It all started 15 years ago, when Greg Glassman created an innovative workout program called CrossFit. To say the format has taken off would be an understatement. Today, there are more than 11,000 affiliated CrossFit gyms and upwards of 100,000 accredited CrossFit Level 1 trainers.
While typical CrossFit gyms, or Boxes, as they are called, are usually located in warehouses or garages, now an increasing number of traditional fitness centers are beginning to incorporate CrossFit into their offerings.
After its members were frequently leaving the club to seek out CrossFit, Gainesville Health and Fitness decided to open its own box to stem the flow. “Quite simply, there was a demand for it,” said Matt Mallard, a personal trainer at Gainesville Health and Fitness. “With our highly qualified trainers, we are able to provide one of the safest, most effective programs available. This set us apart from some of the box gyms that place little emphasis on the qualifications, allowing someone to be considered a ‘trainer.’”
Since CrossFit incorporates high-intensity interval training, Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics and various other components, the equipment needed may differ from that already available at your club. In fact, it might be beneficial to have a dedicated space specifically for CrossFit.
“We have an outdoor area at one of our facilities that we have lovingly dubbed, ‘The Turf,’” said Mallard. “We have all the equipment that you would typically see at a CrossFit gym. We have a MoveStrong rig that we use for everything from pull-ups to wall balls to ring work. We have Olympic lifting platforms, squat stands, bands, barbells, medicine balls, thousands of pounds of weights, kettlebells, timers, rowers and much more.”
In 2011, Cheetah Gym Bucktown/Wicker Park, in Chicago, also incorporated CrossFit into the front section of the gym. According to Todd Beisch, the general manager at Cheetah Gym, over the years they have continuously worked to improve the CrossFit offering.
“We have gone through three renovations in that area,” explained Beisch. “When it first started, it was very basic. Then we added in a weight platform, and now we have put in a rig, and we have added a thicker rubber flooring in that area as well.”
While equipment is essential, one of the most crucial components to a successful CrossFit program is the coaches. Just like personal trainers, your CrossFit coaches should hold the necessary certifications and education. Mallard explained they have very high standards for coaches at Gainesville Health and Fitness.
“First, they have to be hired on as one of our personal trainers,” he added. “This involves a lengthy hiring and orientation process. Once they have proven that they can successfully train clients and they show an interest in CrossFit, they can apply for a CrossFit coach position. They have to become certified and shadow our other CrossFit coaches for a certain amount of time before they are allowed to take on their own classes.”
Employing exceptional trainers can help combat some of the negative rumors surrounding CrossFit. According to Beisch, dispelling these preconceived notions has been one of the biggest challenges when running the program. “Sometimes, CrossFit may get a bad name for people getting injured, and I think a lot of times that is because people do not have proper technique or do not know how to do the moves correctly.”
To reduce the risk of injury, each new member to the CrossFit program at Cheetah Gym is taken through a foundations course, which consists of six, one-hour sessions with a CrossFit coach. “Our coaches take the members through everything and make sure everyone is prepared,” said Beisch. “We ease new members into it, instead of just throwing them in, because when you have someone who doesn’t have any experience, it can get dangerous.”
Those who are interested in Cross Fit at Gainesville Health and Fitness must also complete an introduction class before they can jump into the normal WOD (Workout of the Day). After the intro class, a coach will determine if that member is ready to start attending the regular classes, or if they need to attend the fundamentals class, which is a four-week program designed to teach the common movements involved in CrossFit.
“The fundamentals class helps to not only educate the athlete, but helps build confidence in their abilities,” explained Mallard. “We run these classes every six to eight weeks and have a limited class size to ensure everyone gets enough individual attention.”
While there may be a few negative connotations surrounding CrossFit, one word that is synonymous with the brand is community. Mallard explained this has been one of the biggest assets of launching the program.
“The biggest benefit has got to be the relationships,” said Mallard. “Not only do the coaches and the athletes form a bond, but also the athletes develop a sense of community among themselves. It is great because you have the more seasoned athletes cheering on and aiding the newer athletes just as much as the coaches.”
For Cheetah Gym, the CrossFit program has assisted in reaching a wider audience and attracting members they might not have earned prior. “It is something not a lot of traditional gyms have — the option to do both,” explained Beisch. “Most CrossFit boxes only offer that. While we might not have as much space as other CrossFit programs, if there is a day when you want to recover or take a yoga class, that is all included in your membership, so that is one of the selling points we have compared to other Boxes.”