By Coach Chris
Whether it’s a once-in-awhile vacation or weekly travel for work, sometimes you can’t get to your normal CrossFit gym, but you’re itching for a workout. You now detest going to globo gyms because you seek coaching, an efficacious workout, and the community that comes with a CrossFit box, but you’re not sure how to actually drop in. Since each CrossFit affiliate can run however they like, your experience may vary, but here are some general tips for drop-in etiquette. This is the same exact process that I used to drop into 60+ affiliates around the world, so hopefully it’s thorough enough for you:
Find an Affiliate
First step is to figure out where you want to drop in! Using Google Maps isn’t a bad idea, but sometimes affiliates go out of business and are still on Google. Or they don’t brand their outer names as CrossFit, but they do affiliate with HQ. Luckily CrossFit has created a meticulously updated affiliate map that you can search and go to each affiliate’s website, so we recommend at least referring to that.
Choose an Affiliate
After finding a few affiliates in the area you’re visiting, go to their websites, Facebook pages, Instagram, etc. While you don’t always want to judge a book by its cover, we feel that a decently updated website can tell you how much the owner cares about the business. If it looks like a website from the AskJeeves era or if you notice the last blog entry is from June 2013, you have to wonder how much care they put into the other aspects of their business. If they post their Workout of the Day, do they keep things elegantly simple or do they have 4 different sections (skill work, strength, metcon, cash out or extra work) that it doesn’t save any time for quality instruction? If you’re not sure, just ask your coach.
A note about Google reviews: I’ve found that while Google reviews absolutely help the business get found on Google more easily (SEO and all that), the actual reviews don’t actually line up with a real world experience. I’ve dropped into a number of affiliates where the reviews were glowing, but the experience was blah. My personal theory is that: 1) Most people don’t write bad reviews unless it’s an absolutely terrible experience 2) If it’s a member writing the review, that experience is all they know. They don’t know the difference between a great experience and a mediocre one, so they assume their’s is a great one. So go ahead and read the reviews, but don’t take them for gospel.
At the end of the day, you’ll probably end up choosing a CrossFit gym to drop into based on: distance from your destination; the Workout of the Day; and/or quality of their social media/internet presence.
Reserve Your Spot and/or Contact the Box
Once you’ve finally decided on a box to drop into, read their drop-in policy (cost and reservation process). Look to contact them about 24 hours in advance. If available through their website, make arrangements to pay in advance and reserve the class with their online schedule system. (Here is our drop in policy and link to register) While some affiliates do free drop ins, most have realized it’s not a great business practice so expect to pay $15-30.
If you don’t see a way to reserve your spot online, shoot them an email. Here’s a script that I used to use and that you should steal:
I’ll be in town for (work/vacation) on (date) and was wondering if I could drop in for the (time) class. I’ve been a member of CrossFit Kanna (Ambler, PA) for (months or years). I’d be happy to pay the drop-in fee, buy a shirt, or whatever your process is, so just let me know if that works for you.
Show Up Early
If you didn’t sign up ahead of time, show up 15 minutes early to sign their waiver, pay for the drop in, and start getting to know people. Even though you’re the visitor and hopefully the “natives” say hi, don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and say you’re visiting from out of town. Wear your home box’s shirt because it’s a great way for them to recognize you’re visiting without you needing to say it (plus it’s good for a photo op!)
Plan on Doing the Workout
Don’t be that guy or girl who asks about Open Gym or say you’re “on a special program” and goes to the corner and does your own thing while the classes are having a good time working out together. Take the class. Be part of the community. Unless you’re you getting paid to be a professional exerciser, take the group class.
Let the Coach Know About You
Although the owner or front desk person will know you’re dropping in, the class coach might not know. I’ve dropped into boxes with so many members that the coaches didn’t even know their own members vs. visitors! Use the time before class to introduce yourself to the coach and them know of any injuries or ailments. Remember that each box runs differently so how you scale at Kanna might not be the “usual” way they do it there. Go with the flow and always listen to the coach.
Respect the Culture and Routines
Some gyms have a policy of NOT cleaning up equipment right away because they want you to go over and cheer on the last person finishing the workout. Don’t be that guy who’s cleaning up his bumpers while everyone else is crowding around and supporting their fellow athlete. Also, if you tend to alleviate the summer heat by taking your shirt off, don’t do it unless someone else does. Again, you don’t know their policies and you don’t want to look like the “too cool for school/shirt” guy. In general, respect their culture just like you would if you were visiting a friend’s home.
Appreciate the Experience
Going to another box is going to be different, no matter what. Most times, the warm-up is different, the workout is done differently, and the cool down is different. The coaches are different and the other athletes are certainly different. These things are neither good nor bad on a basic level. Most people walk away with more appreciation for their own box which I think is perfectly fine and actually good. But I also think it’s silly when people say they go to the best affiliate ever, but have never been to another one. Appreciate the new experience and feel free to let your home coaches know about your experience. If you’re a coach, I HIGHLY recommend getting to other boxes. It can be easy to get in the same routine of warm-ups, coaching cues, and WOD formats, especially if you’re rarely coached.
Think about dropping-in like visiting a friend’s home. You know they’ll be welcoming and friendly, but you still need to respect their traditions and culture, even if they’re different from your own box back home. If you’re an owner or coach, don’t dismiss this person just because they’re here for a day. You never know their network of friends and family and any great experience they’ll have will stick with them forever. I have people from all over the country ask me for box recommendations and I have a go-to list for different cities. For affiliates that I especially enjoyed my experience, I’ll write a Yelp or Facebook review. A little bit goes a long way and how you treat your visitors says a lot about you as an owner, coach, or box member.