The Good, The Bad and the Ugly – What to look for in a gym and when to leave

By January 9, 2018 2 Comments

With the first of the year here and gone, my Facebook feed was overwhelmed with different posts about “10 reasons you should start CrossFit” or “10 reasons I love CrossFit” and other posts. Some good information, ridiculous memes and bad information. These got me thinking about some things.

• What to look for in a CrossFit Gym?
• What are the signs of a bad gym?
• Is it time to change gyms?

What should I look for in a CrossFit Gym?

Gone are the days of cleared out warehouses with a rig and a stacks of weights, granted they are still around but they are being replaced or upgraded and are getting more sophisticated, with Lounges, bars, and some have coffee shops, but what are looking at is community and coaches and coaching.

The goal of training CrossFit is simple: to become more fit. We use constantly varied, functional movements, performed at a high intensity to deliver the best results to our athletes. These workouts are all done in 1-hour sessions, with coaches in every class who are trained to keep the members safe while they are performing the Workout of the Day (WOD).

The time to start is NOW! There is no mandatory required strengths or fitness levels needed to start CrossFit and all the movements are scalable to be performed by anyone.

1) On-Ramp Classes / Induction to CrossFit

First and fore foremost the Gym you are attending or considering should offer some sort of introduction class to get you familiar with the movements and assets how well you can perform the basic movements. The beautiful thing about CrossFit is that you will always be learning new things; but if you have to learn on the fly in a high paced class, there are safety issues to be concerned about.

In an intro class you will go over proper form for each movement to prepare you for what lays ahead and get your body used to the different style of workouts. Everyone will benefit from a good Intro Class. If the gym you are attending or looking doesn’t offer you through introductory class then you should consider looking elsewhere.

2) Coaches and Coaching Staff

Are the coaches willing to coach you and make you better or are they just there to take your money and be a cheer you on? Finding a gym with the right coaching staff is one the most important things to look for iwhen looking for a CrossFit Gym. Encouragement and motivation are definitely positive factors in finding the right coach, but if you don’t have coaches that will help you become a better version of yourself, you need to reconsider where you are. Most gyms offer a free trial class or classes. You should take advantage of these classes and ask as many questions as possible. If you are at a gym that doesn’t have your best interest and goals at heart, go somewhere else. At the end of the day, it is a coach’s responsibility to keep you safe, teach you to move better, and do their absolute best to improve your level of fitness. Anybody can be a cheerleader, but not everyone can make you squat perfectly. Don’t settle for someone who isn’t doing what you are paying them for because you like them as a friend. Make sure you are getting the most out of your gym!

3) Programing – What to look for

Your coaches Programming shouldn’t be done to make you suffer, it should be program in such a way to make you better, stronger. It should be safe and injury free. If the primary purposes of your gym’s workouts are only to make you suffer and make the workout as hard as possible without any real rhyme or reason behind them, then you need to look somewhere else.

Proper programming will incorporate strength cycles, deload weeks and max outs. If you are not receiving variance and you constantly walk into the gym and say, “My legs are so sore! Why are we squatting AGAIN!?” then your gym’s programmers probably haven’t put too much thought into what you are doing, or simply don’t know how to program properly. Proper programming is key to maximal potential while keeping you as safe as possible on a weekly basis. With that said all CrossFit workouts should be and are scalable to fit your needs. If at any point you find that a coach will not let you or others scale they are not only putting you at risk but the other athletes in the gym as well.

4) Cost – Know what you are paying foremost

If you don’t know by now CrossFit is more expensive then your local Globo-gym at $10-15 a month because you are receiving valuable coaching in each and every class you attend, as well as programming on a daily basis. You should be receiving movement education and direct coaching feedback every time you walk through the door.

Most CrossFit Gym are independently owned micro gyms and prices will vary from gym to gym usually from $150 – $250 a month depending on location. Take the time to research the gyms in your area, Quality of Coaching, Quality of Programming and Quality of the Facility.

