I’ve been doing CrossFit since my husband opened his first affiliate in 2010, and coaching since he opened the second in 2014. I’ve dropped in at quite a few gyms in my CrossFit tenure. From local in NJ when visiting family to across the Atlantic in Copenhagen, Denmark. I have to be honest, I assumed what I’m about to tell you was a sort of common-sense thing…not to be a dick. A post in a CrossFit affiliate owners group the other day proved that assumption to be very very wrong. An affiliate owner spoke of someone dropping-in, and showing up without any previous contact right as class was about to start expecting to just fold into the group. I realize now that this may seem like to totally fine thing to do! You show up right before class time at your home gym. You do CrossFit all the time. You know what’s up. They don’t need to explain an AMRAP to you.
(I suppose I should tell you now that I stopped using ‘box’ to refer to a CrossFit gym some time ago, so I don’t want to hear any, you don’t know what you’re talking about…you don’t even call them BOXES…they’re not GYMS.”. Yes they are. Shut up.)
This is where I have a bit of a unique perspective: I’m a member, and I’ve been helping my husband on the back-end of things for years now…so I can see that side of the coin as well. The thing is, that as members we often don’t see things from the business side of it. Think about it. When you drop-in, this coach doesn’t know you from a can of paint. He/She has no idea what kind of experience you have. They probably want to get an idea of your experience level before you jump into their class of paying members. Yes, you pay your drop in fee…but their members keep the lights on. Their members are what keeps their business running. You, the drop-on, cannot get in the way of their experience. Put the Nano on the other foot. If someone showed up at your gym, for one class while they are in town, and the class ended up starting late because they needed to sig a waiver, pay, and talk to the coach about their experience. Or if the coach ended up having to spend the whole class with this individual because even though they said, “I’ve done CrossFit”, it became clear when they didn’t know what a burpee was that this person doesn’t actually have the experience they said they do. You’d be pissed! The affiliates priority is to their members. Always. As a drop-in, you are a guest in their house.
A lot of folks complain that drop in rates are too high. Too high compared to what? What you pay per class at the gym where you have a year-long membership? Yeah…they’re going to be higher than that. You’re always going to pay more for a ‘one time use’ than you will for a membership at any fitness-based business. Compare the drop in rate to what yoga or spin studios charge for one class. It’s not that far off.In fact, it’s often less expensive, but for some reason we think that because we do CrossFit at home, we should be able to attend any CrossFit for $10. You have to account for the standard of living and general cost of services where you are. Your home gym in a suburb of Pennsylvania is probably going to be less expensive than the one you drop in at on vacation in Miami. You can’t compare your membership fee that you pay at home, where you’re a member to what you’re being asked to pay per class where you’re a visitor. If it’s too expensive for you? Don’t go or find another gym that fits in your price range. That’s the beauty of the free market.
One of the best parts of CrossFit is the community. I love traveling around and dropping in at different gyms. 99% of the time, the coaches and members are all incredibly welcoming, and they’ve always got good insight about food/booze in the area. It’s fun as a coach to see other approaches and methodologies. It’s beneficial as an athlete to get new eyes on you. There’s a lot of good that comes from dropping in.
So here are the guidelines on how to Drop-In when you’re on the road:
- Visit the gyms website and check for Drop-In Policies.
Most gyms, especially those in tourist-heavy areas, will have their drop-in policies right on their websites (which you can get to straight from the Affiliate Map on CrossFit.com). Remember, each CrossFit gym is its own identity with its own policies, so just because your gyms drop-in policy is ‘show up 5 min before class and buy a t-shirt’, doesn’t mean that that’s going to apply to everyone. Some gyms have specific classes where drop-ins are allowed. In cities you may see drop-in fees as high as $30-40. Some may require that you come 30 minutes early to sign a waiver, pay, and discuss your experience with a coach. Some gyms won’t even LET you drop in unless you have a certain amount of experience. Remember, you’re essentially taking a spot from one of their regular members…so you’re going to likely pay more than their per-class rate and they don’t want to have to spend an exorbitant amount of time explaining things to a drop-in. They want to provide you with a great experience and workout, without taking away from their daily members.
- If there is no information about dropping-in on the website, call ahead of time.
This isn’t a ‘well I couldn’t find it so here I am’ situation. Some gyms, like ours, cap classes at a certain number. This could be due to any number of things from space to equipment to the number of coaches on staff. If there is nothing about dropping-in on the gyms website, pick up the phone and CALL to find out. If you’re going to email, I suggest doing so at least two days ahead of time. If I know I’m traveling somewhere I will typically email the gym a week ahead of time. ‘Last minute travel’ isn’t super common, and if you have time to pack all of your Nobulls and jump rope and Lululemon…you have time to call of email the gym that you want to go to. Reaching out early to ask about their drop in policy elevates a ton of stress on everyone’s part and takes roughly 3 minutes.
- If you’re unable to reach anyone, it’s OK to show up, but do it at least 30 minutes ahead of time.
