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Choosing a CrossFit gym

When CrossFit first arrived in the UK there was little choice of CrossFit boxes.  Generally there would only be one option within a sensible travelling distance.  As CrossFit has grown in popularity over the last couple of years, CrossFit gyms have started to spring up everywhere.

So here at CrossFit Blackwater in Essex we have compiled our top five points to consider when choosing a CrossFit gym.

1.  How experienced are your coaches?

The best coaches will have spent thousands of hours honing their coaching and technique skills. They will have invested many thousands of pounds on training to help them become the best coach possible.

Coaching at CrossFit Blackwater gym in essexIt’s a sad fact that it is possible to open a gym with minimal qualifications and zero experience. A certificate gained from a weekend course does not qualify somebody to be a good coach. If you are picking up a barbell for the first time and want to stay safe and injury free, are you going to entrust that job to somebody who has never coached real, actual people before? That would be like allowing a guy who’d read a couple of books and watched the odd you tube video to rewire your house.

Good coaches have been on a journey to get to that point – ideally they will have had internships and been mentored by established coaches. Taking part in someone else’s classes is not the same as shadowing a great coach and learning how to watch, correct and develop strategies to help a people from a wide spectrum of different abilities and training histories.

Check whether your coach is invested in ongoing training. The best coaches approach their development as a lifelong job. They invest time and money in reading and studying and they have ongoing hands on coaching themselves to keep improving their own performance and coaching skills.

2.  Are you tempted by the “budget” option?

Whether this works for you depends on your own level of training and experience. If you just need somewhere with bars and chalk and you are completely confident with all movements and get expert coaching elsewhere this could work for you.

However if you are interested in CrossFit because of it’s small class sizes and coaching focus, you do need to consider how the “budget” CrossFit gym operates. Running restricted numbers classes is far more resource intensive than packing 50 people into a bootcamp class. These small group classes are the best way to get access to coaching at a fraction of the price of personal training sessions.

If a CrossFit gym is able to operate this style of class whilst offering bargain basement prices and constant special offers, consider where they are saving money. Often it will be on the coaches. Fitness is a notoriously low paid industry but a box that cannot pay a living wage to its staff will not be able to retain staff and won’t be able to recruit the best coaches. Are you paying for a coach to help you progress or a cheerleader getting a job on their cv before they move on?

3.  Does your box have a specialist Olympic Weightlifting coach?

Christine Cope olympic lifting coach CrossFit BlackwaterOlympic lifting is a complex and technical sport. Whilst you may not be interested in being an Olympic weightlifter, you will undoubtedly be exposed to the lifts as your CrossFit journey progresses. If you are taught badly at the start, not only can it take months to reverse ingrained bad habits but you are increasing your risk of injury.

If your coach demonstrates the movements and expects you to copy them you are in the wrong place. Learning the lifts well requires breaking down the lifts and learning the correct positions. Trying to “just copy” someone is a recipe for disaster.

4.  Do your coaches compete?

It is not necessary for a good coach to be an elite athlete – but it is important for them to understand what it is like to perform under pressure. CrossFit is the sport of fitness and competition is a part of that – this competition may only be with yourself but the desire to progress and improve is fundamental to CrossFit.

Coach Scott Jenkins competes at CrossFit GamesA coach who has never been faced with a movement they struggle with in a competition or stood alone on a lifting platform with a room full of people watching has no place coaching.

Competing, experiencing success, facing failure and moving onwards with new resolve and training strategies after a setback are things that make your coaches great people to be around. They know what it is like to feel demoralised and struggle to move past hurdles of their own.

If your coaches have never put themselves on the line how can they ask you to do the same? Everyone’s line will be different – it may well be making that first step through the door into a box environment which is totally alien to you.

5. Are you going to make progress?

If there are things that you cannot do, will your box help you to achieve those things. Scaling movements is a great way to get a fantastic workout. However, if your coaches are not giving you the right exercises and progressions to help you achieve the movements you desire, you will be stuck doing the scale forever.

If you are a lady with no pull-ups you will not magically get them by entering a CrossFit box – a good coach will guide you through the work needed to achieve them. Often this will require a bit of extra work on top of the classes – the guidance your coach gives you with these “extras” to work on before and after class is vital in helping you achieve your goals along the way.

If you rock up to the class and get cheered through the workout you will get quite fit. But you won’t become the most awesome version of you. Good coaches will be there for you – use them!