On Ramp vs. Intro

As a simple observation, I see two main structures showing up as the predominant strategies used by gyms to enroll new members into their CrossFit classes. One is an “On Ramp” program, or an “Elements Course,” as it’s sometimes called.
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CrossFit Courses

As a simple observation, I see two main structures showing up as the predominant strategies used by gyms to enroll new members into their CrossFit classes. One is an “On Ramp” program, or an “Elements Course,” as it’s sometimes called. The other is a more direct route, which uses an “Intro Session” as the sole barrier to entry into the gym’s CrossFit classes.

The first, and quite possibly the more popular of the two strategies, requires prospective members to enroll in what is essentially a pre-CrossFit experience. During this On Ramp/Elements phase, students take a number of classes over a period of a few weeks that teach the basic movements and lay a foundation for athletes to join the regular student population with an understanding of how things will go in class.

These programs sometimes require students to pay an extra fee, and some require students to “pass” in order to advance into the regular program. Though this is only my opinion, it seems that there are a few pros and cons in taking this approach:

Pros:

  • New students build some competency in movements before the addition of load and intensity in class
  • New students don’t slip “through the cracks” in their early days
  • Seemingly, there is some level of quality control

Cons:

  • Students don’t feel part of the community yet, as they are doing something else while others are in the “real program”
  • This approach may decrease coaches’ attention to detail in regular classes
  • Gyms must provide critical time and space for this separate program

The second of the two approaches I mentioned is the “Intro Session.” Though in either strategy there is room for creativity, this strategy mostly includes a conversation that allows the coach to learn about the prospective athlete. This time, used to learn goals, athletics history, injury reports, etc., is a more intangible barrier to entry. Often times these intros include a sample workout, which can help build context of intensity for a prospective student, provide a time for the coach to evaluate movement patterns and provide a measuring stick for fitness growth. Though the time spent with the student is much less (usually an hour) than in the “On Ramp” program, the “Intro” can also provide valuable insight to the ideology and conceptual framework of the gym.

The “Intro Session,” too, has its fair share of pros and cons, as well. Check it out:

Pros:

  • Students learn about the ideology, structure and style of the gym in an interview-like setting
  • Students who join feel like they are in the community right away
  • The intro can open the door to an important conversation about who the student is and what his/her goals are

Cons:

  • It increases the demand on coaches to teach, scale for and use progressions for early beginners
  • Students learn as they go with real CrossFit workouts
  • New students can “slip through the cracks” if coaches don’t engage them early on

It’s important to note that these two common enrollment structures may be the predominant strategies in CrossFit, but they’re only the most common strategies in gyms that use an enrollment strategy at all. So, as a disclaimer, it’s worth noting that many gyms only require payment and desire.

Without an agenda either way, I think opening this part of our community up to discussion can only make it better. I own a gym called Deuce Gym in Venice, Calif., and we happen to use a very organized “Intro Session.” It’s the lifeblood of our enrollment process, and it works for us. We understand the responsibility it puts on our coaches in class, and we are up for the challenge. I could see many gyms do it another way and have great success, however.

Do you have experiences with one or both of these strategies? If so, what feedback could you offer regarding them?

— Logan Gelbrich
@functionalcoach