Today we begin a fun column called At the Box. Here we’ll cover all things relevant to the box: coaches and coaching techniques, equipment reviews, drop-ins and their benefits to us, and box reviews. To start off, before anything else, it would be great to have an initial discussion on what makes for a great box. Let’s break it down today, and then in the coming weeks we’ll elaborate more on each component part.
Since I like to think in lists and patterns, let’s isolate 3 component parts of all great boxes, and let’s arbitrarily have them each start with the letter “c” (not because CrossFit starts with a “c,” wink wink nudge nudge).
The first key to success in CrossFit is the coach. Why? Good coaching is indispensable to any aspiring CrossFitter because a good coach will teach you proper form, lifting technique, gymnastic skills, and will cheer you on when you need it most. When all else seems like it’s going to fail, a good coach will be “Mickey” to your “Rocky” as you go toe-to-toe with that WOD which suddenly resembles “Clubber Lang”. Your coach will motivate you, make you believe in yourself, and yes…even throw in the towel when necessary.
That seems like a lot for one coach, doesn’t it? This is CrossFit, remember? I think Rich Froning summed it up best for us when he said, “It’s not that you have to be the best at anything; you just can’t suck at anything”. Your coaches have put in the time to learn the key movements, lifts, and gymnastic skills that make CrossFit what it is. Does this mean that each and every single coach is going to be an expert in all of these areas? No. But a good box will have a depth and diversity to its coaching staff which will meet all of these areas in more ways than one. You may have coaches that are more gymnastically inclined, and others who have been certified in strength coaching. Put these two coaches together in one box and, boom, you have the makings of some great coaching! Now, throw in a crazy coach who likes to dance during WODs to entertain the collective troops, all the while striking the occasional yoga pose and…there you have your mobility. In one box, you have it all: gymnastic skills training, strength and olympic lifting programs, and mobility (with a splash of yoga dust on top).
A good box will have a depth to their trainers, both in number as well as in ability. Look for this, and you will find a great box.
If CrossFit is known for anything to the outside world, it is known as a community of believers (well, ok…it’s known as a cult! But c’mon, true believers, we know it ain’t so! What’s the first rule of CrossFit? You will talk about CrossFit non-stop to anyone and everyone!). What makes CrossFit so great is the camaraderie which only comes through shared misery and daily victories! As Sean Woodland said, “The man who finishes last often gets cheered (for) louder than the man who finishes first.”
Great boxes have great communities. Period. Nothing more. Nothing less. How do you find the hallmark of a great community? Take a look at the box rules (usually posted on a wall somewhere, and reiterated by your coaches): “Unless otherwise instructed, do not start cleaning up until everyone completes the WOD.” Why?.. Because, you are not alone in this journey. Your fellow box athletes are there with you, sharing in the same pain and gain that you are going through. And just like you, they need encouragement. If you finish before others, cheer them on and help them get to that place of finishing as efficiently as they possibly can.
Take a look around as you explore your box. Are people cheering each other on? Is the next class, who arrive early to mentally prepare themselves, also invested in how your class is doing? Are they there to lend their support, both physical and emotional? Are people helping each other clear the racks and pick up the equipment? If so, you have the makings of a great box.
Here we have two ideas related to core: physical core, as in location; and ideological core, as in box goals for the members
– Physical Core (location):
A great box is accessible to you. This does not necessarily mean that it is physically close to you. Rather, what it means is that it fits your lifestyle and location. Your box can be a 30min drive for you, but as long as you can make that drive and are not skipping WODs (because it’s just too far), well then, this is great. For most of us, it does mean that we will look for a box that is centrally located either by our home or by our work. But…and let me stress this, do not trade coaching competence and community for the sake of convenience. If you find yourself working out at a less than stellar facility only because it’s convenient for you, well…that convenience is not going to go very far for very long if you are seriously invested in your training. So take the time to drop in to the various facilities around you, have a look around, get a feel for them, ask the box owner for a 1 month trial period, and then make a decision.
– Ideological Core:
More important than physical core is the ideological core. What do I mean by this? Does your box have a defined mission or program for your training and overall health? Wait, what?? You never thought about your training like this? Well, you need to, because CrossFit is not just about moving heavy stuff physically. CrossFit teaches us about life, perseverance, diligence, and believing in oneself (all the types of things we’ll be focusing on in our series).
A good box will support this via it’s ideology. What do they want to teach you? Are they invested in more than just your pocket book? Are they invested in your life? A great box will be invested in you as a person, and they will help build you up physically and mentally.
So, there are just a few preliminary thoughts on what makes a truly great box… In the coming weeks we’ll delve deeper!
This article is Part 1 of our “What Makes a Great CrossFit Box?” series: