What makes a good CrossFit class? CrossFit Gym? CrossFit coach?

Have you ever wondered what makes a good CrossFit class?

What separates the good CrossFit gyms from the ok ones?

Why CrossFit is “so expensive” (hint, if the classes are good and there’s value, it’s not)?

How do I spot a good CrossFit coach?

These are all questions I’ve been contemplating for the last couple years as I’ve hired coaches for Cróga, visited gyms locally and while on vacation in different parts of the country and the world, and as I’ve given advice to friends who live outside the area that are looking for the right CrossFit gym for them.

This blog post is more of a piece for the CrossFit community as a whole and for those looking into doing some CrossFit, but who haven’t jumped in yet (and maybe for those who aren’t satisfied at their current gym and are looking elsewhere).

Let’s tackle these questions in order so there’s actually some structure here and we’ll see where it leads us.

Oh, and this probably goes without saying, but this is an opinion piece, so if you disagree, that’s fine, I’d love to hear from you.

These are my personal opinions based on 9+ years of experience as a CrossFit athlete (4.5 years as a CrossFit Affiliate owner) that include taking CrossFit classes at 30+ gyms in a handful of different states and a couple countries along with what I’ve learned from the hundreds of people I’ve spoken to from all over the world that have dropped into our box.


What makes a good CrossFit class?

I think the first thing I look for when I drop-in to a CrossFit class or I evaluate a class at Cróga is, was every person in the class greeted by name and with a smile by the coach? And are the other members friendly and introducing themselves or saying hi to the people they know? These are steps 1 & 2. If the people in the gym (coach and members) don’t do this, there is no way it’s going to be a good class.

Then, the next most important piece is a well laid out class structure that includes a dynamic warm up, some targeted mobility, movement instruction, a specific warm up, and a well thought out WOD where the athletes are improving physically and mentally.

This keeps everyone in the class together and engaged while also making sure they’re moving better in each class and improving over time, not reaching limitations in their capacity or exposing themselves to risk of injury because they move poorly and the coaches aren’t teaching them how to move better in a controlled setting before intensity is added in the WOD.

If there aren’t gymnastics movement progressions being taught on days with gymnastics involved in the WOD, PVC pipe movement instruction going on when there’s going to be a barbell involved, and mobility work done daily to make sure you’re stretched out for that day and your mobility is improving over time, you’re not getting your money’s worth and you should look elsewhere.


What separates the good CrossFit gyms from the ok ones?

First things first, you’ll notice that I didn’t say anything about “bad” CrossFit gyms.

While I’ve been to a few that I wouldn’t recommend my friends sign up at if they live near them and are looking for a gym, I don’t necessary think any CrossFit gym is bad. I just think they could use a little work or maybe the coach was having an off day and I just happened to be there for that class.

Now, what separates a good CrossFit gym from the others is a three part answer for me.


1.
 A friendly staff that’s looking to build relationships with each and every client. Like you read above, friendliness of the coach and members is huge and is probably the most important piece to ensuring the class will be enjoyed and the athletes will have the opportunity to get the most out of each day.
Honestly, who the hell wants to go to a gym that isn’t fun and the people aren’t nice?
And if you don’t look forward to going, you won’t spend enough time there to get the results you were looking for when you signed up for that day or a monthly membership.
When I talk about building relationships I’m talking really getting to know the athletes. Trust between the coaches and the athletes is probably the most important piece to long term growth. No one takes advice from people they don’t like and don’t trust, so step 1 is to build trust with a smile and a genuine interest in who the person is and what makes them unique and the coaching can follow.


2.
 Like I hinted at in #1, all good CrossFit gyms make a commitment to their members to achieve long term health and fitness. I like to say that at Cróga we’re playing the long game because although we love to see quick success and we love to high five our members that increase their 1 rep max back squat by 50 lbs in 6 weeks or that lose 20 lbs in a month, we are really in this thing for the long haul. We want people to live longer, happier, healthier lives and we want to be a part of that every step of the way.

There’s no gimmicks at good CrossFit gyms. No quick weight loss tricks that don’t create long term sustainable eating or exercise habits. Just good old fashioned hard work and quality balanced eating habits that lead to consistent progress over time.


3. 
Balanced programming that helps people improve, but doesn’t put them at unnecessary risk for injury or burnout in the name of doing “cool” movements or making them lift overly heavy objects every single day.

