What you need to ask before joining a CrossFit gym

November 2, 2015

CrossFit combines Olympic lifting, gymnastics, calisthenics, and other movements into varying "Workouts of the Day," or WODs, under the watchful eye of coaches or trainers. High-intensity CrossFit classes are designed to improve the entire body and not just one part.

Because CrossFit WODs can be quite rigorous, participants must receive initial training and constant supervision to avoid injury and make maximum gains. To ensure that the CrossFit gym you're planning to join offers you the best experience no matter your current fitness level, ask these questions.

What you need to ask before joining a CrossFit gym

How long is the "On Ramp"?

"On Ramp" refers to the training program you must complete before you're allowed to venture into a regular CrossFit class.

During this training program, you learn the basic moves such as box jumps, burpees or Olympic snatches, so you can do them safely and effectively.

A four-class commitment is typical for these "on ramp" training programs, although more classes allow you to learn more CrossFit exercises.

If you're talking with a gym that offers an "on ramp" program of just one or two classes, just walk away. You won't be able to learn the basic CrossFit moves in such a short time.

Who are your trainers?

Trainers can make or break a WOD, so it's important to find out who they are. Thankfully, many gyms post the background of their staff on their websites.

At the very least, a gym's CrossFit trainers should have CrossFit certification at various levels. Many trainers may also have athletic backgrounds from attending CrossFit sessions for years or have degrees in kinesiology.

A small gym may have only one trainer who is also the owner. You'll receive personal attention at one of these smaller gyms, but the number of classes may be limited.

On the other hand, a large gym may have over a dozen trainers. Having so many trainers ensures variety in instruction, increases the number of WODs per day, and allows larger classes that more than one trainer can run simultaneously.

What equipment do you have?

The movements you do for WODs depend on the equipment that's available.

Gyms typically have weights, jump boxes, kettlebells, jump ropes, a rack for pullups and outside space for running. If there are particular movements you enjoy, make sure your facility has them.

For example, climbers will appreciate ropes hung from the ceiling and rowers need rowing machines.

The quantity of equipment is also important. If the gym you're looking at joining has only one rack, for instance, any WOD that includes pullups means that you'll spend time waiting for your turn instead of exercising.

What are classes like?

The best way to answer this question is to observe a WOD during the time you intend to train.

Does the trainer tell participants to scale the weight or repetitions back if they're about to hurt themselves?

Are the other members supportive?

Do they put their own equipment away and those of others?

Do members socialize before or after classes, or just get the workout done and then leave?

You should try to answers all of these questions to find the perfect fit for you. Doing so may mean that you have to visit several CrossFit gyms to find the one whose setup, trainers, and vibe work for you. But finding a good match will help make CrossFit easier for you to get into.

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