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Is CrossFit Worth the Cost?

By Savi | In Blog | on January 28, 2015

Welcome to 2015! As with every new year, everyone makes a bunch of resolutions, which usually include getting into shape (no…round is NOT a shape!).

As we finish up the month, the influx of new people and the ones that were a little late on getting started are probably wondering if CrossFit’s cost is really worth it?

To make an informed decision, first you need to realize what it is you’re comparing CrossFit to – The “Globo” or commercial gym (which I refer to as a regular gym occasionally).

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Most commercial gyms use the pre-enrollment membership model…members sign a contract and are locked-in to a one-year commitment plus enrollment fees. This allows the gym to generate a predictable and recurring passive income. Also, it allows them to offer a much lower rate, thereby increasing their membership numbers.

The pricing and overall atmosphere is designed to appeal to casual gym go-ers and rely on the fact that most of them won’t even show up. These 2 things, low cost and appeal to a demographic that will rarely show up are the core of how these types of gyms profit. The casual members subsidize the fees of those that actually do come in.

CrossFit affiliates, do not require yearly contracts and primarily rely on people who have a desire of getting stronger or faster, but might also be looking to get into competitions, so their attendance levels are generally higher than average. Additionally, a majority of new members are those that might have found little to no results working out on their own and are looking for something that isn’t as expensive as a personal trainer…in other words, they’re probably working out atleast 3 times a week.

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CrossFit workouts are structured and designed to be performed in groups, sometimes with complex movements that could cause injury if done incorrectly. A dedicated staff of instructors is required to lead and monitor each session. These instructors or “Coaches” provide training, feedback and support.

Because these workouts are done in groups, the classes sizes are limited by space and equipment availability. In a regular gym, everyone can take turns if they want access to a particular machine and can work on other body parts while waiting. In a CrossFit class, everyone is doing the same thing for the most part so everyone needs to be able to access a barbell+kettlebell+abmat etc etc for each WOD simultaneously.

The equipment and facilities of a commercial gym are designed to be very user friendly. When you walk into a one, you’ll notice that it’s packed with treadmills, cardio equipment and nautilus-style machines…low-skill equipment that can used with relative ease. These machines take up a much smaller footprint and allow for more people packed in per square foot.

They may also have other amenities such as showers, a pool and childcare. Again, all designed for the casual gym go-er who isn’t going to spend more than 3 hours a week working out.

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When you walk into a CrossFit affiliate, you’ll notice that it is usually a very barebones, no frills facility…no mirrors or TVs. And other than the rowers, there are virtually no machines. This appeals to a smaller niche of competitors and other more serious athletes who are there for an intense workout and not a leisurely jog on the treadmill while watching ESPN.

Most of the workouts or WODs, as they call them, utilize Olympic lifts, power lifting and gymnastic movements as their base. Their equipment consists of barbells, bumper plates, climbing ropes, pull-up racks and other equipment that you just won’t find in a traditional gym.

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The very nature of these workouts require a lot more space per person (try doing overhead lunges across the globo-gym and see how quickly you get booted out!). A CrossFit gym that can comfortably accommodate a class of 10 might be equivalent to a regular gym that easily accommodate 20 members concurrently. Crossfitters will, for the most part, use every bit of floorspace available and as a result, most affiliates will have a hard limit on class size.

At a commercial gym, any additional programming or training is an extra fee. The membership fees only cover the cost of access to the facilities and equipment. The additional cost of a trainer plus your gym dues would make most CrossFit memberships seem like pocket change. Some of them also offer organized aerobics or spin classes, but for the most part, it’s an extra charge on top of your monthly dues.

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CrossFit affiliates usually have custom programming that is created by one of the coaches in-house and varies from each affiliate based on their goals. A lot of people don’t realize this, but you can’t just slap together a bunch of exercises and call it a day. It takes careful planning to achieve balance in all of the workouts programmed for the day.

New members are treated with extra attention because workouts need to be scaled or modified to accommodate all fitness levels. At a regular gym, there is no one to guide you except that guy that’s there every day trying to make “gainz” or your buddy who’s schedule is so unpredictable, you might as well just do your own thing.

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Speaking of which, for the most part, everyone that goes to a commercial gym is there to do their own thing. People have their own goals and schedules and follow programming (if any) that they found online or making up as they go along. There is very little interaction (unless your buddy finally gets his act together that day).

Some commercial gyms may offer socials in the form of free bagels and pizza, which might offer a bit more interaction, but is usually a bunch of people grabbing dinner on their way out the door. There’s also some interaction in the organized classes, but usually it’s 45-60 mins of synchronized movements and you aren’t stopping to chit chat with your neighbor. This may be better than what you’re currently doing (strolling on the elliptical machine by yourself with only your ipod to keep you company).

In other words, there is absolutely nothing keeping you accountable for your attendance other than your own discipline, or lack there of when you workout on your own.

In a CrossFit affiliate, the thing that keeps many of their members returning is no doubt the community that’s built by their athletes. Participants interact with each other directly throughout large portions of the class and most affiliates (disregarding the HUGE Boxes in bigger cities) have relatively small and intimate class sizes.

CrossFit athletes are competitive with one another but supportive at the same time…pushing each other to go a little bit harder either directly or indirectly.

The social aspect keeps everyone accountable for showing up, eating healthier and inspiring one another. You don’t know how many times where I’ve ran into someone who has been absent for a while and just seeing the person and talking about what we’ve been doing has been enough to bring them back in.

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The higher cost of CrossFit really boils down to the membership model utilized, space and equipment constraints, and the coaches needed to instruct and monitor. With that said, here are my key points on what makes it worth the cost…

  1. No yearly contract, means you can quit with no penalties if it isn’t working out.
  2. A dedicated staff of instructors that will guide you and answer any questions you have about your workout and progress.
  3. You’re working out alongside other athletes who have similar goals and that you can compare progress with.
  4. Customized programming by experienced coaches.
  5. The social aspect…keeps you accountable, inspired and having fun!

The cost is something that is really a personal decision. It depends on where your priorities are as well as your budget. For some people, who can do the research needed to create programs for themselves and keep their motivation to reach their fitness goals, most traditional gyms are fine and as a matter of fact, I will occasionally hit a regular gym…but only because of CrossFit, did I learn to workout properly.

One final note that I’d like to point out is that CrossFit is not really something you can do casually! It’s expensive and if you aren’t going to show up atleast 3 times a week, you may be better off at a regular gym.

If you love the idea of working hard alongside a group of like minded individuals while you have a knowledgeable trainer keeping you on track, then you may find that in the end, the cost really isn’t too bad and in some cases, you’ll find a lot of value in it!

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