Saturday, December 14, 2013

What Makes a Successful Gym?

We've got some great respect for gym owners and coaches out there.  It's not an easy job.  They've got quite a great responsibility to deliver advanced fitness without injury.  The knowledge they have and application of it doesn't come easy.  One thing I've always admired in the successful coach is being able to take a client well past the comfort zone but away from the danger zone.  I think most have come to realize that the body is capable of far more than we can give it credit for.  It's the mind that limits us.
We've seen some great success from Gyms that do things just a little differently.  Have a look.
Alex at CrossFit Headway had a great idea.

So what else makes a great coach?  Although the training and programming are very important, we've seen some amazing facilities that have taken coaching to the next level.  These coaches are building more than just gyms.  The are building communities filled with home athletes that call the facilities they train in more than just a gym.  They are calling it a home away from home.

The Indicators of a Successful Gym:
  • Technical Competence in the Staff - this tops the list.  It's the front-runner without question.  Coaches and owners can have all of the other attributes we list in spades, but competence is key.  Understandably, not every coach can master every skill.  The great ones continue their education by seeking training themselves and hire other coaches with other competencies to help with training.
  • A Clean, Well-Organized Facility - With the amount of time you will be spending on the floor either in plank holds, burpees, sit ups and the like, super clean facilities are a must.  Athletes are sharing equipment with 100-200 other members, and coaches are insisting that  athletes put equipment away when done.  That's good.  They may even ask you to get out the disinfecting wipes for the bars, kettlebell and dumbbell handles.  Bravo.  It's their responsibility to keep the floor clean, but yours to take care of the other stuff.  Clean is smart and safe.
  • Personable - If you haven't seen a class in action, ask to.  Get there early to see the dynamic of the class just before it begins.  You might hear some chatter going on.  There should be - that's a good thing.  Everyone will probably be friendly rather than stone faced and serious.  Cool.  Community and friendships are an important part of a successful gym, too.  When you see people walk in others are probably shouting out their names in greeting.  [I kinda like the way the employees at Moe's shout "Welcome to Moe's!" as you enter.  It's different and makes you feel welcome.  That would be kinda cool if gyms would do that when you walk in for a class.  Maybe not the same slogan, but something interesting, even if it's just "HEY!!!" every time someone walk in.]
  • Motivational - the timer can provide a ton of motivation for those that are competitive.  But you will see the coach and other athletes cheering each other on.  Serious training is hard and a little encouragement goes a long way.  I'm not talking about screaming in someone's face like a Drill Sergeant - that's a little over the top.  But a couple shout outs from fellow athletes going through the same misery is awesome.  And be prepared to give back some of the same.  It's infectious.  We saw something really cool that Alex over at +CrossFit Headway in Huntingdon Valley, PA is doing for motivation.  He hung a small bell on the wall and whenever someone gets a PR, they get to go up and ring it.  Super cool.  It's just a little something different that shows you that a coach wants to see you succeed and share your success with others.  Cool stuff, Alex!
  • Fun - it's super easy to program a workout to kick someone's face in the dirt.  Here: 5 Rounds of 20 Pull Ups, 20 Kettlebell Swings, 20 Knees to Elbows, 20 Box Jumps.  Easy, right.  That will get your heart pumping.  I've found that the creative coach can not only push you past comfortable but can also make it fun.  Some of my favorite workouts are those where I did not know what was coming next.  The Deck of Cards Workout adds some excitement for sure. [pick 4 movements and each suit represents one - for a twist make the Jokers a 30 sec rest card and watch the one who pulls it scream for joy].  There are a ton of ways to add something to the workout that makes people grin while still crushing them.  Team WODs once a week are fun and it's a little different to keep everyone interested and excited to train.  The successful gym stirs things up a bit and keeps you guessing what might be on the board next.  We even heard of one gym using "Musical Chairs" during a Warm Up.  And just because it may seem a little off-stream doesn't mean it's not challenging or frivolous.
  • Social - This stuff makes it fun, too.  Some of the most successful gyms have get togethers, cookouts on Saturdays after class [ we saw that CrossFit Gryphon in Cleveland, TN does this - cool!] , fundraisers for local charities, gym anniversary parties and more.  And by social, I don't mean competitions.  Yes, it is fun to compete, but great gyms are offering services beyond heavy lifting.  You can really build a great community by bringing people together in a setting that they can get to know each other in.  It's very rewarding!
These are just a few of the aspects of a great facility.  And being a little different doesn't mean that the owner[s] aren't serious about building great athletes.  Being different for the right reasons build better bodies and better communities.