New year … new box? New to CrossFit, entirely? Whether you’re fresh to the sport, having box commitment issues or just thinking about opening up your relationship in 2016, these are the things you should look for before signing on the dotted line.
A box isn’t just a gym. You’ve done that routine before, walking in and out of the same place three to six times a week, like a predictable, tepid buffet for your muscles. The box is so much more. It’s a playground to push your limits, and having the right playmates makes all the difference. Do they happily welcome you or smugly dismiss you? Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t about Kumbaya. It’s about who will be there for you when you want to quit before the clock has run out … who will spot you when you’re striving to PR your one-rep max.
Look around the room. I like seeing a diverse range of athletic ability and ages — people you can relate to but also chase and inspire to be. It’s an indication of a good coach and a good box when you see a variety of skill levels in one room working safely and happily together.
What happens beyond classes is another indicator of a box’s strength. Check its website, blog, Facebook page — does it host holiday parties, barbecues, maybe field trips? Don’t overlook this spirit of camaraderie ’cuz when all you want to talk about is CrossFit, you’re gonna need friends who won’t want to smack you. Trust your gut. Don’t waste your time on a second or third visit if it doesn’t feel right early on.
The Right Programming
So you think you’ve found a great spot … do the hours fit your schedule? They can have all your favorite classes, but unless your days and nights are flexible, you’ll be heartbroken to find conflicting times after a great intro session. Check the calendar online, and if it’s not a match … swipe left.
Also, be aware that not all boxes emphasize the same focus. While by nature CrossFit is a mix of cardio, gymnastics and weightlifting movements, some boxes aren’t as well-rounded. One may focus specifically on Hero workouts, while another may lean heavily toward Olympic lifting. Get real on what your goals are. Track a box’s programming online for a couple of weeks to see whether it makes your muscles twitch with excitement and dreams fill with PRs!
Location is everything. Close proximity to work and home is key. If your box is near the beach, you better be getting some routines in on the sand. If it’s close to a track, you should be getting some time trials in. What about laps in a nearby Olympic standard pool? At the very least, you owe yourself the comfort of running outside without fear of getting mugged or hit by a car. Are you hoping to catch the 6 a.m. class, wash up and go straight to work? Make sure you find a box with showers — they’re rare.
Ask members and management about challenges their box faces. Grit usually makes us tougher, but some boxes are hamstrung by surroundings. Can you drop weights? Blast deafening gangsta rap? Depending on the neighborhood, some have to keep the noise and vibrations down. For me, this really sets a box’s tone and the path to (or from) my own personal success.
Find a box with coaches and athletes who jive with you. CrossFit sometimes gets a bad rap because everyone else just hears about the injuries. That’s what happens when you don’t check your ego at the door or when a coach doesn’t have the extensive background and expertise necessary to notice your warning signs before you do. (BTW — this isn’t exclusive to CrossFit. It’s true for all sports.)
Coaches run the show, but there are others here to learn from, too. The occasional hour spent in a WOD with elite competitors makes a whole world of difference. It’s just flat-out fun to work out with Regional champs and top athletes in the sport —even just to be in their presence! Few athletes get to train with their idols quite like CrossFitters. Try not to do your best with Lindsey Valenzuela in the room — I dare you!
Leave tiebreakers up to the front counters and your belly. Bonus points to the boxes that take your nutritional needs seriously. Some boxes have healthy meal plans delivered right to the door. You’ll find the best ones are always stocked up on protein bars and protein powders. They make it a lot more convenient to live the CrossFit lifestyle by turning their box into it a one-stop shop.
A lot of boxes have been stocking up on these single-serving packets of protein powder. I’m constantly running around, before and after the workout, so they’re a very welcome addition to my training arsenal. Quest just came out with this cookies & cream powder that has little bits of protein cookies mixed in, so I’m pretty much hooked already.
CrossFit is about being ready for anything. Are you ready to change things up this year? Even if you’re 100 percent in love with your box, it’s always great to drop in to other ones and break out of your comfort zone. Find inspiration in new people, different places and fun workshops (I highly recommend Strongman) … and represent your own tribe.
Hope to WOD with you in 2016!