Returning to the Gym: Changes CrossFit Athletes Should Expect

It’s time to mentally prepare that your beloved gym isn’t going to look the same as before.

People wandering the streets in masks.

Folks crossing the street when they see another human approaching.

Waving to a friend from two meters away instead of embracing them with a hug.

These are, of course, all things we would have found weird two months ago, but have grown oddly accustomed to the consequences of a worldwide pandemic.

The same will be true when your CrossFit gym opens: Unfamiliarity will be everywhere. And I’m not just talking about coaches wearing masks, readily available sanitation stations for each client, and gym floors being broken into workout stations that satisfy social distancing norms.

Speaking with dozens of CrossFit gym owners, both at unopened gyms and ones who have yet to open, it has become apparent that changes are going to run deeper than just temporary measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

Here’s what they’re saying:

1. Expect to Pay More

Whether it happens the moment you get back to the gym, or when your contract expires in three months, clients need to be prepared to pay more. A quick reach out to affiliate owners and I found a couple dozen gyms planning on increasing their rates.

The grim reality is most CrossFit gyms weren’t churning a big profit prior to the pandemic, and operational costs are only going to increase once they reopen their doors.

For one, smaller class sizes will become the norm. On the business end, this might mean having to increase the number of classes affiliates must offer to accommodate their clientele. This, of course, means increased payroll costs, as most gyms pay their coaches by the hour.

Other gyms owners said they are planning to continue to offer an online, at home training program in conjunction with small in-person group classes, which again, is additional work for the coaches or owner.

Further, increased costs from paying for an increase in cleaning services and additional cleaning supplies, for example, will leave many gyms with no choice but to increase their rates, or close for good.

2. Expect More Individualized Training Programs

Many CrossFit gym owners said they’re going to re-open for personal training only first, as a way to test the new normal. Others told me they’re considering abandoning the group class all together in favor of a customized, individual program design model.

Once again, these higher level, individualized services, will likely mean an increase in monthly dues.

3. Continue to Embrace Online Training

Though gyms are opening, or are soon opening, many affiliates intend to continue with at-home programming and Zoom classes even after they open. Some say their clients are loving them so much, they’ll continue to offer some variation of virtual programming and coaching even once the pandemic is totally gone.

Another option is to limit the number of times each client can come to the gym per week in order to control the capacity and ensure everyone gets the chance to do some in-person workouts. A consequence of this is a continued need to offer remote coaching in conjunction to more limited in-person services.

4. You Likely Won’t Feel as Fit as You Were

CrossFit Competition

On the client end, if you have largely been training unloaded—i.e. without a barbell or dumbbells or any other kind of weight—for two months, you will likely feel weaker and less able to handle loaded high intensity workouts when you first get back to the gym.

One great way to prepare for this shock to the system, so to speak, is through controlled intensity workouts, such as every minute on the minute pieces. These will prevent you from going out too hard and redlining and feeling nauseous for an hour after your workout.

For example, let’s say you’re expected to do 100 wall balls for time, consider breaking this into an every minute on the minute workout, where you do 10, 12, or 15 wall ball shots every minute on the minute until you have completed 100.

Bottom line: For the sake of your nervous system and recovery, use the first two weeks to ease yourself back in and start out more conservative than you think you need to be.

If you’re still at home waiting for your gym to open, a great way to prepare your body now for heavier loads and more explosive moments at the gym is to add some body weight speed and explosive power drills at home.

Here are two resources that provide tips on just how to do this:

7 Ways to Prepare Your Body (and Your Nervous System) to Lift Heavy Again

How to Develop Explosive Power Without a Barbell

Pro Tip: Be Open-Minded

It’s human nature to fear change. And while the thought of coaches wearing masks does seem hard to swallow, and is hopefully just a temporary measure until the virus is more under control, other changes might actually bring about positive results (in my opinion) in the long-term.

For example, instead of mourning the fact that your fun, social, competitive class of 25-people won’t be happening any time soon, or maybe ever again, be open-minded that there might be a better way to train than in a giant group with one coach and 25 athletes.

Another potential consequence: Many gyms will close (lots already have) for good, and many coaches from these gyms are likely to leave the industry, especially the ones who were coaching for fun as a part-time job. My prediction is the industry will, across the board, end up weeding out many who were going through the motions, and the level of coaching as a whole will increase.

Embrace the old cliche when one door closes, another door opens. Never does this ring more true than the fitness industry today: The demise of old traditions might just give rise to a more effective training system for the coach and the client.

At the very least, it’s safe to say gyms are about to get a whole lot cleaner.

Featured image: Emily Beers

Emily Beers

Emily Beers

Emily Beers is a freelance health, fitness and nutrition writer. She has also been coaching fitness at MadLab School of Fitness in Vancouver, B.C. since 2009. A former college basketball player and rower, Emily became heavily involved in CrossFit after finishing her Masters degree in journalism at the University of Western Ontario. She competed at the 2014 CrossFit Games and also worked with CrossFit Inc.’s media team for 8 years. You can also find her work at Precision Nutrition, the Whole Life Challenge, OPEX, and a host of other fitness and nutrition companies and media outlets.

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