CrossFit is growing and I believe it is here to stay. But just like there are good physios and physios that aren't as good for you, there are CrossFit gyms that are better than others. I have been to over 20 personally and I am pleased to say that all were safe but some were/are better than others.
For this new year, you may decide to start CrossFit for the first time. I hope these tips help you work out how to choose the CrossFit box (gym) you decide to train at
1. Owners/coaching staff.
The leadership drives the culture of the box. Some are competitors. Some are young. Some are older, ex competitors, some are ex personal trainers, some are mid-life career changers. To be honest, it doesn't matter...they have to be a good fit for you.
What does matter is their commitment to their members and to safety. A focus on technique is obviously desirable. CrossFit preaches "mechanics, consistency, intensity" which means you get the technique right, you do it consistently and then, and only then, do you try to go a bit harder or a bit faster or a bit heavier. A good coach will hold you back a bit if you don't have the technique right. It can be infuriatingly frustrating but it is the right thing to do.
The best coaches I have met are keen to learn. If I meet a coach that isn't interested in what I have to say, I wonder about their commitment to lifelong learning. I am still learning and I have a masters degree, specialization training that only 9 people in my state have and I am still keen to learn every day. No one knows it all. If the coach or owner does, that is a problem for me.
The best coaches will no-rep you, they won't let you shave reps and they will encourage you. There is a fine balance between absolutely safe vs safe enough. In the end, you can only work on one thing at a time so be patient
I have visited a lot of boxes in Australia, USA and Singapore. All of them didn't care about whether I was a Physio or not, they still did their job...some didn't know until afterwards I was a Physio!
Different people have different goals. Most people aren't training to be CrossFit Games or regionals athletes. But everyone wants to be a bit better than yesterday. In my experience, programming that has a bit of strengthening or technique work every day is usually a good sign of a coach who knows what they are doing. Some people will do just the Crossfit "Mainsite" workouts that come up and that is ok too if you want a general program - personally for me, you would have to add your own accessory exercises to get your strength up, especially if you are a beginner. Usually, if the box you are at is doing the CrossFit "Mainsite" workout, they will do technique or strength in addition to the workout.
Check out different boxes and their websites for a history of their programming. If you see lots "Hero WODs" which are brutal, LONG workouts, I would be wondering if they have a systematic approach to strength and conditioning.
I work at 3 different places. They each have a different approach to their programming but I like each of them. Bt each of them have a good focus on technique, strength and conditioning...they just do it differently.
3. The members are friendly
Part of the beauty of Crossfit is the community. In fact, it forms a large part of the experience. You only have to look at social media to see how competitors are friends, gym owners are friends and how everyone tends to get on I both each other. If you land in a box which isn't friendly, that would be rare. Believe me, when you are suffering through a workout, it is nice to have a friend who is there suffering with you...even a breathless "c'mon" (which may be all that they can manage) is helpful.
Happy, friendly members is a good sign of a healthy CrossFit box.
4. "Extras" put on by the box.
The little things that a box does usually shows their commitment to their members. It could be a challenge or seminars or little talks. It could be putting on special sessions for extra technique work. It could be getting some outside help in or having supplemental series like a Physio, massage therapist or even Pilates and yoga for the members. It is the gym owners going to support their members at an local comp...sometimes that is hard to do because they run a business but I have seen it quite often.
To be honest, this doesn't matter so much. It is nice to have all the bells and whistles but coaching is much more important than the brand of barbells they have. But a good box will continually be adding to their current equipment and slowly replacing old items. Equipment costs money. What you want to hear is about how the owner wants this or that and has a plan on how to save for it.
For example, one gym I work and train at has the cheapest bars I have ever seen. I reckon they would be struggling to be worth more than $100 new. But they do the job. At the same gym, they have a great quality rig and I have seen nice new equipment and their bumper plates are rarest. Another I am working at has older equipment but I have seen the owners slowly replace things with better quality equipment. Again, another box I work at has only recently opened and has nice bars and bumper plates but they saved a bit on the rig - it works just fine of course, just not as nice as their barbells and plates.
What you want is equipment that is safe and does the job.
Try a few different boxes before deciding where you want to train. Find the nicest coach who is particular about technique, has a focus on strengthening you and an obvious love and commitment to their members. Look at their programming and learn what it all means. Ask questions.
In the end, you have to love where you workout.
Where I work and train
I am happy where I work and train - honestly, I wouldn't do so if I wasn't happy with the quality there. So I can honestly say I can recommend these places:
1. Reebok CrossFit GCS
2. CrossFit Bodi Complete
3. CrossFit Scorch
Let me know what you have found out there and what you think makes a good box.