Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Opening a CrossFit Gym? Chapter 2, Equipment Considerations

Ok, now you have a location for your gym.  The lease is signed, and you are prepping the area for your needs.  Construction, cleaning and arranging the space will take more time than you think!  Then, you need to fill it with equipment.  You have an idea of equipment needs from your experience in other gyms, and know what your training style is going to be.

We at Hammerhead Strength Equipment have had hundreds of discussions with new and established gym owners about equipment, especially when starting up a gym.  There are so many options and considerations when outfitting your gym.  There is no one size fits all equipment package for every startup gym.  How could there be?  The layout and size of the space from one gym to the next will different, as an example.  We have a few comments about equipment purchasing for your consideration.  We will take it a few pieces at a time.

Pull Up Rig-
The rig is typically the centerpiece of any CrossFit / Functional Fitness gym.  When you walk in, the pull up rig is typically the first thing you see.  Pull ups are one of the most programmed exercises in CrossFit.  So, what are the options?  Basically, there is the free standing rig and the wall mounted rig.  Free standing rigs can are very popular, and can make a statement.  They are actually a little less expensive, as there is less steel per post, as two posts will share a cross member.  The down side is that they tend to take up valuable floor space, as you need enough room on each side of the rig for squats, burpees, ect.  Wall mounted rigs tend to take up less space, but for the same amount of squat
 stands, will be a little more expensive.  (typically, every two posts yields one squat station with barbell hooks).  Nine out of 10 times, the style of rig is dictated by the layout of the gym.  Wall space vs floor space becomes the determining factor.  Also to consider is how many squat stations do you want?  Do you want single bars?  Dual Offset Bars?  Muscle up stations?  Other accessories?    This can be a lot to think about.

Barbells and Bumpers-
There are literally tons of options.  Bumpers are typically virgin / hi density rubber, recycled rubber, or competition style.  Hi density bumpers tend to bounce less, and be a little thinner than recycled rubber.  Competition bumpers have large steel inserts, and tend to be thin, more like a steel plate (and typically more expensive).  All have the same general diameter, and can be used together on a standard Olympic barbell.  Once you have selected a style, how much do you get?  We recommend about 160lb to 180lb per athlete per class.  This seems to be a pretty good rule of thumb, as the makeup of athletes will vary from class to class.  One day you may only use a fraction of your weights (like when strict pressing) or use a majority of your weight (on heavy dead lift day).  We would rather see you order more weight when your gym grows, than see stacks of bumpers getting dust on them. 
Barbells have similar considerations.  They range in price from under $100, to thousands of dollars.  Do some research and find a good club / performance bar.  You can get bearings, bushings, combos, and different price points in each of the configurations.  Simply buying a pile of cheap bars may not be the best option if you need to replace them within a year.  A good mix of low cost bars and a few performance bars is one option.  Beginners will not notice the difference in bar quality as readily as will an experienced Olympic lifter.  Also, think about the makeup of women's, men's and technique bars.  What is your class makeup?  Men, women, beginners, experienced CrossFitters?  You will take a guess, but not really know until you open the doors and start classes.

Kettlebells and Dumbbells-
Kettlebells and dumbbells are similar in that you can buy multiple numbers of multiple weights.  We know that CrossFit Rx for men, as an example, is typically 55lb or 70lb.  Many athletes have a hard time jumping from 55lb to 70lb.  Many have problems with 55lb (that is a lot of weight!).  You need to have enough sizes, and multiples of each size, to accommodate your classes.  This is again where you need to think about your class makeup (men, women, fire breathers).  Also, for many exercises kettlebells and dumbbells are interchangeable (think snatches, cleans) if you happen to run short during a class (be creative, experienced Crossfitters are flexible).

Plyoboxes have come a long way.  The standard is the 20x24x30 wood box.  And that is what you find in most gyms.  But, now there are alternatives.  A 12' stackable box (which adds 4" per 16x20x24 box are great alternatives.  Many times when 30" is programmed in a WOD, it get scaled to 24 anyways.  The 12" and 16" options are great for beginners, or those who just are developing confidence to get up on the box.

Acessory Equipment-
We would put anything that is necessary, but not used on a daily basis.  Jump ropes, abmats, climbing ropes, battle ropes, sleds, ect.  All of this equipment is necessary, as they are staples for fitness.  Buy quality equipment, and with it's limited use, it should last for years.

