The Art of “Dropping In”

buc drop in2Buck Richards is an airline pilot for Southwest Airlines and has become an expert at “dropping in” at CrossFit gyms.  Here is his advice on how to do it and what to expect. Great advice from veteran Crossfitter and traveler. 

I travel a lot.  Really, a lot.  An average month for me includes 9 hotels and 12-13 days on the road.  As I’ve gotten more serious about CrossFit (notice I didn’t say “better”, I said “serious”) I’ve realized I can’t take that many days off of lifting so I’ve made it a mission of mine to find other CrossFit boxes to drop in to maximize my training time away from home.

Dropping in at a “foreign” box is a blast, but there’s a couple of hurdles to clear and a few things you need to know if you haven’t worked out anywhere else but Fury. If you’re away on business or even on vacation, you can use this as your guide to getting in a great workout away from home.

Finding a Box: My method is pretty simple.  I use BOTH Google and Bing to find my location and then search for a crossfit gym.  Surprisingly they will give different results and I’ve usually found Bing to be more current, which is important when you consider how fast CrossFit is growing.  First type in your current location, then scroll out to a manageable travel distance then just search “CrossFit” or “CrossFit Near” and you should get some responses.  From there, you should hopefully have a box within traveling distance and you should be able to select their homepage.  From the homepage you can get their schedule and contact information.buc drop in1

I usually also check the homepage for some clues about the box.  If it has a small number of trainers, a limited number and breadth of classes, it’s probably a pretty new box.  If it has trainers who are games vets, and a wide breadth of classes (like Fury’s Basics/Prep/Crossfit/Student Athlete/Masters/Yoga classes) then it’s probably a very established and very competent box.  Regardless, I typically pick the box with the most convenient time that’s close enough to get to.  But I like to know what to expect when I get there.

Contact the Box:  Fury is the only CrossFit gym in the world that answers the phone.  If you call another box, be prepared to leave a message and hope for a callback.  You can generally have better luck with an e-mail.  I generally just like to let them know that I’m not a first timer, that I’ve been crossfitting for a period of time and they won’t have to babysit me.  If you have made it through the Fury Basic/Prep system, you have what it takes to workout at any box I’ve been to.  I’ll make a good faith effort to contact them before I show, but if I don’t get a response or I’m just out of time, I’ll usually just show up >15 minutes early for a class and ask.  I’ve never been turned away.  They will almost always have you fill out a registration and waiver.  Drop in fees vary from free to $25, with most somewhere in between.  I normally offer to buy a shirt instead of the drop in fee.

Getting to the Box:  If you don’t have a car, I usually just run.  In a big city Google Maps has fantastic public transportation directions.  I don’t like running much more than 2 miles there because the run back can be painful.  A friend told me he’s had good luck bumming a ride home from other crossfitters but I’ve never tried that.

Each Box is Similar Yet Different:  The first thing you need to know is how they do the warmup.  A lot of boxes will have the warmup on the whiteboard and you’re expected to do it yourself (sometimes called a “buy-in”), then the trainers will call everyone together later.  Fury’s method of a closely lead/monitored warmup is probably the exception so it’s worth asking about the warmup because I’ve seen it done several different ways.

Some boxes, especially if they’re newer and still building a clientele, teach at a level more comparable to a Fury Prep class.  Lots of instruction on lifting fundamental movements.  Still a great place to workout, just be prepared to spend a lot of time with the bar at mid-shin working on getting organized.  Honestly though, hearing the basics from a different trainer can sometime be a revelation.

buc drop in 4The more serious boxes with competitor level instructors will be more like a Fury Crossfit class.  Some of these gyms can have seriously long WOD’s.  I’ve been to SLC Crossfit 3 times and each time the WOD was 25+ minutes. These boxes will have less instruction but may assume you know how they do things.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

A not uncommon practice is to “cash-out” with a tough but short exercise to end the class just to make sure you’re totally spent.  A couple examples I remember are something like 2 minutes of max overhead squats, or holding a plank with a 45lb plate on your back, 1 minute, 2 sets.

Most boxes use Lbs not Kilos.  Be prepared to multiply and divide by 2.2!  Ironically, I’ve hit some PR’s on the road and not realized it because I keep forgetting the bar isn’t 20lbs!

It’s rare for a box to have a continuous Basics/Prep program like Fury has.  Most boxes give new clients a 4-6 class on ramp and then merge them with the crossfitters.  So there is typically a wider variety of capability and talent than you might see in a Fury class.

Every box I’ve been to has been friendly and welcoming, that’s a constant.

Don’t be Afraid!  Over the last year and a half I’ve dropped in at at least 20 boxes outside AZ.  I’ve never regretted going.  I’ve met some great people and had a lot of little adventures in the process. If you have the chance, there’s some amazing boxes to drop into like Invictus in San Diego, or Hi-Voltage in Burbank, but I’ve even found great boxes in places like Kamloops BC.  Fury has more than prepared you to venture out to any of the boxes I’ve been to.  The experience will make you a better CrossFitter and give you a new appreciation of your home box.