Sit down at a community dining table or hang out at a BBQ in Boulder and within minutes someone at the table will either be telling you they can’t eat the sugar-filled salad dressing because they’re doing a “Food Challenge” or they better not drink too much (or is it they better drink a lot more) because they have to WOD at 5am.
(WOD = Workout of the Day)
And it’s all thanks to CrossFit.
I know because I started drinking the Kool-Aid myself a few years ago. And after tackling many food challenges and turning down “what have you’s” because I wanted to be fresh for a WOD, I’ve had my fair share of eye rolls too.
I get it. CrossFit people talk about CrossFit a lot. And before I started doing it, I was annoyed too.
But the truth is, I now spend so much time with my CrossFit friends that it still surprises me when I talk to someone who has not at least tried it.
It’s like my husband who has proudly made it to the age of 44 without ever seeing even 10 seconds of the movie Dirty Dancing. I want to shake him and say, “Do you have any idea what you’re missing!”
The same is true with CrossFit. I can’t think of a single reason why you wouldn’t at least give it a try.
Unless of course you have never worked out a day in your life and you absolutely hate the idea of working out and always have.
But if that’s you, you should be reading some other article right now anyway.
My guess is you’re reading this because you’re CrossFit curious. And you’re secretly hoping that what I say here is going to give you the green light to get your butt in a gym and try it out.
That’s my hope too. If this article makes 5 more people walk in a gym tomorrow and say, “I’m ready!” then I have done my job.
But here’s the challenge I face: CrossFit, the experience, is difficult to explain, which is probably why there are so many ugly rumors about it.
Here’s the word on the street about why you shouldn’t do it.
It’s a cult.
It’s really expensive.
It’s only for the hardcore.
It will make you too bulky. (Said with a scrunched up face.)
And my favorite…it’s just like boot camp classes.
CrossFit is none of those things, so let’s just start there.
Next, let’s talk about why you might want to try it out.
Then, once you’re ready to tackle your first WOD, I’ll give you a behind the scenes look at the 7 CrossFit gyms (also called boxes) in Boulder so you can choose the one that’s the best fit for you.
5 (Very Good) Reasons to Try CrossFit
1. It’s Safe. As long as you have the mobility and the equipment, you can walk out your door right now and engage in just about any sport there is – running, cycling, rowing, skiing, soccer, tennis, you get the point.
Every single one of them comes with risks. And most of them are greater than the risks you take when you walk into a CrossFit gym.
Any respectable CrossFit gym will have owners and coaches who have gone through rigorous training to make sure that each athlete in the gym is safe and uses a range of motion and weight that is appropriate to their fitness level and experience.
You cannot just go into a CrossFit box and start throwing around heavy weights like you own the place; however, you could go tearing down a black diamond without anyone caring it was your first run.
There are safeguards in place at every CrossFit gym and if you go to one that’s not concerned with safety first, then leave and go find one that is.
When I asked long time physical therapist Charlie Merrill about his work with athletes and the joke that CrossFitters keep people like him in business he said, “Anything fun and effective has risks. CrossFit has just come up to the same level (of injury creation) as other sports. Running, cycling, tennis, soccer, rock climbing, skiing, etc. create just as many injuries, if not more. I’ve broken my wrist and ribs (2 separate injuries) racing my bike in the last 3 years. I’ve sprained my ankle running and had some nagging foot pains. I tweaked my meniscus in my knee playing indoor soccer. But, I’ve had only a few little aches and pains from doing CrossFit over the same period. I find it to be a very safe environment compared to my other sports.
“Having said that, each athlete has to take responsibility for his or her own experience. Just like you wouldn’t expect to run around on a soccer field all day with a recently torn ACL, you shouldn’t lift a heavy barbell over your head if you haven’t been progressing sufficiently and safely enough to do so.”
