By: Dan Salupo
I’m fresh off a week of vacation to Southern California, where I had the opportunity to drop-in to some really awesome CrossFit gyms. This was a particularly cool experience for me for a number of reasons. For one, it gave me some important intel on how other gyms are being operated and what they are having success with. Secondly, it allowed me to workout in a group environment without ANY coaching responsibility–something I have not done since opening Perpetual Fitness.
Playing the role of class participant put me in a unique position to both understand how things work from a business and coaching perspective, while also seeing things from the Athlete POV. In the past a lot of my own athletes have asked me how to go about dropping into other CrossFit gyms while traveling for either work or play, and I would give them a few pointers. This time around, however, I took notes on exactly what I did (and my thought process for doing it) when dropping in to gyms while on the road. Alas, below is the Ultimate Guide to Dropping-In. Enjoy!
1. Find a CrossFit Box near you
While there are several different platforms for finding CrossFit gyms, the CrossFit HQ Affiliate Map is the best I’ve seen thus far. They allow you to search by city, state, country, zip, etc. and they do a really good job of keeping their records up to date. Just type in the location you need and it will populate a map with pins. From there you can click through to the affiliates website, or just copy and paste the address into a map application and determine the distance. Remember, the best gym is usually the closest gym!
2. Check out the class schedule
With several thousands of affiliates across the globe, there’s a good chance you will have a couple of options for gyms that are nearby. Therefore, when you click through to the website the first thing you will want to do is check out the class schedule. It is common practice for CrossFit boxes to list their class schedule on their website, so you shouldn’t have much trouble finding it. While you are at it, you will want to look for information on drop-ins. Usually they will list a drop-in fee (many times they will give you the option to either pay $20 or buy a t-shirt from them), so you will want to make sure it is within your budget.
3. Take a look at the wod
I say this with hesitation…don’t cherry pick! There are really only three reasons you would need to peep the workout ahead of time:
1. You worked out the previous day and don’t want to repeat certain movements in volume.
2. You are a Regional and/or Games Athlete and therefore training for more than General Physical Preparedness (GPP).
3. You are injured or need to scale certain movements so much that it would serve you better to come up with your own workout in the hotel gym.
Other than that, you really don’t need to look at the workout. Remember that CrossFit is about being prepared for the Unknown and Unknowable. Make it fun and show up to the gym ready for anything!
4. Email ahead of time
Full disclosure: I’m terrible at this. But it is only decent to give them a heads up that you’re coming. Plus, many gyms cap their class sizes, so it would be a waste of time to show up to a WOD that you can’t participate in! Simply send them an email introducing yourself, letting them know you’ll be in town, and that you would like to check out their box. I couldn’t imagine an affiliate owner not being pumped to have you in!
5. Arrive a few minutes early
You’ll need to fill out a waiver and any other paperwork they may have for you. Additionally, you’ll want to give yourself time to find and familiarize yourself with the gym so that you know your way around and are not holding up any one’s workout (e.g. look for where they store clips, barbells, kettle-bells, bands, etc.).
6. Introduce yourself
Go out of your way to introduce yourself to both the coach and other athletes. Don’t assume people will automatically know you are dropping-in; many will think you are just someone that typically goes to a different class time than them. You already have something awesome in common with them, it’s a perfect opportunity to meet other cool people!
7. Communicate experience level and any injuries
This is VERY important. Classes can be hectic, be proactive about letting the coach know of any limitations you have or if there are certain movements that you need help scaling or modifying. It would be horrible for every one involved if you were to get injured because you were too shy to speak up. That’s what the coach is there for (and what you paid your drop-in fee for!).
8. Remember proper etiquette
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but a few common courtesy tips when dropping in are as follows:
-Don’t drop empty barbells
-Keep your hands inside the bucket when applying chalk
-Wipe up your sweat angels and wipe down your equipment
-Cheer others on if and when you finish ahead of them
-Put your equipment away how and where you found it
A lot of coaches and/or affiliate owners will ask you the name of your native CrossFit box—make sure you represent them well!
9. Leave a review
Use Facebook, Google, Yelp, or any other platform you personally frequent to leave an honest review of your experience. Comment on things like the coaching, community, environment, or anything else that stuck out to you. If you did not have the best experience, use constructive criticism to let them know what could have made your workout just a bit better. Keep it positive. They will appreciate it!
There you have it. Keep these 9 tactics in mind when dropping-in and you’ll look like a pro! And, if you have any other useful tips please leave them in the comments section. Good luck!