Tuesday, September 29, 2015

5 Essentials of a Kick-ass (CrossFit) Gym

In most towns across the country, there’s no shortage of gyms to choose from. Big box gyms, CrossFit gyms, boutique training studios, etc. Due to the sheer number of options, there are bound to be some good ones and some not so good ones -- be it CrossFit or otherwise. In order to help weed out the good from the ugly, here are 5 essential features to look for in a gym.

1. A non-cookie cutter approach

If you go to a conventional gym, you’re basically just going for access to the equipment. That’s it. There’s no accountability, and you’re probably just picking a random workout from a magazine, or worse yet doing your old high school football team’s routine.

Kick-ass CrossFit gyms, on the other hand, offer a hybrid of powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics, and cardio sports -- all combined to make each workout different and fun. There’s also a plethora of coaches who do a legit job of teaching each of these fitness domains. At the same time, though, you don’t have to do any of those things if you don’t want! If you’re just looking for a good workout, you can just do basic, beginner fitness.

You see, kick-ass gyms treat everyone on a case-by-case basis. For instance, they have multiple programming options. Say someone comes into the gym and the WOD is to “find a peak single hang power clean.” Not everybody’s doing that shit! Some people might just do a medicine ball toss to get hip extension, or a hang dumbbell snatch. In fact, that’s what most people will be doing -- the alternatives -- until they’re ready. There’s always the opportunity to progress to more complex lifts, but only if you want to.

Kick-ass gyms cater to what each individual wants to do with their body, their fitness, and their movement. They ask questions like, “Hey, do you care about lifting heavy today?” Some people will feel the need to lift heavy weights. Other people don’t really care; they just want to lose some fat. For them, you have to do something different, like a dumbbell complex or a high-intensity Tabata to get their heart rate going. Everyone’s goals are different and constantly evolving. Kick-ass gyms are able adapt to that ever-changing target.

2. Emphasis on the big picture

The goal of a kick-ass gym is to get everyone more stable, strong, and conditioned. There’s an emphasis on trying new things -- lifting, running, and using the body in new ways -- but learning to move properly always comes first. Kick-ass gyms teach people how to hinge at their hips, how to sit, and how to put their hands overhead. They teach proper positioning for pushing, pulling, and carrying -- all the basic life skills that people have to do every day. 

Kick-ass gyms preserve their members, not break them down. Safety and proper progression are paramount. Kick-ass gyms push their clients as hard as they can each day for where they are. With most workouts, there is an element of the unknown, but by tailoring to the individual, it’s always safe, effective, and fun.

Kick-ass gyms stress real-world nutritional strategies. They recognize that people live in reality, and that it’s okay to have vices. You can’t force feed people drastic lifestyle changes. It won’t work, at least not for long. Instead, slow and subtle changes, like taking away or adding one food a week, are the key. Of course, if someone wants an immediate, drastic change, a plan can be enacted for that, too. It all depends on what the person wants.

Kick-ass gyms preach consistency. It’s not about how often you get into the gym, though. You get in when you can. Rather, it’s about an overall consistent lifestyle -- one where you’re eating, sleeping, training, working, and enjoying yourself with balance. All these factors must be accounted for in order to paint a complete picture of a person. Kick-ass gyms cultivate and reinforce this new, healthy lifestyle.

3. Collaborative atmosphere & sense of community

The feeling inside a kick-ass gym is just different. You know immediately when you walk in the door and see everybody smiling. Being at the gym is like riding the safest rollercoaster around. Each day you arrive, you start the climb on the coaster -- only you don’t know whether it’s going to go straight down, around, or upside down. Everyone in the gym is on the ride, too. Some people choose to sit in the front, some in the back. Some people even put their hands up. There are old people, young people, fat people, thin people. The ride is scary, but it’s safe. And no one wants it to end.

Kick-ass gyms incorporate many skill levels into the same training session. Everyone might be doing something a little different, but they all still enjoy it, and everyone still feeds off each other’s energy. It’s built-in accountability: you’d feel like a piece of crap if you just went through the motions. Everyone is winning, too, and winning is fun. Of course, there are different ways to win besides finishing a workout first. For instance, if you get a green light to do a lift you’ve never done before, that’s a "W."

4. Devoted, diverse, & empowered members

Kick-ass gyms are comprised of a healthy mix of ages, races, genders, abilities, and backgrounds. The members are supportive, sincere, helpful, humble, focused, determined, consistent, competitive, and real. They’re self-reliant but able to work with a team. They’re always smiling. They’re not “faking it to make it;” they’re putting their heads down and working hard.

Walk into a kick-ass gym, and it’s immediately apparent how much effort the people are putting into their workouts. Everybody wants to tell you about what they’re doing -- what they lifted, how much they rowed, how many muscle-ups, pull-ups, and push-ups they did. That includes the women, who are excited each day to deadlift, squat, and hang clean. They know their PR’s on all their lifts. They also know that it feels good to lift heavy weights. The muscles they grow represent their hard work, and that’s cool.

5. Constant evolution & improvement

For a kick-ass gym, the top priority is making members look and feel better through safe movement. If you’re looking for flaws, you can always find one. No gym is perfect. But kick-ass gyms are committed to improvement -- to listening to constructive criticism and learning from mistakes. To trying new things. To experimenting, collecting data, and analyzing it. They don’t claim to know everything and aren't afraid to admit having been wrong.

Like their members, kick-ass gyms get a little better each day.

Does this sound like your gym?

Do you know a gym that boasts of each of these essential features? I do. It’s called CrossFit Advance, and it's located in Clifton Heights, PA.

Coming up on their three-year anniversary, the co-owners of CFA, Tom DeVietro and Matt Biller, have hit upon an interpretation of CrossFit that really works. The proof is in the pudding: over the last few years, they’ve successfully molded it to hundreds of clients, establishing a #sweatfam and transforming countless lives along the way.

If your gym doesn’t sound like the one described above, you may wish to reconsider your fitness options.

How many of the 5 essentials does your gym exhibit?

Quiz Maker

To read more about Tom DeVietro, click here.

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