OK, so you checked the website. You called. You emailed. Nothing. Now what? I will reference my recent trip to Copenhagen. I wasn’t sure what our timeline was going to be and if I would even be able to drop-in anywhere. Lo and behold, it turned out that I found myself with a few hours to kill and a local gym had a class starting in about 45 minutes. The website was a little tricky to navigate, since Google translate seemed to be struggling with Danish. I should have called, but instead I walked over to the gym about 40 minutes before the class was set to start. I figured best-case I get a workout in, worst-case I go get coffee somewhere before dinner. When I got there, I asked the coach who was there (when he had a moment to spare and approached me), first if he spoke English (he did…and arguably in more proper terms than I do), and second if they allowed drop-ins. I got lucky on this one. He told me that they typically don’t, but if I wanted to wait until the next class, he would let me jump in if there was space available. If the class was full, I wouldn’t be able to. All fine. All cool. There ended up being space and I was able to workout – but that is the risk I took when I just showed up. All of that aside, when you just show up with no knowledge of their policy, you want to leave enough time to introduce yourself to a coach, sign a waiver, pay, and put your stuff away without holding up the class. 30 minutes. If you have to wait around a little bit – whatever. Deal with it. Warm up some more.
- If you DO just show up, don’t expect to be able to take the very next class
As mentioned in #3…if you do just show up, you can’t expect to be able to just jump into whatever class is next. It may be full. It may be a specialty or beginner class. Who knows. When you just show up, you run the risk of being turned away or made to wait. As long as you accept this risk, go for it. Again, many of these problems are eliminated by checking the website or at the very least, calling ahead of time.
- Never expect a free ride.
One of my BIGGEST pet peeves is people expecting a free class when they drop in. Why? It doesn’t matter if you coach at home, or you own a gym, or you have a blog or podcast that lots of people listen to, or you went to regionals last year. No matter who you are, you’re taking a space. No matter who you are, you’re getting coached by someone who that gym is paying. Regional athletes, podcasts hosts, bloggers – none of these people dropping into a gym brings in new members. It might bring in another drop in or two (like, LITERALLY one or two)…but it doesn’t actually do anything for that gym. Mentioning it on your blog or podcast or instagram doesn’t help that gym keep the lights on. Everyone who listens to your podcast or reads your blog probably already GOES to a gym…so what the fuck are you offering with your ‘mention’ that deserves a free ride? You’re showing up, you’re using their equipment, their services, and getting an hour of their coaches attention…don’t be an asshole about coughing up $30. Coaches and affiliate owners, same goes for you. Always expect to pay. If the gym is generous enough to give you the class on the house – be gracious and grateful. Never be entitled to that coaches time, just as you wouldn’t want anyone to feel entitled to yours.
- Don’t be a dick.
Bad attitude drop-ins are the WORST. We had a little crew come in last summer on a day we happened to be doing a hero WOD that required a decent amount of equipment. On days like this, we generally have a few set ups for everything that we all share as certain things like kettlebells are limited when everyone needs a 16KG and you’ve got a class of 20 (hero-WOD days are bigger than our normal classes). It becomes a first-come, first-served situation. It’s fun, we all have a good time, and everyone gets the job done. We explained before the workout began that this is how it would run. This bunch came in, made themselves their own little set up, each with their own equipment all tucked away in the back corner by themselves. The result was that our actual members didn’t have equipment to use, and their quite frankly stand-off attitude prevented a lot of our members from engaging. We had members tell us after class that they tried to cheer them on during the workout, or ask where they were from before hadn’t only to get glared at, short answers, and eyes-rolled. They left immediately after they all finished their workout, didn’t put anything away, and were gone in the night. I get that not everyone is super into strangers, and that when you’re traveling sometimes you just want to get in and get out. But like I said, when you drop-in…you’re a guest in their house. Say hi to people. If the coach explains how the workout and set-up is going to go – LISTEN and FOLLOW. If there are equipment shortages, share. I’m not saying you need to be Miss Congeniality when you visit a gym, but if you want to be left alone to do your own thing, maybe dropping-in to a CrossFit class wasn’t the best option today. Wether you’re at your home gym or not, you should never take away from the room. Generally, just be fucking nice.Also, DON’T be that guy. The one who needs to show everyone up trying to impress. That guy gets hurt. That guy does stupid shit that he shouldn’t do. Just be yourself and train how you normally do.
- Clean up after yourself.
‘Nuff said. Don’t make a mess with chalk all over the floor. If you sweat, wipe it up. Put your weights away. Just be respectful of the equipment and space that you occupy.
- If they don’t do drop-ins, don’t get butthurt. Not all gyms can support drop-ins. Every one is different. Some just don’t have the space. Some have small classes that tend to fill and they can’t give up spots to people just passing through. If you can’t find a gym to drop-in at, don’t get mad – get creative. There’s plenty that you can do on your own, especially if you’re somewhere with decent weather. I almost always bring my jump rope with me when I travel, and it’s super easy to build metcons wherever you are. Hotel gyms usually have treadmills and dumbbells (5 rds: 400m Run, 20 Alt DB Snatches, 10 Alt Reverse Lunges w/DBS, 10 Burpees….for example), and when you’re outside there’s a million things you can do: Squats, Push Ups, Box Jumps (I’ve used stairs and benches), Double Unders, Running, Sit Ups, Lunges, Burpees. Use your brains and your fitness to figure something out if you really want to get some work in. It doesn’t HAVE to be in a BOX with a barbell.
- Visit the gyms website and check for Drop-In Policies.