CrossFit gyms average between $150-$250 a month for an unlimited membership. Some will disagree but an unlimited membership should include the following but limited too
• The highest quality CrossFit personal coaching in a small group atmosphere
• Membership to all CrossFit Classes, Weightlifting Classes, Open Gym
• Nutritional and sports-specific clinics
• Workout tracking with mobile capability
• Access to strength, strongman, Olympic lifting, mobility, and other specialty classes as scheduled, as well as community events!
• No set up fees, no hidden fees. What you see is what you pay.
*If your gym offers a limited pricing plan then some of the above does not apply

Limited price plans may only include 3 CrossFit classes a week with a minimal charge to attend workshops for members.

If the gym you area looking at charges significantly less than other gym in the area you should keep looking. People pay a premium for CrossFit you get what you pay for.

5) Community – Community is the foundation of CrossFit.

One of the best parts of CrossFit is the community. Staying after class to work form, get in those reps to work towards those goals with your Bro or broette or just chat it up. The community creates a tight knit group where you can make new friends or keep up with old friends. Does the gym and the coaches encourage this behavior and relationships? Talk to members of the gym as your trying to decide if this is the gym you want to be apart of. Do the member of the gym hang out outside of the gym? Is that important to you what about monthly events to keep moral up ath the gym or Mixer for the new members? All things to think about when take that first step into Crossfit.

What are the signs of a bad gym?

There are many signs of a bad gym so I will high just a few that I noticed from my visits to other gyms.

1) The Gym is Dirty – If you walk in to a gym and there is chalk, hair and dirt everywhere, all over the floors. Sweat hasn’t been mopped up from the class before. The bathrooms look like a truck stop bathroom and you leave the gym with black marks on your hands, knees and cloths from burpees. YOU’RE GYM IS DIRTY, Its comes off as Cleanness isn’t a priority for the owners and Mopping alone isn’t enough, Gym’s today should hire a professional cleaning service to come in twice a week.

2) Facilitators and Not Coaches and The Staff is Comprised of Part Time “Coaches” – You coach is the one who guides you the process of workout, proper form and scalable options. Not the person asking how your weekend was in the bottom of a squat and hanging chatting it up with other members while class is going on. Your coaches should be full time and commented not a hand full of part coaches that come in once or twice a week to hang out coach a few classes and be a Chatty Cathy.

Are there part time coaches that care and do an incredible job, Yes Absolutely, but there is only so much time in a day and Full time coaches should always available to answer e-mails, phone calls, text messages, schedule private consultations, etc.

3) Hidden Fees – My favorite topic, you pay $200 a moth for Unlimited Membership it SHOULD include everything right?? but wait there’s more its an extra $25 a month for the weightlifting program, $65 for the Nutritional program, workshops and other seminars. Make sure to read you contract if you have an unlimited membership and it includes everything but you are getting charged for classes and workshops every time you turn around, it maybe time to find a new gym.

4) Poor Equipment – Are the barbells and plates all rusty, mismatched and pieced together, if you in class and there isn’t enough equipment? Are there rowers, bikes and ski ergs in the corner broken? What kind of image does that show for the gym and the owners?

Is it time to change gyms?

Well now you know what to look for in a gym and what the signs of a bad gym are, is it time to change gyms? If you’re ok with a gym that’s filthy, “coaches” not coaching, hidden fees and poor or broken equipment then stay the course if not there are plenty of other coaches and gyms that have better coaching, equipment and a community you can get behind.

The choice is yours so how should you go about leaving your current gym. I would suggest Talking to your Head Coach(es) about why you are leaving and what issues lead to this decision. Don’t run your mouth to other members, they have little to no power to make changes at the gym and don’t bad mouth the gym that wont accomplish anything or fix whats broken. Approach the issue with good intentions, and any gym worth its weight will handle it will professionalism and open-mindedness.