When I asked Shane Upchurch, a massage therapist and CrossFit Level 1 Coach, what he recommends for beginner CrossFitters who are trying to stay healthy and injury free, he offered this advice, “Find a gym that believes in technique over intensity. Proper scaling is imperative to long-term success with CrossFit. I’m not a natural athlete, but by listening to my body and being smart about how much weight I try to move, I’ve been able to remain healthy over 7 years of doing CrossFit. Occasionally issues arise because we are pushing our bodies to extremes. But that’s true of any sport we want to excel in.”
So, there you have it. CrossFit is a perfectly safe physical activity and even better, you have complete control over how far you take it.
2. It’s Not a Cult. It’s a Community. The Branch Davidians were a cult. Heaven’s Gate was a cult. CrossFit is a community.
Yes, maybe they share food obsessions or tank top and Lululemon short obsessions in greater degrees than other groups, but other than that, each CrossFit community is filled with people who share a common interest, love lifting each other up, and are inspired to see their friends and fellow athletes achieve goals they never thought they could.
Ask every CrossFit athlete you know what they love most about CrossFit and I bet 9 out of 10 will say “the community” in their first breath. It’s what makes it so much fun. Suffering with good friends day in and day out, and having a lot of fun in the process, is what makes the CrossFit community, locally and globally, so unique.
And, despite what you may have heard, you do not have to sign a contract saying you will not eat sugar or dairy or wheat or any other delicious food that you love as long as you are a member of their gym.
What you eat is your business and you’re a big girl or guy. You can figure out what you want to do with food on your very own. Your gym will probably provide some information about nutrition, but it’s up to you what you do with it.
Having said that, if you try out a gym and it feels like a nasty dasty cult to you, you have landed in the exact wrong gym. Run like you stole something.
3. It’s Affordable. When I first started CrossFit the cost for my monthly membership for unlimited classes was $150. I thought that was crazy. Especially when I could have gone down the street to the fancy-shmancy gym that has pools, yoga, a thousand treadmills, hot tubs, and showers with shampoo pumps there for the taking for a little over a hundred dollars a month.
But all I can say is that CrossFit only seems more expensive until you start doing it.
Once you start going to classes, start meeting new people, and you start seeing gains like you never imagined, you’ll no longer be thinking about the extra $50 a month you have to spend to get it.
It feels like when you try and get your head around how much it’s going to cost to have a kid. It’ll keep you up at night. But then you have the kid and you can’t believe you were actually trying to map out his or her worth on a spreadsheet.
In other words, you can’t possibly understand the value of the monthly bill until you start reaping the rewards.
So, go try it first and then if it’s not worth it to you, quit.
The gym, not the kid.
4. It’s For ALL Levels. The oldest person at my gym is in her 70s. And she kicks ass. The youngest is a teenager and she does too.
In between is everyone else. Big, small, long-time athletes, recently retired couch potatoes.
Nobody cares how many pull ups you can or can’t do. Nobody cares if you walk on the runs or come in first.
All anybody cares about is that you show up and do your best, whatever your best happens to be that day.
One of the greatest parts about CrossFit is that it is inclusive and EVERYTHING can be scaled.
The other thing that makes it accessible to ANY body is that CrossFit addresses 10 physical qualities: cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy. And because “constantly varied” is the battle cry of the CrossFit community, every quality is addressed with equal fervor.
That means that everyone gets to have his or her day to shine. Maybe your cardio is a little weak but you’re really good at gymnastics movements. Or maybe you’ve been running for 20 years and you can crush everyone on the runs but you can barely get the barbell over your head. It doesn’t matter. All of it’s going to be tested and you’ll just do whatever you can do on any given day. Some days will be good. Some not as much.
That’s the beauty of CrossFit.
5. It’s Fast. The first time my husband came home from a CrossFit class he was dripping with sweat and was completely exhausted.
The WOD lasted 4 minutes.
I thought he was full of shit.
We were both long-time endurance junkies so thinking you could get anything from a 4 minute workout was laughable. But it was also kind of intriguing.
