If you plan to join a CrossFit box, you’re spoilt for choice. According to CrossFit HQ, in 2019 there were over 130 affiliates operating in South Africa.
While location is an obvious factor in your decision, if you live in a major city you probably have access to numerous options. In this instance, you could argue that the ‘box’ is standardised so it doesn’t matter where you train.
A box-drop solution?
If you ignore the different colour schemes and logos, a CrossFit box generally consists of an open space and the same equipment, with coaches that tend to follow similar approaches based on CrossFit’s foundational principles.
Faced with this decision, how should you select the ideal CrossFit box for you and your goals? We asked a few box owners to share their insights:
Chris Anastasopoulos, owner at CrossFit 152 Biogen says:
In my opinion, all the CrossFit boxes around the country are like restaurants; while we all basically do the same thing, like serve food, it’s the quality of that offering that separates the best from the rest.
Does the head coach or box owner take the time to ensure the training is up to scratch? Is superior client service a priority? Do those who interface with the clientèle – the coaches – make sure they’re always happy?
In a world where all the equipment is basically the same, it’s the little things that make a big difference.
What condition is the equipment in? How clean is the equipment – you wouldn’t eat in a dirty restaurant, so why train in a dirty box?
And, much like the vibe and ambience of a restaurant keeps you coming back for more, the same applies to the training environment. Do the owners and coaches go out of their way to create a place of comfort? Is that environment stimulating and enjoyable? Are you able to jump right in and make new friends while getting your sweat on? At the end of the day, it’s the total package that makes boxes distinct.
Wilna Appel, owner and head coach at CrossFit PBM says:
Any box worth considering needs to, first and foremost, have the best interests of their clients at heart. This means taking a goal-based, individualised approach that aims to help clients achieve their goals.
Secondary to this is great programming. For example, we don’t believe in re-writing the CrossFit training manual. We coach the basics exceptionally well – form and technique always come first. We combine these sessions with short, intense workouts and a lot of basics training.
Coaches at any box worth considering should also be qualified in more than a basic Level One CrossFit certification. They should also have a proven track record by this stage in the game and also need to keep themselves updated with the latest training techniques and continued formal education.
Our coaches also receive coaching to ensure their movement patterns remain sharp so that they can teach properly and competently.
However, it is the atmosphere at the box that ultimately keeps clients coming back for more. We build personal relationships with all of our clients and aim to foster a competitive, performance-oriented environment where people are encouraged to push beyond their limits, whether they are competitive CrossFitters or merely fitness enthusiasts.
Julian Reichman-Israelsohn, owner and head trainer at CrossFit Platinum says:
A problem in the industry is the low barrier to entry. Anyone with a two-day CrossFit Level One certification and a space to train can open a box. So, without any previous qualifications or experience, and little or no knowledge of human anatomy and physiology, these people are allowed to take charge of the health and wellbeing of others. That makes no sense.
First look at the education and background of the owner and coaches. They should have more than just a CrossFit qualification.
A proven track record in the industry is also something to look for, as is diversity in training modalities. Does the box offer specialised coaching in Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics, and calisthenics, or are they stuck in the CrossFit rut?
It’s also worthwhile checking out the vibe and energy at the box. This is critical to your ultimate enjoyment. Lastly, consider the size. Many owners think bigger is better for commercial reasons, but that isn’t always conducive to optimal learning and client safety. At the end of the day, it’s not the size of the box that matters, it’s the quality of what goes on inside that differentiates the best from the rest.
Cillie Malan, co-owner of CrossFit Eikestad says:
When you strip away the four walls and take a closer look, not all boxes are created equal. If you compiled a checklist, most CrossFit gyms would tick the same boxes, offering the same equipment and following the same generic programming. Most coaches also have the same qualifications.
Beyond the coaches’ knowledge and qualifications, look at the calibre of athletes that the box produces. If the facility is making people stronger, faster and fitter on a consistent basis, you know that it will ultimately benefit you too.
The other key ingredient needed for an enjoyable CrossFit experience is the community. Ultimately, the culture within the box is shaped by the owners and coaches. Do the people make you feel welcome? Are the people at the box you’re considering supportive? Does it feel like a family?