Why are CrossFit gyms more expensive than traditional gyms?

Now that 2015 is in full swing, New Year’s resolutions are either fading or going strong.  Regardless, everyone is hopping for that better version of themselves in 2015.  In January, gym memberships spike!  Enrollment specials, three free months, personal training sessions, and other incentives are abundant in January.  

CrossFit is a little different.  You don’t find many enrollment specials or months of free memberships.  To add to that, membership are more expensive than most gyms.  This is a deterrent to many.  They aren’t sure what value they are going to get out of a CrossFit membership where they are paying two to three times what they pay at a traditional gym.

We get asked why we are more expensive than traditional gyms all the time!  This is a totally valid question if you are considering CrossFit.  The value you receive has to meet (or hopefully exceed) what you are paying each month.  

In this post, I want to answer this question for a lot of people that ask.  We hope that this sways you to give CrossFit a try, but we know it’s not for everyone.  I just want to make sure you know what is provided so you can make the best decision for yourself possible!

In general, all large commercial gyms operate on a pre-enrollment monthly membership model.  This means that a member signs a contract, for usually no less than a year.  Sometimes there are enrollment fees at sign-up, and other times they will waive these fees for long-term contracts as an inducement for you to enter into a long-term contract.  The idea to a rational consumer is that they are making a commitment, and, because they are paying each month, they want to get their money’s worth.  For the gym, this creates reliable revenue, regardless of whether the gym is actually used or not, or whether the member actually gets results!  They want you to get enough results to keep coming and come back, but not so much that you tear up the equipment. 

The funny thing is that fitness is like education:  for many, they will pay for it, but don’t really want to do it.  Remember back in college where you paid thousand a semester, but still skipped class?  You will pay for education, but you don’t always want education.  The same goes for fitness.  You can be a member, but never do anything and still FEEL like you did.  Our minds are crazy!

As many as  67% of people never show up at the gym! 

CrossFit affiliates, boot camps, cycling studios, and yoga studios actually rely on members to show up to pay their bills.  And, in addition, these businesses have a coach there to guide you through programming and make sure you are doing things properly so you don’t injure yourself.  These gyms must charge more because they provide more services, a specialized atmosphere, and can hold less people.  The space, instructors, and equipment or only part of the equation.  In the end, they must provide an experience that warrants the price tag.  

It should also be noted briefly that CrossFit gyms pay an affiliate licensing fee of around $3,000 per year currently.  This goes toward the initial and ongoing training of coaches.  And the training is damn good.

Now that we’ve talked a little about the business model and pricing structures, it is important to talk about what you are paying for.  There are five main things that you pay for when you go to a gym:  facilities, training services, programming, atmosphere, and community.

1.  Facilities and Equipment

Most traditional gyms are a sea of treadmills, ellipticals, stair climbers, and strength training machines.  Small areas are reserved for free weights, and more and more gyms are getting rid of barbells (because people who have no idea what they are doing are hurting themselves and insurance rates are going way up!).  They goal is to fill the gym with equipment that people can use without instruction.  Most of the equipment have placards that show you step by step how to work the machine.  There may also be additional amenities such as showers, a pool, and childcare which results in higher membership fees, plus additional fees that you might incur.

In a CrossFit affiliate, you will walk in and find no treadmills or ellipticals.  It will look significantly different than any gym you’ve ever experienced before.  It is stripped down to the bare necessities for strength and conditioning programs, then we build from there.  In other words, the focus is on the training and the results instead of the amenities.  The actual workouts are emphasized above all else.  There is a program that members follow.  The programming is designed to provide maximum results in the least amount of time.  Coaches make sure that the program is structured so to reduce the likelihood of overtraining any area, and especially to avoid injury.  You will find bumper plates, rubber flooring, and balls that you can throw around.  We encourage throwing weight (toward the ground, and not each other of course)!

2.  Training Services

What you get with a traditional membership is access to the facility.  If you want training, group training, or specific programming, you will end up paying extra.  By the time you pay for training, your membership would far exceed a CrossFit membership and would make your membership seem like chump change! 

In addition to personal training or group training, there are classes that may be additional such as spin or aerobics.  These classes may be great for you, and you may fit a couple in during a week to boost your regimen.  But, there is a huge difference between exercising and training.

At CrossFit gyms, we train.  Training services — in regards to programming and technique instruction— are included in the cost of the membership. 

It is important to find a good coach that you connect with.  Coaches vary in their methodology or strategies.  Some coaches, albeit very few, push hard and fast with a lot of intensity and yelling.  In our opinion, good coaches focus first on the fundamentals such as technique before requiring too much of you.  If you are new, you want to find a coach that will help take you from where you are to where you want to be.

As a fairly new CrossFitter, I can tell you that this is okay.  There are days where I lifted a PVC pipe and felt like a total weenie, but by the end of the hour, I couldn’t lift said PVC pipe!  I got a great workout with about 6 ounces of weight!

3.  Programming

If you are the type of person who is motivated to create a training program, push yourself, and monitor your results, then more power to you!  I am definitely not that person.  Even when I’m at a traditional gym,  I find myself moving at an easy pace and could end up checking Facebook mindlessly for 5 minutes!  In 5 minutes of a CrossFit workout, I achieve more than I do in 30 minutes to an hour on my own!