We had a young daughter at the time and the days of 4-hour rides and 2-hour runs plus swimming and whatever else we could pack in whenever we wanted were no longer an option.
So, the idea that you could go to a one-hour class and be done for the day was too good to pass up.
The reality is that the programming is so smart that you really can build fitness without having to log hours and hours a day in the gym or on the trail.
Bottom line, if your time is precious, but you also want the best workout of your life, CrossFit was tailor made for you.
But Mostly, You’ll Get Crazy Good Results
The best reason to give it a try – so good that it really deserves its own category – is because the results will blow your mind.
The reason people are flocking to CrossFit gyms all over the world, no matter their age, condition, and athletic history, is because they are getting results. Plain and simple – this shit works.
People who are WODing are getting stronger, faster and healthier. Their posture is improving, they’re getting sick less often, they’re sleeping better, and their moods are better.
And, they look really flippin good. Well, if you like the strong and lean look.
So, if you only remember one thing, let it be this: no matter your goal – strength, endurance, weight loss, fat loss, muscle gain, muscle definition, mobility or the ability to crush your neighbors at any physical event at the next bbq – you can achieve it with CrossFit. And you’ll do it faster than you ever thought possible.
Hopefully now your question is simply this: which CrossFit gym is the best fit for me?
My hope is to give you information about each gym and share with you what makes each one different so that something will pop and you’ll think, “that’s the one for me”.
Before I do that though, I want to put it out there that I go to CrossFit Roots and have for quite a while. My husband goes there as well, as does our 7 year-old daughter for the CF Kids program.
If you had asked me on the street a couple of weeks ago what gym you should try out, I would have said Roots because I happen to love it there and the coaching is phenomenal. But after having interviewed and spoken to all of the different owners and coaches, after having talked to athletes at the other gyms, and having seen some of the other gyms, I know that each one has something unique to offer. And, just like CrossFit is not for everyone, not every gym will work for every athlete either.
My advice is to read up, and then try a few that look interesting to you. I could have written volumes on each, but I wanted to bottom line it for you so you can just pick a few to try and then draw your own conclusions.
Don’t worry, CrossFit gym owners and coaches aren’t going to give you the hard sell. And they won’t convince you to sign up for a year in exchange for a brand new TV. They just want what you want – for you to find a place where you love doing CrossFit.
Boulder CrossFit Gyms
Listed alphabetically, not necessarily by awesomeness.
Location: 2480 49th St. Suite J Boulder, CO 80301
Date opened: October 2012
Owner(s): Gary Berg
Size: 5000 sq ft
Number of coaches: 7
Number of members: 50-75
Classes per week: 35
Special Programs/Classes: Yoga, Olympic lifting, team WODs
What makes them awesome: This gym is all about community. They’re very social – they have a kickball team, they go hiking together, and as the owner Gary Berg says, “We don’t have any fractions or cliques here. The whole gym is the clique. When we hang out together, it’s not just a few of us, it’s 30 or 40 of us.” With this commitment from the coaches and the members to build a strong community also comes a lot of accountability. Members text each other when someone doesn’t come to class, everyone knows what’s going on with the other members, and everyone is invested in every one else’s results.
Bottom line: If you’re friend hunting and are really looking for a group of people who share your interests in health and fitness, and you’d like an equal number of opportunities to take your friendship outside of the gym, this could be the place for you.
How to try them out: They offer a free intro class a couple of times a month. You can register for one here.
Location: 2005 32nd St. Boulder, CO 80301
Date opened: CrossFit part began January 2014
Owner(s): Amal Easton & Eliot Marshall
Size: 4200 sq ft for CrossFit and weightlifting area
Number of coaches: 5
Number of members: 500 (includes CrossFit, Jiu Jitsu, kickboxing, Muay Thai, etc.)
Classes per week: 30
Special Programs/Classes: Olympic lifting, mobility, nutrition seminars
What makes them awesome: Originally this gym was the go to place for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai/kickboxing in Boulder. (Easton Training Centers has 6 locations in Colorado). As such, it already had a very strong and tight knit family oriented community when it began offering CrossFit classes.
