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Many of you are heading home for the holidays and have expressed some interest in WODing while you are at home. Here is an article about drop in ettiquete.
How to drop into a CrossFit box: a guide on fees, rules, and proper etiquette
If you’re one of the many who work out at a local CrossFit affiliate, there is a good chance that other CrossFitters have “dropped in” to your gym (or box, as it is known within the community) from other CrossFit locations around the country. Within the CrossFit world, most gyms allow experienced CrossFitters to stop by to join a class while they’re in town, also known as a “drop in,” as long as they’re an active member of another CrossFit affiliate. This is one of the great benefits of belonging to a local affiliate, but also one that comes with great responsibility upon the athlete to follow proper etiquette before visiting another box.
Being able to visit other gyms for a few days, or even a week, while traveling is not only a great way to maintain your training, but a fun, different way to meet new people and see how effective your training has been at your local box. Every box is unique – from the equipment, to the coaching, to the structure of the classes – and as a drop in, it is up to the athlete to do their homework and come prepared before visiting a new box.
For beginners and even the most experienced CrossFit athletes, following these general drop in etiquette steps will not only make you a more respectful and welcome visitor, but a better representative of your home box as well.
Do your research.
When looking up CrossFit gyms, be sure to check out each gym’s website that you’re interested in visiting. Most gyms post their workout of the day (or WOD) programming online for their members. By looking through the workouts from the past couple weeks and seeing how they’re structured, you can make an informed decision before choosing which gym to visit.
There will more than likely be a few different CrossFit affiliates in the area you’re visiting. You might find that a gym’s training style is vastly different than what you’re used to at home. For instance, a gym might program longer, 30+ minute “chippers” and Hero WODs instead of shorter, high intensity workouts. Make sure that you are either comfortable with their programming or ready to have a change. Most of all, be sure that you’re generally familiar with at least 90 percent of the movements you see listed.
Each gym is unique, as some place a heavy emphasis on Olympic barbell lifts, high skill movements (muscle ups, double unders, handstand walking), and strength, like the well-known Outlaw CrossFit in Alexandria, Virginia, while others will offer longer workouts, involving fewer high skill movements with a higher emphasis on conditioning, like SpeedX at Brick CrossFit in the greater Los Angeles area. By familiarizing yourself with how a gym programs their workouts, you can be better prepared for what to expect during your first workout at their box.
While on their website, make sure to take note of their drop in policy. Some gyms charge a fee, others require you to sign up online before coming in, others won’t charge and might suggest purchasing a t-shirt instead, and others are happy to have you for free! Whatever their policy, be sure to respect it. It is up to the visiting athlete to adjust to the gym, not the other way around.
Contact the gym before you arrive.
Rather than showing up unannounced, email a local affiliate at least two days before you expect to come in for a workout.
In a respectful email, let the affiliate owner know when you’ll be coming to town, how long you expect to be visiting, what CrossFit affiliate you currently go to, and how long you’ve been doing CrossFit. Keep it short and informative. There’s no need to let the gym owner know your Fran time, your one rep max lifts, or the local competitions you have recently attended.
If a gym has a posted drop in fee, be sure to let them know that you’ll be happy to pay the listed fee. If they don’t have a fee listed, offer to pay whatever is fair for a class (usually between $10 and $25 per class).
It can also be beneficial to let an affiliate know that you’ve done your research by looking at their WODs beforehand. It shows that you are comfortable with their style of programming and won’t be a distraction to their classes. If you have flexibility in your schedule while in town, CrossFit gyms will always appreciate it if you offer to come during less busy classes, as some class times will inevitably be more popular than others. For the most part, gyms will tell you to come in any time, but it never hurts to ask.
Know yourself and your limitations.
One of the major parts of CrossFit training is tracking your progress over time. Before dropping in to another affiliate, it can be extremely helpful to know what your one repetition (rep) max is for the common barbell strength lifts used in CrossFit – the deadlift, clean (power and squat), snatch (power and squat), back squat, jerk, press (push, strict), front squat, and overhead squat.
While more experienced CrossFitters will know their three rep, five rep, and in some cases, even their twenty rep max weights, knowing your one rep max for the major barbell lifts will be helpful for any barbell strength portions of class if they are programmed. Similarly, come to class with an understanding of what weight you should use for high repetitions, medium repetitions, and low repetitions for the various lifts so that you can scale accordingly during the workout.