One of the major reasons so many people don’t show up at gyms in the first place is because they don’t know what to do when they get to the gym.  With CrossFit, it is likely that you won’t know all the movements, but there will be somebody there to walk you through every step.  There is no need to feel embarrassed or intimidated.  That’s what coaches do — they love to teach and train.  At the end of the day, their joy is arrived from seeing you learn something and get results.

A typical workout will include a warm-up, followed by a strength training or technique portion with instruction and supervision, and then there is a WOD.  

One of the facets of CrossFit that makes it so powerful is the structure.  We find that the framework and methodology, combined with the fact that athletes never know what’s coming next which causes them to push themselves past what they would normally do, makes them WANT to show up!

4.  Atmosphere

When olympic lifting gyms were gaining steam in the 60’s, 70’s and even 80’s, they were a stripped down version of what you see now.  There were racks and a lot of weights.  You could hear the clanging and dropping of weights and there were no treadmills or ellipticals.  If you wanted to run, you went outside.  

Modern gyms are designed to feel more like an upscale bar or a club than a gym.  They are designed to feel inviting, and not intimidating.  And, you know what, this is awesome for most people.  If this gets people off the couch, away from the TV, and moving, then this is awesome!  

CrossFit gyms have a much stronger resemblance to the original olympic lifting gyms than modern gyms.  You will find bars, racks, and bumper plates.  You’ll swing kettle bells, climb ropes, jump on boxes, and throw balls.  In fact, you’ll do a bunch of stuff that is frowned upon at traditional gyms or get you some sort of nasty label.  

CrossFit gyms are a communitarian experience, meaning that athletes work together and interact which each other throughout the class, which provides motivation, support, and leads to the formation of relationships.  This brings us to the idea of community.

5.  Community

Community is the largest separating factor between a traditional gym and a CrossFit gym.  It’s an intangible benefit that, at least in my opinion, is worth way more than your membership.

At a traditional gym, 95% of people work out in isolation.  When I am at a traditional gym, I am one of these people.  I rarely go with a partner, and my headphones are glued on my head.  I can get away without taking to one single person when I walk in.  I can scan a card, walk in, sit down, workout and leave.  

I trained this way for so long.  I did strength training, but nobody was there pushing me.  I paid for a personal trainer once, but I found it boring.  I did group training a couple of times, but I didn’t feel like the trainer really cared all that much.  The group was all over the place doing different things.  We weren’t participating in the same activities.  I’ve tried spin classes and yoga classes.  These are great, but you’re not usually making friends.  Most people walk in at the last minute, do their thing, pick up their mat, and leave!

There is very little community at a traditional gym, even in class formats.  I might see people in a gym that I know, but that isn’t ground for building a community.  Going to the same gym and training together are two completely separate concepts.

Since starting CrossFit, I have seen first hand how the concept of training together creates community.  When you are generally doing the same thing, you are there to motivate and cheer each other on to finish.  It doesn’t matter if you got your PR, which is somebody else’s warm up weight.  They cheer you on like you won a gold at the olympics.  When you are the last person on the rower, there are 9 people standing around you huffing and puffing cheering you on the best they can so you’ll finish.  They will stay after the class is over if you aren’t done to cheer you on.  It’s a great experience.

You also start seeing the same people at your classes since you will likely go at specific times that fit with your schedule.  You start developing friendships with people in those classes.  You come early and stay late to chat.

The community aspect of CrossFit gets people excited to go to the gym to see each other and work out.  It pushes each other to do better.  You want to be healthier.  You want to keep up with the group so you can train as hard as you can with your friends, so you start eating better.  You share in hard workouts, and the fact that you finished it together draws you closer together.  

People post about what they did at CrossFit that day because they shared in something with their friends that they want YOU to be a part of.  Most of the time, it’s not about them.  It’s about wanting others to experience the thrill that is CrossFit.

Conclusion

So, I have a question for you:  Are CrossFits really that expensive?  CrossFit affiliates definitely aren’t cheap, but are they worth it?  Would CrossFit give you more value than the $125+ membership cost.  

Sure, you can get a gym membership for $20 per month, but will you get the same benefits from it as you will from being a part of a community that gives 100% to train together?  I can tell you, in my own experience, that my results through CrossFit far exceed my results I get on my own.  And the benefits I receive far exceed the cost of membership.  

Test Flight and Flight School

If you want to try out CrossFit for yourself, we make it super easy.  We offer a Test Flight class every Saturday at 9:15 am.  Simply email Christine Prohaska, owner and head trainer, to RSVP.  Each Saturday, we have a team WOD that is a fun way for you to try it out.  You don’t need to know any movements, technique, or really anything about CrossFit.  Just come as you are.  We’re there to help you through every step of the way!

If you are interested in giving CrossFit a go, or you are getting back into CrossFit, we have a program called Flight School every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 5:15 pm.  At Flight School, you will receive individual or small group training (depending on the number of attendees) that walks you through movements, technique, and terminology for six sessions over two weeks.  You will also have an opportunity to get to know the coaches and the members.  The cost of Flight School is only $39 (a $150 value).

Email us at kcicrossfitters@gmail.com to get started today!