Another aspect to their programming that makes them different is instead of offering a separate on-ramp or foundations program like some other gyms, CrossFit ETB offers multiple “Elements” classes each day that are suitable for beginners. This way you don’t have to wait for a new program to start – there’s always a class available to you. And parents will love this – to make it especially attractive to families, they’ve scheduled WODs at the same time as their kids classes; so, you can leave your kid to do a little Muay Thai while you do the WOD.
Bottom line: This gym offers a strong family oriented community and a large variety of classes beyond just the WOD. The coaches are passionate about what they do and they’re committed to showing their members the value of adding CrossFit to their current workout routines.
How to try them out: Contact them to schedule a time to try out an elements class for free. Then make sure you ask about all of the different options for membership because they have many to meet your needs.
Location: 2406 30th St, Boulder, CO 80301
Year opened: 2009
Owner(s): Nicole & Eric Christensen
Size: 10,000 sq ft.
Number of coaches: 10
Number of members: 300+
Classes per week: 110
Special Programs/Classes: Mobility, CrossFit Endurance, CrossFit Kids, CrossFit Teens, Olympic Weightlifting Club, Women’s Only, Competitors
What makes them awesome: There are many things that make Roots great but the coaching staff tops the list. Nicole Christensen, the owner, head coach, and 5 time CrossFit Regional athlete is also a CrossFit HQ Flowmaster who teaches the Level 1 Certificate Course all over the world. She brings all of that experience to her coaching staff and it shows. She holds Coach’s Development classes two times a month where they breakdown movements, watch videos of classes, or host special guest experts who share new and cutting edge information.
Nicole says, “Coaching is above and beyond the most important element to me. Without masterful coaching, and a complete and unwavering commitment to continuous improvement, we wouldn’t be able to provide the safe, predictable, and highly personalized coaching that we do. Everyone on the coaching staff takes their jobs seriously because they know that without great coaching, we’re just a big space with a bunch of equipment and athletes who will never see their potential. That’s not good enough.”
Bottom line: When it comes to number of classes offered, variety of programs, and depth of the coaching staff, you’d be hard-pressed to beat Roots. In addition, the community is super tight, they host great family friendly events, and they foster an atmosphere where everyone can have fun and get what they need during class.
How to try them out: They offer free intro sessions. Get more information and schedule a time here.
Location: 2525 Arapahoe, Boulder CO (across from Zolo Grill)
Date opened: January 2013
Owner(s): Eric & Melissa Roza
Size: 10,000 sq ft.
Number of coaches: 12
Number of members: 300
Classes per week: 70
Special Programs/Classes: Park WODs, Mobility, Strength, Olympic Lifting, CrossFit Endurance, CrossFit Teens, Competitors, Childcare
What makes them awesome: CrossFit Sanitas offers several amenities that the other gyms don’t. More of a posh fitness facility than a typical CrossFit box, it offers massage treatment rooms, fully-equipped locker rooms, showers, a cold plunge pool, and snacks. And maybe the most notable amenity is childcare, a huge selling point for its members.
In addition, their head coach Caleb Diebolt, a 4 time CrossFit Regional athlete and Reebok CrossFit One coach, is in charge of the nutrition and new member programs and is attracting people to the gym in droves.
Bottom line: If you’re used to all-in-one gyms, and you like having more creature comforts at your disposal after a tough workout, this might be a great place for you to start. Everything about this gym is solid, from the facility to the coaching staff, equipment, class schedule, special program options, community, and childcare. It has it all.
How to try them out: First class is free. Find one that fits your schedule and show up.
Location: 3640 Walnut St. Boulder, CO, 80301
Year opened: 2007. A new owner took over in March 2014.
Owner(s): Brian Rosol
Size: 8,000 sq ft.
