What’s the difference between going to a CrossFit box to train versus going to one of the big “globo” gyms? Mychael over at Elite Functional Fitness brought up the question back in July 2015 and it’s a good one. (You can see his original post here.)
First, let’s define the two terms we’re using here.
We use the term “Globo Gym” to describe any of the big workout facilities like 24-Hour Fitness and Gold’s Gym. I’d never heard the term used until joining CrossFit but the term even has its own page at the Urban Dictionary now, which is hilarious.
Though Mychael has worked as a trainer at some of these places, my only exposure has been as a consumer. I tried out 24-Hour Fitness years and years ago and have since briefly held memberships at Villasport and the YMCA. Inevitably I go with great intentions for a week or two and then simply stop. Working with a trainer was the exception, not the norm, and usually I was left to my own devices with all the machinery and free weights. With no accountability or community, the “new gym smell” wears off pretty quickly and even the best intentions go the way of the dodo.
We use the term “CrossFit box” to describe any of the thousands of CrossFit affiliates around the world (check out the map at CrossFit.com if you think I’m kidding). The best description I’ve seen (included with many other CrossFit terms) is over at Greatist. They define a box as:
“A box is a barebones gym to some, but heaven to a CrossFitter. While many CrossFitters train on their own from home or non-CrossFit gyms, ‘boxes’ have all the equipment necessary for the range of WODs (more on those below) without the bells, whistles, and bicep curl bars of a ‘chrome-and-tone’ gym.”
Next, let’s look at the two major ways that these two approaches to fitness differ. Mychael divides those ways into “members” and “coaches/trainers.”
Anybody who has gone to try a CrossFit gym will tell you that the people make all the difference. Every time I’ve gone to a new box I’ve been welcomed by coaches and quickly approached by other members eager to say hello. The odds that you find that same level of friendliness at a Globo Gym are pretty slim in my experience. And that level of interaction goes much further than just being greeted at the door. Working out as part of a class is a much different experience. Working with others and a coach, everyone is encouraging and will cheer you on whether or not you finish first or last and no matter how scaled you do the movements. You’ll also get feedback from both coaches and members to help you get better with everything from breathing to positioning to trying new things.
At a Globo Gym, you might work out with others in the room with you but everyone typically is tuned into their headphones. Most folks are in their own little worlds, just going through the motions.
As for the coaches, apparently you can get a “personal training certificate” pretty quickly to become a personal trainer at a Globo Gym. Not so at your CrossFit box. Coaches go through rigorous training, both with book-smarts and people-smarts, to get their level 1 certification. And it only gets harder from there. I’m sure there are trainers who go above and beyond in the other environment, but I think the level of knowledge is much greater at your local CrossFit box in most cases.
Most coaches I’ve encountered have their own realms of expertise, but are always looking for ways to improve and help their members thrive. Sometimes it’s about improving mobility. Sometimes it’s about nutrition and smarter use of supplements to help your overall physical health. Sometimes it’s about mechanics of particular movements. And they can also help you recover from injuries. I’m never afraid to ask questions of my trainers. And if my trainer or coach doesn’t know the answer, they’ll do research and get back to me or have me talk to other folks who have more experience in a particular area of focus.
In the other environment I was hard pressed to find a coach, let alone be comfortable enough to ask a question.
Be sure to read Mychael’s original post, but I have to say I’m a convert to the CrossFit way of doing things. If you’d told me a decade ago that I would be a gym rat at a CrossFit box I would have laughed in your face. Now, I look forward to working and learning and getting better every day. Can’t say that about any Globo Gym I ever paid to attend. 🙂
Check out Mychael’s original post because he covers a few things differently than I did, but we have the same conclusion. CrossFit is designed better to educate both its members and its coaches.