Author martelle

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Chuck James says:

    What to look for when you should ignore a blog about CrossFit:
    1. The author has no schooling in anything fitness related, no training in CrossFit, no business schooling, has never run a gym, and only qualification for writing a blog is literally, he works out occasionally.
    2. There are no comments. This means that the author has no credibility or influence and therefore nobody reads it and/or he deletes any negative comments.
    3. The blog is poorly written. There are grammatical errors, horrible punctuation, misspelled words, and an overall lack of understanding of the English language.
    4. The author is a bully, but only in a passive aggressive way. He uses social media and blogs to come across tough because he doesn’t have the courage to just have a normal conversation with someone.
    5. Everything in the blog on the positive side is just a rip-off of other blogs and the negative stuff is just an attempt to dig the owners at his own gym.
    6. The negative stuff shows he really doesn’t understand growing a small business:
    a. Dirty Gym – Really? You are working out on the floor. Classes are back to back. During classes, people use chalk, their hairs fall out, their shoes walk across the ground and dirt falls off, and this is normal. When are they suppose to clean between classes? So your hands get dirty? Wash them. Dirty bathrooms? Sure, but that’s a conversation and not a reason to leave a gym.
    b. Coaches – the majority of boxes are made up of part time coaches. This is the only way to grow a gym. This is normal. Gym owners often work other jobs and therefore can’t be at every class and still have families. This shows you don’t really understand small business ownership.
    c. Hidden fees – It’s not hidden when they tell you upfront. You sign up for CrossFit and they tell you what the monthly fee covers. Later they offer you other services for a cost. NEVER is it said that the monthly fee covers everything. NO GYM DOES THIS. It’s not hidden when they tell you the service and the fee. It’s business.
    d. Poor Equipment – the only valid point. Good thing that’s not an issue at your gym.

    As a member of your gym, let me say that your bully tactics are old. You are attacking our family when you attack our owners. Be man enough to have a private conversation with them if you have an issue or just find somewhere else to workout. Don’t try and tear down something you didn’t build. And some friendly advice, shut down this blog. You’re not qualified.

    • martelle says:

      Thanks for the feedback Chuck, if you still have an issue please come see me at the gym, I’m usually there working on PT M/W/F during the 5:30 class.

      1) My schooling is not in Fitness correct as for no CF training. I’ve been training in CF for 6 years so I think I have somewhat of a background in that.

      2) No Comments doesn’t mean anything and I don’t delete comments.

      3) I asked an editor friend of my to take a look he made very few adjustments. My apologies for this not being up AP standards (that’s passive aggressive).

      4) I’m in no way a bully. I do some traveling and have been to several gyms around the country and this is my experience and observations. As far as having a normal conversation I’m a pretty level headed guy…. you claim we go to the same gym, introduce yourself.

      5) a. Gyms should be mopped after the last morning class or at least spot mopped and completely mopped after the last class of the day every day. There should be professional cleaning crew coming in at least twice a week to clean the gym. Yeah dirt and hair will be on the floor but it shouldn’t be there for days.

      b. Coach vs Facilitators: I don’t disagree with what you said but read what I wrote again about coaches. There are part time coaches that do an incredible job, I’m referring to those that are just there chatting to chat it up and socialize. They don’t coach. My gym has incredible part time coaches.

      c. Yes there are gyms that have hidden fees, I have seen the contracts.

      I’m not attacking the gym, the owners or the gym community. I have spoken with the owners about your post and we don’t have a member named Chuck James. I’m not trying to tear down anything or anyone. I love my gym, the people at my gym and everything they do and have accomplished. I will not shut down this blog. However you claim to be a member of the gym I attend where I have been a member for 6 years. If you’d like to discuss this more (because you seem to be taking this kind of personally), you can find me at the gym working on PT M/W/F during the 5:30 class in the back corner. I’m turning off commenting for this post. This doesn’t need to go any further. You can see me at the gym for a friendly chat or send me an email at

      Cheers Brandon Martelle