This is probably the one I’ll get the most pushback on from other affiliate owners and maybe even some more experienced athletes, but in my opinion there are too many CrossFit gyms getting wrapped up in what is required to be good at the sport of CrossFit vs. what is required to be a healthier and more fit human.
What I mean is gyms program A LOT of overly risky gymnastics movements that don’t have a ton of benefit besides that they look cool (think muscle-ups, handstand push-ups, pistols, etc.).
Or, they program strength work every single day which wears people down, takes away from time that should be set aside for movement instruction and mobility, and reduces the effectiveness of the workout that is done after the strength work.

Why is CrossFit “so expensive”?

It’s not.

If your average class size is appropriate for the number of coaches assigned to it, you’re receiving all the things I listed above, and you’re making consistent improvement month over month, you’re getting extremely good value for your dollar.

Based on membership rates and how many times members attend class, your average CrossFit class will cost you between $10 & $20 an hour (memberships are usually lower than $15/class if you attend 10-15 classes a month and drop-ins are usually around $20).

Considering the fact that if you’ve chosen a good CrossFit gym you’re going to receive a reasonably similar product to personal training, but in a group setting so you’ll get a little less attention per hour, you’re getting a pretty darn good deal.

If you’ve done any online research you’ll know that Personal Training typically runs anywhere from $75-$200 per hour depending on who the trainer is and where you live.

How do I spot a good CrossFit Coach?

Everyone is going to have their own opinion here because people like different types of people with different personalities, but personality aside there’s a few things I always look for.

1.  
You guessed it, friendliness. I won’t write another long paragraph about this because I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but if you’re a coach, don’t be a dick, and if you’re an athlete, don’t sign up at a gym because the coach is a good athlete if he/she is a jerk too.

2.
  The coach explains the workout, why you’re doing the workout, some strategy for the workout and challenges the athletes with something specific about the workout. These 4 things display that the coach understands the programming, knows their athletes, thought through the class ahead of time, and wants to help you improve that day.

3.
  The coach is relentless. This doesn’t mean they’re on top of the athletes screaming and yelling at them to work harder and go faster to the point that they’re trying to kill them, but it does mean that they won’t accept crappy movement and they’re going to do everything they can to help each athlete achieve more and to be better, forever. Even if everything they’ve tried up to this point hasn’t worked, they’re going to keep trying to help each athlete. They don’t ever give up on anyone. They think of a new way to explain the movement or to show the movement or to draw the movement or to get the athlete to feel the position they need to be in and they don’t stop trying until they get it.

4.
  They don’t get distracted. It’s 2017, there are A LOT of distractions for everyone in every situation and coaches are no different. Of course there are going to be slip ups, but their cell phone should be set aside and not used for anything besides helping them coach by taking a video of one of the athletes to show them or taking a photo or video for the gyms social media account and then put away after.
They should also not let members walking in for the next class to distract them from the class they’re currently working with. This can be very hard, especially if the coach has made that deep connection with all the members that we’re looking for, but it’s a skill to be able to greet someone with a smile, chat with them for 20-30 seconds while keeping your eyes on the class, and then to walk away to stay involved with the current class only to return to the conversation when the time is appropriate.

5.
  They keep the class on task and on time. The best coaches have a plan for every class and they follow it so that everyone is on the same page throughout, the class flows smoothly, and it ends on time.

6. 
Everyone gets coaching. This is part of why smaller classes are generally better, but a good coach doesn’t ignore the good to great athletes because they know they are going to be ok. They touch base with each and every athlete throughout the class, give them all a win or something to work on each day, and help each and every person improve in some way, shape or form in every class they attend.

Woah, that was a long one!

I’m glad I got it all out there though.

I hope you all enjoyed the read and will use this blog post to help you decide what gym is the best fit for you or what to look for when you decide to give CrossFit a try.

Disagree with me? Got something to add? Want some clarification or got a question?

Shoot me an email (david@crogacrossfit.com) or comment on our social channels and I’ll gladly respond!

And stay tuned for my podcast (Podcast name TBD), the wheels are turning and it’s on the horizon for launch this fall.

I’m very excited about it because I’ll be able to dive deep into a lot of subjects like this and I won’t have to type as much, hahaha.

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