When we opened, we never thought that we would be the subject of many drop-ins. But, lo and behold, it seems that everyone does business in or has family that resides within my neighborhood (Walnut Creek, CA).
That being said, I HIGHLY recommend visiting other gyms when on business, general travel or whatever it may be (be sure to have some gear for your travels). The energy is very raw when you are outside of your comfort zone and PRs can be aplenty (I personally have hit like 9 PRs in the last 3 months on out of town visits).
The different perspective is great and just a change of scenery can be enough to up your game.
To Begin With…
Here are some tips on visiting another gym. As a gym owner, I know how I feel about drop-ins from the administrative end, so let me share what I think is the very best approach.
To start, CrossFit has changed and anyone who has been in it for more than 4 or 5 years will tell you that there was a time when you could kind of just drop by, share a few war stories and be good for a few drop ins. In fact, people were GLAD to simply share the experience with a fellow enthusiast.
This has changed to some degree.
Now that there is such a high density of gyms and a large awareness of CrossFit, these old rules just don’t apply in the same way.
4 Tips To Visiting Another CrossFit Gym
1) Contact Them Ahead Of Time
I really can’t stress this enough. Would you show up at a massage therapist’s office and expect to get treatment on the spot? Would you consider showing up at a law office and get legal counsel right there? Do you show up at some poor girl’s house, kids in-tow, and asked them straight faced if they can watch your kids as per their craigslist ad? Negative, chief.
We are always happy to have new folks drop by and share the love of CFWC, but it is unrealistic to expect anything other than our first priority to be with our current, paying members. We see them day in and day out and their progress is our priority. Just as you are your particular coach’s priority.
Now, some boxes will be totally okay with this! Hell, I’m guilty of breaking this cardinal rule but if you are really interested in trying out someone’s services and possibly establishing a new relationship (for your return visit), it is best to err on the side of caution and just give people a heads up.
With that contact, simply state what you would like, when you would like it and the gym will SURELY accommodate.
Here is a nice intro line:
I am in town for a few days and would love to come check out your box. Should I just come to whatever class is convenient? Do you do online signups? Are there classes that are restricted to certain people? Noon or 5pm on Thurs and Fri would be my preference, but let me know what’s open for a drop in.
The thing is if they are raging dicks who don’t allow drop ins, or have an event or have a coach who is out sick, etc you will both be spared the awkwardness of trying to figure out a solution on the fly.
2) Be Prepared To Pay A Drop-In Fee
Here’s the deal: the aforementioned handshake agreement between CrossFitters has become diluted by the number of hands. It is simply unreasonable to expect my current members to pay the premium price tag for CrossFit services and then let other people come in for free.
However, that doesn’t mean that I won’t cut you a serious break if you are up front, offer a drop-in fee unprompted and don’t try and impose some unfamiliar regional agreement. If you pay once, chances are, we’ll welcome you on in for the rest of the week for free.
Every box is different. They treat drop-ins differently and have different policies regarding this. Be prepared to buy a t-shirt, pay a drop-in fee, bring a t-shirt from your local box (I always bring a handful to trade) or leave a yelp review. Everyone is different.
Just a head’s up, you will rub an owner the wrong way if you expect to get services for free just because you share a fitness goal in common.
When I get an email my default response is, “sure, we’d be happy to have you. Just go online and get yourself a spot. We cap our classes so we want to make sure when to expect you. Look forward to meeting you!”
You will be faced with a $20 drop-in fee. If you proceed, I will treat you as an honored guest. If you don’t, then you can find somewhere else to better suit your needs. If you try to weasel your way into a free class, we know it’s a relationship that was never meant to be. You show me an inch of effort and respect, and I will give you a mile.
Here is the next sentence in your email:
What is your drop in rate? What do you charge for a t-shirt? How should I go about signing up for a class?
Speak their language and you will be treated as a local.
3) “Is Your Name Rich Froning?”
Seriously, I am thoroughly unimpressed with “how many years” you have been doing CrossFit. I have seen people “CrossFitting” for 4 years and look like trash and people who have barely finished their 3rd month who move beautifully. It is not a slight against your CrossFit prowess if a coach asks you to demonstrate your movements. This is FOR YOUR SAFETY and to make sure that I am not throwing someone into a heavy snatch workout who scarcely has the mobility to squat to begin with, despite a 5 year CrossFit base.
One person who came to my box refused to demonstrate basic movements. I told that person they could not join in (they also just dropped in like 5 minutes before class, expecting us to roll out the carpet). They left with their tights in a bunch.
I am totally unwilling to put the health of my box on the line or the well being of my current members by introducing a wild card who could easily hurt themselves or others.
And comes the next sentence of your email:
I am proficient in most of the movements, but am not very crisp in [x movement]. If you would like to see me do a quick movement screening, I can drop by a few minutes early. If there are [x] in the workouts, I usually do [y] as a substitute – but am open to whatever!
I can do most everything and don’t need much looking after. Just let me know if you want me to drop by early to do a movement screening or some equivalent.
Do you see what is being crafted here? If someone wrote me this email I would be ready to give them a free pass for a whole week.
Because they are so over the top nice, understanding and willing to approach the gym with positivity and an open mind. In the words of Dale Cargenie, author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” you have to “meet the other person’s needs and understand their perspective.”
You, as a drop-in, have just sold me and read my mind. You are my welcomed guest.
4) Take It As A Learning Experience
Every coach has a different approach, different emphasis, different coaching style and different programming. They may take umbrage with your squat, they may not like your kettle bell swings.
They may focus on your form (which they have never seen), try and fix you and spend all their time trying to impress how their coaching is superior. You may even learn a new WOD.
OR they may completely ignore you.
You don’t know until you try, but one thing is for sure, just take it in stride. Your current coach is your guiding force and your mentor. A new coach who spends too much time with you is doing a disservice to their clients. But it could happen.
Take the feedback and move on.
If you like your squat, simply say, “interesting, I’ll have to see if that can improve my performance.” And move on your merry way. There are good coaches and bad coaches. One who can identify good movement (in its many iterations) and those who dogmatically accept one particular path to glory.
Once you are there, simply soak it in, take the good with the bad and learn what you can.
Now It’s Your Turn
A savvy reader will notice my not-so-thinnly-veiled irritation with rude out-of-towners.
I did not hide it on purpose, as my members are my first priority. Our program is designed to encourage their strengths and squash their weaknesses. It is designed based on who we see each day and on which week. It is a carefully calculated program that is non-resilient to disruption. If you give me as little as 12 hours notice, I will bend over backwards to fit you into the program. I can’t speak for all coaches, but I suspect the sentiment is the same.
So go – RUN FREE WILD CROSSFITTERS!
Explore the world and see what different boxes have to offer. But remember, this is personal stuff and it is directly analogous to welcoming someone into your home where you eat, sleep and laugh. Treat them with respect and you will surely get more than that in return.
If you liked this article, share this with a friend, family member or co-worker who either does CrossFit or thought about starting CrossFit
Image source: Big Titan
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