Throwback from #sbkgoeswest, at CrossFit SolCity
On the Road, and Sweaty: Visiting Other CrossFit Affiliates
By Noah Abbott
About a month ago, Coaches Melissa, Chris and Jess Fox, Commander in Chief Osorio, a few of our members, and I were lucky enough to take a long vacation in California, centered around attending the 2014 CrossFit Games. (You may have noticed when every single class for a week was taught by some combination of McDowell, Arturo, Jeremy, Whit, and Nick.) While on the road, despite some questionable food choices and even more questionable beverage choices, we were able to work out roughly about every other day, each time at a different CrossFit affiliate. Heading down the CA coast, we stopped in at CrossFit San Francisco and WODed with Carl Paoli, benched outside, Muscle Beach style at Grover City CrossFit, and experienced both older, established, and polished Brick Crossfit and the younger and more familial Sol City CrossFit in LA.
"Dropping in" at another gym can be a wonderful experience, or a shocking reminder that CrossFit gyms vary widely in philosophy, organization, and overall quality. We often get questions from members about what gyms to visit while they are away, and have a dedicated Travel Gym Recommendations section of the blog to make finding a good home away from home that much easier. Still, if you find yourself headed to a locale nobody else has visited, or haven't stepped outside the gentle confines of CFSBK, here are some tips and (typically verbose) musings to make you a better road warrior.
Much like Coach David suggested in his ITA piece on choosing a Crossfit gym, it's useful to do some poking around on the web when looking for a gym to visit. First, size up the gym itself:
- Programming: Check to see if the gym programs (roughly) like CFSBK. Do they have dedicated strength training along with metcons, or just day after day of chipper style beatdowns and Hero WODs? Do they talk about mobility, technique, and recovery? Scroll back through a few weeks of their blog, and see if you can get a feel for how they run their gym—even though you are just going to be there for a day or two, look for intention and clarity in their approach.
- Staff Bios: Check out how long their staff has been coaching and whether they have some diversity of experience, knowledge, and credentials. If the head coach or owners blog says "I started CrossFit 6 months ago and fell in love, got my Level 1 and opened my gym last week!" you might be in for some growing pains. Look for coaches that emphasize their education and coaching experience over their competitive CrossFit resume ("Trevor is a total firebreather and took 26th place in the West Mid-Central Madagascar Region!!!”). It seems silly, but you can get a decent idea of the vibe of a gyms coaches by how they portray themselves. I once didn't visit a gym because their head coach's bio picture was him posing with a giant machine gun—not necessarily a bad thing, but generally not the vibe I look for when choosing a gym.
- Drop In Policies, Schedules, and Flexibility: I'll cover some of this in greater depth further along in this article, but make sure to check out what they require of visitors, if their classes fit your schedule, and if they can accommodate any special needs you might have. Smaller and newer gyms tend to be looser about paying for classes, and will often be more flexible about scheduling. Recently I dropped in at CrossFit Ancile in the bustling metropolis of McFarland, WI. They were able to accommodate a bunch of specific training requests I had, mainly because they were under a year
Once you've found a gym to go to, it's good policy to get in contact with the gym's management to let them know you'd like to drop in. A quick email will usually suffice, and there is no need to go into voluminous detail. Just let them know you're interested in dropping in, that you're a CFSBK member, and how long you've been CrossFitting (especially important if its been 6 months or less). This will often start a short dialogue with the gym owner/administrator, and it’s very useful on their side, so they can let their coaches know to expect you. Some gyms may require you to register in whichever logistics system they use, and possibly RSVP to a specific class.
Be a Badassador
Whether you are cognizant of it or not, you are effectively a CFSBK ambassador when you are on the road (especially if you are wearing a skull 'n bones tee!) Most of us are pretty well-mannered gym-goers anyway, but prepare to kick things into overdrive as a visitor, and reprezentreprezent.
Once all of the logistics are squared away, its time to actually show up and work out. Make sure to show up at least fifteen minutes early. This is good practice at CFSBK too, often neglected (you tardy scofflaws know who you are!) but especially important when traveling. You'll need to get the lay of the land, fill out waivers, and generally get settled into a new place. If you stroll in a minute before class time, especially at a gym without a dedicated front desk or admin staff, you will be monopolizing the coach's time, and by proxy the members' time as well.
Remember that while traveling, you should strive to be the most A+, 110% version of your elite self you can be. Arrive early, listen as closely as possible, perform all movements with as much care and virtuosity as you can possibly manage, help break down equipment, clean up your space—you want to act like the Coach's Pet, a near caricature of what a good gym member should be. Accommodating visitors can be hard work for a coach—different gyms speak slightly different "dialects" and follow different patterns, so try and be as helpful, unobtrusive, and anticipatory as possible.
Treat this experience as just that, an experience. It's unlikely that the programming where you're visiting will match up with ours exactly, and that's okay. Try not to get too Type A about missing your Wendler 3 week, and just embrace the “Unknown, Unknowable,” aspect that is central to CrossFit.
Be chatty! Introduce yourself to other members, the coaches, and if you are working as a team or as partners in a WOD try and be as supportive and motivational as you can be, within reason. I love to plumb members and coaches for restaurant recommendations, places to see, and other info that a local CrossFitter would know. Try and be an ambassador for CFSBK, and leave your temporary home with a good impression of our little community.
One last, weird little thing regarding paying for drop-ins. Some gyms have very hard and fast policies, and charge decently hefty fees, some allow a set number of visits before you have to pony up (generally 1-3), while others have no policy at all. Usually it’s the older and more established gyms that allow for free drop-ins, as they were a central community value when CrossFit was starting out. Informally, most gyms will waive the fee if you buy a t-shirt, and since 90% of the reason people do CrossFit is for the t-shirts, this tends to work pretty well. Always offer to pay the drop-in fee, and the coach will likely waive it or just tell you to buy a shirt. Sometimes it can be a bit of a stilted exercise in reading between the lines and innuendo, but it’s a pretty unique and cool tradition based in the idea of a larger CrossFit community.
It's also pretty common to ask the coach who ran your class or even the whole class to pose for a picture, and most folks will be pretty accommodating about this. That said, try and find a time when people aren't busy, generally the start and end of each class. Getting a picture in front of something with the gym's name on it is always cool, as is making muscles and faces for the camera. Make sure you email KR Editz (aka Kate Reece) your picture so she can pump you on the blog, and also put it on your Instagramz so I can give you mad likes and emojis.
Go Forth and Conquer!
- Happy belated birthday, Rob U.!
- Please remember that Yoga for Athletes with Coach Whit is canceled tomorrow.
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