I’ve been fortunate enough to drop into over thirty CrossFit affiliates, some multiple times. The benefits of dropping into a box are many: meeting new people, getting a workout in, having a reason to go explore a new town or city, experiencing different coaching styles, pushing yourself to PR, etc.
Whether you’re traveling for work or pleasure, sometimes you need to get a WOD in and the hotel gym just isn’t cutting it. To make it easy, you can use this handy CrossFit finder to look up your closest affiliate. I’ve realized over the years that there are some things I wish I knew, both about coaching people who drop in and also visiting other boxes. Below are some tips for both affiliate owners and visitors for dropping into a CrossFit box.
FOR THE HOME BOX (Owners, Coaches, and “home” Athletes)
1. Post your WOD
I realize there are reasons to not post your Workout of the Day (e.g. keeping your members from cherry picking, making it more “exciting,” laziness, etc) but for a traveling CrossFitter, it’s good to know the workout ahead of time. If I just did a grueling workout at my home box that involved GHD sit-ups, I’m probably going to want to know if the box I’m dropping into will have GHD sit-ups, toes to bar, etc. If I’m trying to drop into multiple boxes in an area, I also want to try and avoid repeat movements or similar workouts. And if you do post your WOD, make sure it’s current! I can’t tell you how many websites I’ve visited that have their most recent workout from 4 days ago. There was also one affiliate whose last post was 2 years ago. (I’m guessing they went out of business.)
2. Offer merch as an option
Most CrossFit boxes will charge $15-$25 as a drop-in fee. I’ve also encountered many that will waive the fee in exchange for buying a T-shirt. From my experience, there is a strong correlation from how an affiliate handles drop-in fees to my overall experience. In retrospect, the better boxes (based on workout, coaching, and member interactions) have been ones where they either waive the fee completely for the first visit, or ask that I buy a shirt. The ones that demand cash or credit card (no option to buy a shirt instead) are usually the ones I don’t have a great time at. I realize some boxes like Valley CrossFit get so many drop-ins that they take advantage of the revenue stream, but unless you’re them, consider the shirt option. It’s more marketing for you, even if I live across the country. You never know who’s going to blog about you or at least put up a social media post!
3. Be friendly! (more than your usual self)
CrossFit is known for a vibrant, friendly, close-knit community, but that drop-in is going to feel like an outsider unless you greet them first. As the owner/coach, you are the face and leader of your community and your members will follow your lead. If a stranger walks in and you stay off to the side and chat with your friends, why would anyone else welcome this person? I once dropped into a fairly well-known CrossFit affiliate and while the coach definitely knew her stuff, everyone was done with the workout early and she was immediately on her phone texting and chatting with her friend at the front desk. Hmmm, no cool down stretching, no conversation to see how the visitor liked it?
For the members of the box, remember when you first walked in – how intimidating it was? Even if you’re not normally an outgoing person, make it point to at least say hi to the visitor. CrossFit is great because no matter what your backgrounds, it automatically creates conversation points: What box do you go to? How long have you been doing CrossFit? What’s your favorite/least favorite workout? What do you think of today’s WOD? What’s your Fran time? Where did you get that neon outfit and matching shoes, I NEED those! Etc.
4. Don’t assume
Don’t assume the person dropping in is healthy – ask about injuries, surgeries, and other limitations before class starts. Don’t assume they know your lingo – chances are they use different terminology for mobility drills, warm ups, and even some common movements in workouts. As a trainer, you should be demonstrating these movements anyway to make sure everyone is on the same page. Lastly, don’t assume knowledge-base or athleticism on looks. Let’s see how they perform the actual movements and how they move their bodies before coddling them or pushing them to do more than they’re capable of.
5. Get reviews
As I said earlier, sometimes I look at Google, Yelp, or Facebook reviews to see what kinds of experiences your members have. If I see things like “this is a really fun place” or “great workout, knowledgable coaches, great community” I’m more likely to drop-in. Obviously these reviews are good for attracting local leads as well, so make sure you ask your members to write reviews for you on multiple platforms!
