When I first started tinkering around with CrossFit workouts around 2005-2006 in my garage, President George W. Bush had just been elected to a second term. The social network of choice was Myspace. This is what most cell phones looked like. Miley Cyrus was still an innocent Hannah Montana. In fact, while I was getting acquainted with "Fran" out back of my house, many of the people currently opening CrossFit boxes and drinking the kool-aid were square in the middle of puberty. There were zero CF gyms in Corpus Christi, and only a handful across Texas. To give some perspective, my friend Grace Patenaude opened Atomic CrossFit in Houston in June 2008. She was the 4th to open in Houston and surrounding areas. As of Oct 2013, there were 136 CrossFit gyms in the Greater Houston area.
So you could say I've been doing CrossFit a lot longer than most. I've seen a lot of things change over that time. There's been an explosion of popularity. It's been very interesting to watch it go from a completely unheard-of underground movement, to mainstream. It puts me in a unique position, having seen the early days, and then the transformation.
There are now gyms everywhere. Some might say there are too many, but that remains to be seen. Here's one way to think of it. You can go to a McDonald's restaurant in any town, and you know the Big Mac is gonna taste exactly the same. The menu will be the same. In fact every aspect of the operation is tightly controlled, down to the temperature they cook the fries. (God forbid you're actually eating this stuff!) A McDonald's owner is not free to do as they please. There is a template in place with specific procedures. They don't innovate.
CrossFit is not like McDonald's. It's NOT a franchise. All that is technically needed to open a CrossFit affiliate is money or a line of credit. And while more of it makes your gym appear nice with shiny new equipment, you can't buy competence, and you can't fake passion. There is no corporate control, no directives from above on what to do or how to do it. No one tells you what exercises to include in workouts, how to arrange the gym or how to run your business. You can do just about anything you want to do, whether it's absolutely dead wrong, or whether it's a stroke of genius. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of support available from other affiliates who run quality operations, there's a great community of people, lots of resources provided by HQ to help new people get pointed in the right direction. BUT ultimately you as the owner of your box are perfectly free to louse it up and and hurt people, create poor programming, overcharge people, make dishonest claims, be careless, complacent, lazy, deliver sub-par coaching etc...etc...
Personally I love the freedom to run my business as I see fit. It's one of the things I love most about being a CF box owner. I don't like being told what to do. But there's a catch. In a free market, the consumer has a serious responsibility. The system can only work as it should if people punish mediocrity by not supporting it. That's where you come in.
You the consumer must vote with your feet and not go to a sub-par gym. You need to recognize the mediocrity. The free market should naturally eliminate the incompentent and the weak. In an ideal world that's how it's supposed to go down.
Unfortunately I don't think it always does.
Until a person has been exposed to a quality gym, good coaching, best practices, and passionate individuals who embody the spirit of CrossFit, they may just not know better. Sometimes people need to see the really good before they can identify what bad is. Even then, I think people often put up with incompetence simply because it's easier, their friends train there and because change takes courage. That's a shame.
As CrossFit continues to burgeon in popularity, the consumer must be vigilant and do their own research. Don't be lazy and misinformed, or you could be the victim of poor coaching or bad programming. At best you will not make very good progress, and at worst you could get hurt. You should question everything. Don't make the mistake of just choosing the box that's closest to you out of convenience. It may be great, and it may not. Maybe that slightly longer drive to another affiliate could be so radically worth it that you'd kick yourself for not doing it sooner. Look around, ask questions, it's an important decision. If you really intend to give this CrossFit thing a go, do it right. Don't settle. Don't just go to the one your facebook friends told you about. Don't confuse excitement with passion. Don't underestimate the importance of the decision. This choice can profoundly impact your life, potentially as much or more than any other decision you make. Be thorough!