Similarly, there are a number of high skill and gymnastics movements with infinite scaling options. Many of these options are familiar to CrossFit athletes who are using them to build up to the desired or prescribed movement. For instance, if you cannot perform a handstand push-up, have an appropriate scaling option in mind, whether that’s using a band, kipping, or reducing the depth of the push-up with mats. If you have an injury and know that you generally substitute a movement at your home gym for the affected area, know how you would scale the movement. For example, if you have shoulder problems and cannot perform an overhead squat, but know that you can substitute in a heavy front squat instead, you will be able to participate in any WOD, even if the workout involves your injured area.
In general, if you scale a movement at your home gym, you should do the same when dropping in to another gym. As a visitor, it’s no time to be a hero and it is better to come back to your home gym in one piece as you continue to develop those movements safely with your coaches.
Arrive early and pay attention.
Even though you might have notified a gym beforehand that you’re coming to town, there’s a good chance that someone other than the person who answered your email will be coaching the session that you attend.
Since you’ll have to show up, explain that you’re dropping in from out of town, and sign a waiver to attend class, it never hurts to show up early to tackle the administrative work. If the person teaching class didn’t know you were coming, simply explain to them that you emailed the gym owner and got the “ok” to attend class (assuming you did). If a gym has a drop in fee, offer to pay it then, and have exact change (cash) on hand.
By arriving early, you’ll be able to familiarize yourself with the gym’s layout, figure out where equipment is located, and maybe even take in the end of the previous class’ workout. If it’s posted somewhere, check out the workout of the day, including any warm up or strength work that might be included. Find out from one of the gym’s members or coaches if warm ups are performed as a group or if they do it as individuals, since this can vary from gym to gym.
As coaches explain the WOD, not only listen to what they’re saying, but follow the lead of the regular gym members. Understand the gym’s standards of movement (i.e. Do they allow bounding box jumps? Should kettlebell swings extend over the head or to shoulder level?) and standard practices (i.e. Do they use chalk? Can you drop the weights on heavy lifts?).
As a drop in, while it’s great to meet new people and become part of the community while you’re in town, you also don’t want to be a distraction and want to keep things running as smoothly as possible for the coaches. If you’re going to scale any of the movements, it doesn’t hurt to let the coach know beforehand, so there are no surprises and they know that you understand the workout.
Work hard and be safe.
One of the biggest temptations as a drop in is to bring more intensity than you normally would at your home gym because of a desire to represent your hard work in your hometown. As tempting as it may be, don’t go outside of your comfort zone. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go for a new max lift if that’s what the workout calls for, but it means that you should maintain the same level of intensity as you would at your own gym.
By working at a high intensity that you can maintain, you’ll pace yourself to complete the workout and do so in a safe way. Try to avoid using heavier weights than you normally would at home for a similar workout. As much as it might seem better to load on significantly more weight than you honestly know you can handle, remember that the members and coaches are just getting to know you. It is up to you to scale things accordingly to challenge yourself and put yourself in a place to succeed.
Clean up and wrap things up.
As a drop in, make sure that you remember to put away all your equipment, clean it off (if cleaning supplies are available), and leave everything the way it was before you came in. If you didn’t pay for the class already, be sure to offer to pay the listed drop in fee. Even if there is no drop in fee, offer to pay anyways (between $10 – $25) or offer to buy a t-shirt (most affiliates have them).
If all offers are genuinely refused and you enjoyed your time at the gym, try and do something positive in exchange for your free workout – a positive Yelp review, posting an endorsement on Facebook, or sharing a picture of the gym on Instagram with your friends.
And most of all, thank the coaches for having you in class. While being a drop in means taking on the responsibility of representing your home gym, the coaches take on a lot as well by having an unfamiliar face in class. Inevitably, they won’t be as familiar with your best lifts, movements, and general pacing, just like you’ll likely be unfamiliar with how everything works at the gym. If you had a great experience, let the coach know and if you’ll be back, let them know that as well so they can expect you.
Dropping into other CrossFit affiliates is generally a great experience. You’ll not only meet new people, but you’ll see how different gyms train across the country. Chances are, you’ll learn a thing or two on different movements, pick up some new verbal cues from the coaches, and any new experiences will help you become more well-rounded in your CrossFit training.
Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, keeping your workout routine going, even while switching things up a bit at a different gym, can give you a little piece of home wherever you may be. By following these steps for CrossFit drop in etiquette, you can make your visit to any CrossFit gym around the country, or even around the world, a little smoother, more fun, and better for everyone involved.