When starting at a CrossFit gym, there are two different ways a gym will typically get you “up to speed” as far as movements and workouts go. Generally, the onboarding falls into two camps:
- Series of personal training sessions up front or “Onramp”
- Free trial then straight to group class
In an Onramp, you’re required to fulfill a certain number of personal training sessions (or introductory classes) covering all the CrossFit movements and gym rules, before you can participate in a group class.
With the free trial to group class model, you’re allowed to try a class for free (maybe even a week depending on the gym), then if you sign up for a membership, you can join group classes right there and then.
Our approach to bringing on new members at CrossFit Lobo is a bit of a hybrid approach.
History of Trial and Error
Over the years we’ve tried different things. For years, we did a 1-on-1 intro class for incoming members with minimal CrossFit experience, where we’d go through the major movements in a class. However, even after completing an intro class, we felt like the sense of community and camaraderie was missing from people’s initial session with us. Sure, we taught them movements, but we didn’t show them the experience of being in a class with other people. The group experience can make or break a person’s desire to return day after day. Having people master the technical elements is not always enough to ensure a smooth transition into a group setting. People will still wonder, will I fit in? Are the coaches helpful? Will I like the vibe?
So instead of a one-on-one session, we started to program different workouts altogether for beginners (and potential members) to do during class. We had two tracks for people to follow, “Progress” and “Perform.” Our “Progress” workouts were generally higher reps, lower weights, and dumbbell-centric. The objective was to get people a great workout, feeling accomplished, while safely working on the mechanics of movements. The idea made sense in theory and certainly met its objective, but the trouble we found was that our coaches were taking too much time going over two separate workouts. This doubled the time they took to explain workouts and demonstrations and reduced the time people spent moving.
What we ultimately decided on was not lessons up front or separate workouts altogether. We decided to get people into group classes from day one, having individual coaches come up with the required scaling or modifications to help individuals achieve the same stimulus. A personalized initial session was our bridge. We’ll explain more in a minute.
Without Onramp, how do I get to learn CrossFit?
We can’t speak to all gyms that don’t offer an Onramp, but we can speak to ours.
Even without the Onramp, we find that our classes are the right level of varied athletic background that ensures the coach personalizes the experience for each member, every single class.
Because the stakes are higher and the challenge greater when you’re teaching a new member basic snatch mechanics and helping a veteran member sync her catch with her landing better, our coaches must be present, creative, and on-the-spot when it comes to coaching all members in class. The dynamic of new and veteran members doesn’t stifle them, it challenges them.
Coaches cannot rest on the assumption that everyone in class is “up to speed.” Because of that, they take the time to cover fundamentals and points of performance with the whole class, which serves as a great lesson for new members and great reminders for veteran members. This is how you will learn about all the CrossFit movements we do in class – because we do teach them. Thoroughly!
Some may argue that it’s not our coaches’ job to teach people movements from scratch, and that it takes away their ability to coach everyone adequately in class.
From our experience, we disagree.
Can we see the merit in getting everyone up to a certain standard of movement before entering a group environment? Yes.
Can we see that a coach is able to touch more members if all class members know what they’re doing? Sure.
However, it’d be false if we said we weren’t able to touch all class members and provide them with valuable coaching every day. We can attempt to correlate a lack of Onramp to a poor class experience, but it’s not that black and white.
What’s expected of coaches to help members of all backgrounds?
Our coaches are expected to take the workout of the day and prescribe it best to each member in class – from inexperienced to veteran members and everyone in between. Not having an Onramp ensures our coaches touch all members in a systematic way and provide effective scaling or modification options, quickly and as needed.
For example – for someone on his/her first day ever doing CrossFit, maybe working on his/her one rep max for power jerk makes no sense because of the load and technical proficiency required. So instead, we would have the member work up to 5 x 5 lighter power jerks or push presses, depending on what we’re able to help that person achieve that day. The coach would continue to provide corrections and feedback throughout the rest of the session, helping the member continue to achieve intensity in the workout.
Our goal everyday for our members is to keep them moving, pushing their comfort zones, and feeling like they accomplished something. We ask ourselves if we’ve been able to help people achieve that goal, and if the answer is “yes,” then we know we’ve done our jobs!
Hybrid solution for free trial
So let’s return to the hybrid approach we mentioned earlier.
One of the biggest barriers for people in starting at a new CrossFit gym isn’t technical expertise – it’s nerves. People say, “I’ll start when I get in shape,” but they more often than not drag their feet before stepping inside a gym because they don’t want to be intimidated. And we get it! Even when dropping into gyms when traveling out of town as people who have been part of a gym for years, we have some nerves ourselves, so we know how intimidating CrossFit or a new gym can be.
That’s why for people who are interested in our gym, we don’t throw them into a free trial and wish them well. We conduct our free trials within a class, with the coach leading the entire class; however, the difference is that our free trials are still supervised by another coach in a 1-on-1 format.
Your free trial is a 1-on-1 session embedded in a group class. During the free trial, your assigned coach for the free trial will be there with you every step of the way. S/he will:
- Meet you before class
- Give you a tour
- Be your “guide” during class
- Scale or modify movements just for you
- Get to know you
- Most importantly, make sure you have a great time
It’s not that the main coach cannot provide these things for you. It’s that s/he cannot provide this to the degree that you need to guarantee you have a great first session. The first day can be overwhelming, with a new environment, new people, and new style of workouts! Your assigned coach is there to get you through your first session with no issues.
The first day is often the most nerve-wracking, and it’s for that reason we have a coach take care of you throughout your first class so you never even for a second feel “left hanging.”
There you have it! Our approach to onboarding new members at CrossFit Lobo.