In 2005, I was the contemporary music director for a local United Methodist Church. During that time, I had a good finger on the pulse of the congregation. One of the recurring themes was that many people were dissatisfied with the preaching and the leadership from the pastors.
The congregation loved their church and the weekly fellowship, community, and music programs, but there was something missing for a lot of them. A disengaged and seemingly disinterested pastoral leadership had caused unrest in the congregation.
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Thus, a significant number of members started wandering down to one of the big megachurches here in Cincinnati. They would go to Crossroads on Saturday evening to get “fed” and then come to the Methodist church on Sunday for the fellowship. Eventually though, even the community connection was not enough and people drifted away. Lots of them.
It seemed like every week we would say, “Hey, what happened to the Dufresnes?” And someone would reply, “Oh, they are at Crossroads now.”
And So It Goes With CrossFit
CrossFit boxes are much like churches, in that the aspect of community is paramount. I have written this before, but if you ask people what they love about their CrossFit gym, most often the answer is “the community.”
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But if community were the only deciding factor about a CrossFit gym, then in theory members would never leave. In reality, just like with churches, there are other elements involved that sometimes trump community. For each of us, the key in deciding whether it’s time to make a move is to balance what will serve us as an athlete versus staving off our natural “grass-is-greener” temptation.
Community Is No Longer Enough
With the proliferation of competition programming, many people are choosing programming over community. Given the opportunities of local competitions, the CrossFit Games, Grid, weightlifting meets, and masters-level competitions, people are examining the possibility of branching out from group classes into individualized programming. Many gyms are adding open-gym hours to accommodate such athletes.
“With the proliferation of competition programming, many people are choosing programming over community.”
This alone will cause a natural shift in a box’s membership. Because if a box caters to a specific demographic (let’s say, families in a suburban residential area that seek a true CrossFit group-class-cum-bootcamp experience), that is how the community will form. Possible competition athletes may walk in the door and begin their training, but they will soon sense the demographic parameters and begin to seek out a box that caters to them. To use the church analogy, they will go elsewhere to get “fed.”
But it’s about more than just competition-seeking athletes. There is a real sense in the larger CrossFit community that programming quality is quickly becoming the catalyst for many members making a change in location. That this dialog about quality programming is happening in the first place is a huge win for the sport and methodology.
Average CrossFitters are educating themselves about programming, coaching, and periodization and are looking for boxes that offer more. CrossFitters who are becoming wise to quality coaching and programming are starting their search for a box with conversations like, “Do you have a weightlifting coach on staff? No? Thanks anyway,” or, “How often do you do hero or classic WODs? Every Monday and Friday? Thanks anyway.”
In fact, I would surmise that people who cite “community” as a primary reason for the quality of their box are at a place that already has fantastic coaching and programming. Take those away, and the community might crumble in a heartbeat. So while it comes down to each athlete’s individual needs and goals, there are generally some good reasons to switch gyms, and some bad reasons.
Good Reasons to Switch CrossFit Gyms
The Programming Doesn’t Match Your Goals
You have to know what your goals are, and then make an honest assessment as to whether the vision of a given box matches your goals. There are many CrossFit gyms that have no real interest in developing competition athletes (which is perfectly fine). But if you have competitive aspirations, then clearly it’s time to locate a box that meets your needs.
The opposite is also true. If you’re looking for a bootcamp experience and you’re at a box that focuses on competition development, it’s perfectly fine to seek out a gym that is in keeping with your goals.
The Programming or Coaching Is Suspect
The sad reality is that these boxes are out there. Just like there are fantastic, forward thinking churches versus churches where ministers die from getting bitten by rattlesnakes, there are great and there are awful CrossFit gyms.
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If you’ve joined a box and find the programming has no logic, and the coaches say things like “Strategy? There’s no strategy. This is CrossFit. You go as hard as you can, man,” then maybe it’s time to leave. Or if the coaches tend to use the word “pussy” a lot, then seek out a box where the coaching staff is experienced and mature, and has the results and testimonials to prove it.
It’s Not the Right Fit
Sometimes this is just the way it is. You may not see eye-to-eye with the owners. It may not be the kind of experience you’re looking for. Or maybe the gym is just too far away. Maybe the box is under new management or some consolidation with another local box has changed what once was.
Bad Reasons to Switch CrossFit Gyms
The Little Things
Greg Glassman once said you could tell the quality of an affiliate by the cleanliness of the bathrooms. But are you really willing to leave behind your gym because the bathrooms look like a gas station and the stereo system is an old Fisher Radio hi-fi with a couple of eight-inch JBLs?
No. Because you can find a CrossFit Gym with a state of the art econo-flush multi-purpose toilet and still have wretched programming and coaching. Are you being “fed”? Then don’t sweat the small stuff.
“Don’t just start licking the latest flavor of ice cream because it’s got an interesting new name and everyone else is trying it.”
I get that you can save forty bucks per month by moving to CrossFit Groupon. But can they help you achieve your goals? Highly doubtful.
The Grass Is Greener
Sometimes, the new megachurch opens down the street and when they fling their doors open, it seems like everyone is drifting down there, mesmerized. If your only reason for checking out Crossroads is because “everyone is moving to Crossroads,” then reconsider.
Don’t just start licking the latest flavor of ice cream because it’s got an interesting new name and everyone else is trying it. In the end, megachurches, while flashy, are often inorganic, manufactured, and cold places to be. While the grass may seem greener, it rarely is. Bandwagon jumping is usually fraught with disappointment.
So, to put it simply: Are you being “fed”? Then stay put.
Photo 1 courtesy of Shutterstock.
Photos 2 & 3 courtesy of CrossFit Empirical.