FOR THE VISITORS
1. Give notice
Call or email ahead of time to let them know you’re coming. You should have already looked up their drop-in policies, so while you’re on the website, copy their email address and let them know who you are and anyone else that’s joining. Include the fact that you’re willing to pay a drop-in fee or buy a shirt – this will prompt them to confirm in writing which they prefer. Also ask if they have any digital waivers to sign ahead of time so you can get the paperwork done in advance. I also wouldn’t send them an email three weeks in advance as the owner and/or coach will likely forget. Rather, give notice 24-48 hours in advance. Usually the person receiving the email or phone call is the owner and will pass the information along to the coach of that particular class you want to go to. Here is a standard script you can use for dropping in:
I’m in town for work/vacation and was wondering if I could drop into one of the afternoon classes (4:30 or 5:30). I’ve been doing CrossFit for ______ months/years, so I would be very low maintenance and I’d be happy to buy a shirt or pay a drop-in fee. Let me know if this is ok and if there are any digital waivers to sign ahead of time.
2. Know what you’re doing, technically.
If you’re dropping into a box, you better know how to squat, deadlift, clean, snatch, swing a KB, etc. You also should know the basic variations of the olympic lifts: hang power clean, power snatch, hang snatch, etc. You do NOT need a 300 lb. clean and jerk or 200 ft. handstand walk. The point is to know the basic movements and be able to perform them to the best of your ability (this includes the progressions and scales you would normally do) As a coach, I can’t take an inordinate amount of attention away from my regular members to teach a drop-in how to swing a kettlebell, much less how to snatch. I would rather have a less conditioned, but technically proficient drop-in, then a “fit” guy who has to learn what a power clean is. As a general rule, if you have consistently gone to your regular CrossFit box for 2-4 months, you probably have been exposed to most of the movements.
3. Let coaches know if any injuries or limitations upfront
While the coach should ask you about any injuries you may have, don’t be a hero and ignore pain or injuries if you have them. Let the coach know everything that’s going on, even if it’s not bothering you at the moment. Do this BEFORE the workout, not as she’s saying “3..2..1..GO!” As a coach, I’d rather know about that knee problem that flares up every so often, even if that chance is very low. I would also expect you to monitor yourself during the workout and let me know if anything comes up as soon as it happens.
4. Do the WOD
What’s the best part about CrossFit? The community! So even though you may be in the middle of a Smolov cycle, hop into a class and do the daily WOD. If they have open gym times that you want to take advantage of, I suppose that’s fine, but please don’t ask to do “your own thing” off on the side while everyone else in the gym is doing the WOD. It’s elitist and not cool.
5. Don’t _________________ until someone else does
Some gyms have a policy of NOT cleaning up equipment right away because they want you to go over and cheer on the last person finishing the workout. Don’t be that guy who’s cleaning up his bumpers while everyone else is crowding around and supporting their fellow athlete. Also, if you tend to alleviate the summer heat by taking your shirt off, don’t do it unless someone else does. Again, you don’t know their policies (maybe it’s a health thing) and you don’t want to look like the “too cool for school/shirt” guy. Same thing goes for chalking up the floor (some gyms HATE this while others allow it).
6. Appreciate the (different) experience
Going to another box is going to be different, no matter what. Most times, the warm-up is different, the workout is done differently, and the cool down is different. The coaches are different and the other athletes are certainly different. These things are neither good nor bad on a basic level. Most people walk away with more appreciation for their own box which I think is perfectly fine and actually good. But I also think it’s silly when people say they go to the best affiliate ever, but have never been to another one. Appreciate the new experience and feel free to let your home coaches know about your experience. If you’re a coach, I HIGHLY recommend getting to other boxes. It can be easy to get in the same routine of warm-ups, coaching cues, and WOD formats, especially if you’re rarely coached.
Think about dropping-in like visiting a friend’s home. You know they’ll be welcoming and friendly, but you still need to respect their traditions and culture, even if they’re different from your own box back home. If you’re an owner or coach, don’t dismiss this person just because they’re here for a day. You never know their network of friends and family and any great experience they’ll have will stick with them forever. I have people from all over the country ask me for box recommendations and I have a go-to list for different cities. For affiliates that I especially enjoyed my experience, I’ll write a Yelp or Facebook review. A little bit goes a long way and how you treat your visitors says a lot about you as an owner, coach, or box member.