Number of coaches: 7
Number of members: 100
Classes per week: 30
Special Programs/Classes: Weightlifting, Skills, Competitor, CrossFit Endurance, Yoga
What makes them awesome: This is the oldest CrossFit gym in Boulder but since March of this year, it has come under new ownership. And this owner, Brain Rosol, is bringing some new energy to the place. A member of the gym from the beginning, Brian saw great potential in its athletes and the community and wanted to be a part of growing it in the years to come. “He has a way with athletes and is able to connect with and coach everyone from beginners to elite and highly competitive athletes”, says Flatirons CrossFit general manager and CrossFit Level 1 coach Jenna Poppenhagen.
Another benefit that Flatirons CrossFit offers its members is a full time Olympic weightlifting coach. Randy Hauer has 30 years of experience and many accomplishments to his name. He’s also in the weight room 7 days a week giving tips on technique, coaching athletes on progressions, and encouraging people to push past their perceived limitations.
Bottom line: This is a big space that has managed to keep its numbers down so that everyone gets seen and coached. They have a strong foundation and are a very well established community but they have all of the energy of a new gym. And, if Olympic lifting is of interest to you, they have more than 35 hours a week of open gym time for you to work on your lifts. No other CrossFit gyms offer that.
How to try them out: They host a free intro class every Wednesday night at 6:30pm. Schedule your intro session here. And, if you want to take your fitness outside, and you love beer, check out the Flatirons Beer Run every Tuesday night at 6pm.
Location: 6395 Gunpark Dr. #E, Boulder, CO 80301
Year opened: 2011
Owner(s): Jim Pascucci
Size: 2400 sq ft.
Number of coaches: 3
Number of members: 60
Classes per week: 20-25
Special Programs: CrossFit Endurance, CrossFit in the Park
What makes them awesome: The owner for one. He’s got quite a resume in the health and wellness industry. He’s been a rolfer for 20 years and he’s 1 of 9 people in Colorado who are board certified in structural integration. But he’s also one of the best walking billboards for CrossFit you’ll ever see. Before Jim started CrossFit he weighed 300 pounds! No joke. Today, at the age of 61, he weighs a fraction of that. But even more importantly, he’s stronger, healthier and happier than he’s ever been. And, he brings that energy to all of his classes. He knows this works and he knows that if he can do it, you can do it.
The crowd at Integral CrossFit is a bit on the older side, meaning if you’re a masters athlete, you’ll be in great company. Because of this, his coaches are trained to meet the needs of older athletes and they are careful about making sure all classes are accessible to athletes no matter their level of fitness. Having said that, they have plenty of competitive athletes who come in every day wanting to push the limits too.
Bottom line: If you want a small and welcoming community that are experts at meeting the needs of each individual athlete and you want to make sure you’re moving well no matter your age or level, this is a great place to check out.
How to try them out: There are a few options to get started, including a free intro class each month. Find out more and schedule a time here.
Location: 3200 Valmont Unit 6 & 7 – Boulder, CO 80301
Date opened: December 2012
Owner: Brian Pachtman
Size: 2000 sq ft
Number of coaches: 3
Number of members: 60
Classes per week: 35
Special Programs: Olympic lifting, Fit for Flex, Mobility, Yoga
What makes them awesome: This is a very tight knit community. Not only does everyone know each other’s names, but they know each others dog’s names too. It has a neighborhood feel and the owner and head coach Brian Pachtman is very present. He’s committed to making sure his athletes are safe and that they get personalized coaching during each class. The other selling point is all of their coaches are certified in Olympic lifting, which means you’ll get the instruction you need with a strong emphasis on technique and form. Their goal is to make sure every level athlete from elite to just starting out gets the coaching they need to get the results they want.
Bottom line: If you want to join a small group of athletes who are committed to similar goals, you want to get coached by people who put your safety first, and you don’t want to get lost in a crowd, this might be the perfect gym for you.
How to try them out: They have a free class every Saturday at noon. Sign up or just show up.
So, there you have it. Now you can pick your place and get that first WOD under your belt. You can thank me later.