on their website for all to see, your potential box should hold up under a similar level of scrutiny and transparency. "If a CrossFit truly is confident in their programming then they will allow everyone to see it, argues strength coach Mike Tremello at Breaking Muscle. While it's possible that startup gyms might not have the resources to post all their exercises online in a timely manner, the staff and coaches who work at the box should be open to discussing their workouts with you.
8. RECOVERY RULES
As experienced CrossFit athletes will tell you, this sport is as much about gritting your teeth through the WOD as it is about learning what your body needs to recover. "Immediately after finishing your WOD, cool down with some light activity," advises conditioning specialist Bob LeFavi at The Box, a dedicated CrossFit publication. "After your light activity cool-down, stretch while your muscles are still warm. A nice, relaxed static stretch of muscles worked that day also can help enhance muscle elasticity and plasticity as well as recovery," LeFavi adds. Most coaches will emphasise a holistic approach to recovery, urging you to think about everything from what you eat and drink, to how much you sleep, to supplementation. If the trainers at your potential box can't speak to these strategies - look elsewhere.
9. NUTS FOR NUTRITION
Even if you're not about to go Paleo (the preferred diet of many CrossFit athletes), the gym you're scouting out - and the coaches who work there - should offer some kind of basic nutrition guidance. "In general, CrossFit coaches and box owners suggest a Paleo model because it's healthier than the high-carb, salty, processed Standard American Diet," explains Cassie Smith at Bodybuilding. Be on the hunt for coaches and nutritionists who can help you find the fuel you need to crush your WOD.
10. PRICE MATTERS
When you're on the hunt for a new gym, it can be tempting to jump on board because of a great deal. In the CrossFit world, though, a great deal might translate to an inexperienced staff. At The Box, Logan Gelbrich explains why CrossFit memberships are a numbers game - and how that doesn't necessarily spell savings for your wallet. "As a gym owner, I'll be the first to tell you that most gyms know what their competition charges," writes Gelbrich of the typically small CrossFit community. "Though it's not universally true, most gyms offering a bargain are trying to compete in ways their services can't." As CrossFit coach David Osorio reminds readers, the CrossFit community isn't large enough to sustain the low monthly fees offered by corporate-owned gyms. "CrossFit affiliates and other specialized instruction-based gyms...primarily rely on the people who show up to pay their bills," writes Osario on his blog Inside the Affiliate. "Therefore, these gyms must account for what becomes a much smaller carrying capacity by charging a higher rate and actually delivering an experience that warrants the price tag." In this case, a low price tag might actually add up to a less beneficial experience. Stear clear! Whether you're ready to make a change and try out a new box or you're just developing an interest in CrossFit mania, it's important to find a community that can support your fitness goals and help you develop as an athlete. Look for telling signs of expertise, ask plenty of questions, get your budget in order - then show up and crush it.
How did you find your box?
Images: Flickr, Flickr