One trick for Jump ropes.  Buy multiple ropes and color code the handles to three common lengths.  Do not let your athletes tie the cable in knots to shorten them.  It will ruin the cable.  Encourage your athletes to buy and bring their own rope.  It is a small investment to have a properly fitted rope.  Or, give them a rope when they join the gym!  Small investment to keep your customers returning!

Single Use Equipment-
There are pieces of equipment that are great for conditioning.  GHD and rowers come to mind.  But, they are an expensive, single use piece of equipment.  You should consider starting with one or two for private training clients, rehab, and for your personal use.  But to buy enough pieces for a class of 10 is very expensive.  Purchase them over time.  Joe Celso from Crossfit Rochester has been accumulating GHDs and rowers for 10 years, and now has enough for his classes, and his competitions.  

As always, we are happy to talk about any equipment purchases that you may be contemplating.  The content above also applies to garage gyms.

Feel free to contact us any time.



Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Opening a CrossFit Box? Chapter 1 - Location, Location, Location

In real estate, the top three considerations are Location, Location, Location.  It is one of the most important, and personal business decisions that you can make.  The location can make or break a Crossfit Box or functional fitness gym.

First off, do you want to be downtown, in a suburb, or in a more rural area?  Let's take a look at each of these areas for a minute.

Downtown:  Especially in larger metro areas, the downtown location will have a higher population density.  Of course, having more people in an area it is more likely that there will be CrossFit or Functional Fitness enthusiast.  A few percentage of 100k is a lot bigger draw than a few percentage of 10k population.  That is great for growing client base!  but, there could be a couple of down sides.  Suitable locations tend to be harder to find, and typically will be more dollars / square foot.  (not always true).  And, unless you and your clients live near, parking can be challenging.

A more rural location is appealing to many people.  Rent may be lower (although not always easy to find),  There can be more opportunities for working outside, with trails or bigger outdoor areas.  Drawing a crowd from a large, less populated area may be more challenging.  But, the athletes that you find (or find you) will probably be very committed and loyal to your box.

Suburbs:  A quick pole of our customers results in most of the boxes are in the "suburb" area.  They are a nice compromise between the two.   Of course, find a good location with plenty of foot traffic.  Empty store fronts can offer great compromise of ease of access and the short commute for your clients.  Mike Tenerelli of CrossFit Alphadog in Lombard, IL quoted "Location is key, a spot with good visible access on a busy road was important to me, I live in the suburbs so the gym's location is in the suburbs".

In all of these locations, you have to think about your clients.  Are you going to draw from offices, military, university, schools?  Typical gym makeup is a range of all of these groups.  And it is important that CrossFit can be expensive.  Will the area support a premiere training facility?  Remember to market to all of these groups, but don't forget about younger kids and high school athletes.

How close is the next gym?  You will be competing with other CrossFit, Functional Fitness and Globo Gyms.  The density of CrossFit Gyms in an area is an important factor.  Well developed area like Rochester NY have 15 affiliates, and another 15 not affiliated training centers.  Remember, only a small percentage of people who say they work out will do CrossFit.  As competition increases, it is even more necessary for you to keep your training level and facility top notch (not that you need to be told that).  The first box most people will go to is the closest.  Then they will shop around if they don't like the training or the facility.  It is a lot of money to go somewhere you don' like! 

What are the businesses are your neighbors?  Especially if you have joining wall, what do your neighbors do?  We have heard many stories that go like this:  A box owner finds a great location; they order equipment from Hammerhead; the client base grows, and the noise of barbells and kettle bells, and music grows.  Now, the neighbor who has an accounting company on one side and the day care on the other are upset, and the land lords try to come up with solutions.  Mostly, how can you do this quieter?  You can turn down the music, but 20 people lifting heavy objects or jumping on boxes can get noisy.  It is always best to be in first, be a good neighbor, but let them know what what to expect from your box.

One last discussion point would be expansion and modification of the building.  When you lease, most land lords will offer a "build out".  Need bathrooms, office space, move a wall, ect to make your location work for you.  But, be aware of growth in the future.  Growth is a great thing, but we have seen gyms outgrow their space too quickly.  After 6 months they are going though the lease process again, and moving just down the road.

Lastly, to recap what Mike Tenerelli said above, make sure you are in the location you want.  Figure out what is important to you, and find that location.  You will be spending a lot of time there!


Hammerhead Strength equipment