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Here’s How to Make the Best Gym Culture as a CrossFit Affiliate

Gym culture is important, and a cornerstone of being a CrossFit affiliate - this is what you need to know about it before you begin.

James Plata
May 20, 2022
TLDR;
Gym culture is important, and a cornerstone of being a CrossFit affiliate - this is what you need to know about it before you begin.

The gym culture CrossFit employs is like none other in the fitness world. It’s part of the reason that they could make a brand around it, and affiliates could sign up.

You’ve been in a CrossFit class no doubt, which is what helped inspire you to incorporate it into your gym.

The reason you love CrossFit and why we love CrossFit come down to the gym culture that they embody. It’s what makes people search for a local CrossFit gym when they travel for work.

It’s what we’re about to teach you in-depth so you can emulate the same principles in your own CrossFit affiliate gym.

What is Gym Culture?

Walking into a gym is unlike anything else. When you do, there’s a different etiquette that takes over, and it’s best described as gym culture.

It includes subtle, simple things such as not using a machine directly next to another person when others are available, or always re-racking the free weights.

But beyond the etiquette aspect of it and that positive, respectful culture to one another, what else is it? It’s driven by your core values.

We talk about core values at length in all of our content that surrounds CrossFit and the CrossFit Affiliate Playbook. It’s a major factor in the success of your gym, and it directly lends itself to gym culture.

CrossFit outlines the importance of gym culture in their own playbook. It reads: “The culture of your gym will largely mirror your own values more than anyone else’s. Being mindful of that requires reflection before opening and operating your affiliate [gym].”

They’re right—that’s exactly how you establish gym culture. If you truly believe that you’re creating an inclusive space for everyone to train, strengthen their bodies, and better their lives, then those genuine values are going to come out while you operate your CrossFit gym.

CrossFit also includes programming into their gym culture, which is not what you think it is. It’s a thoughtful, purposeful driving force that instills itself in the values of your gym and the operations every single day.

Consider programming and etiquette to be similar. Basic gym etiquette drives the interactions and social climate of a gym, which allows people to be respectful to one another, whereas programming encompasses that with core values and culture at the same time.

Why is Gym Culture Important?

Gym culture is the soul of your gym. That sounds heavy to say, but it’s true.

If you have a good gym culture, it’s a fantastic place for everyone, there’s no body-shaming, no exclusion, and people join together to help one another and emulate kindness to all.

Many people will think “But it’s just a gym” without realizing the impact that gym culture can have on a person. There’s a reason that CrossFit is one of the most successful gym brands in the world: their culture is unlike any other, and it does a lot to drive athletes forward.

Gym culture is important because it tells your members what you value, and how you operate. It’s important because the culture you’re going to build is one that’s kind, welcoming, and celebrates everyone’s victories. It’s the place they want to be, because of how you treat them.

Gym Culture and Community

Gym culture plays into the community of your gym in ways you might not expect. Community helps one another. You’ll have your regular gym members that come in frequently, some that are infrequent, and then you’ll have newcomers who want to change their lives.

They want to build strength, shed unwanted weight, and make themselves healthier. Even just by walking in the door, they’re already being brave in doing that.

The reason they’ll stay, and the reason they’ll hit those goals, is because of the community that you create through your culture. A good gym community will:

  • Help Each Other: Newcomers can get help from others in the gym or from friendly staff because their goals are your goals. You want them to succeed and have a good time.
  • Cheer for One Another: Whether it’s in a class-based structure or just by happenstance out on the floor, gym members celebrate wins with one another. Even if it’s just a high-five after an impressive lift, it’s still a celebration.
  • Make Each Other Feel Welcome: Your gym members, by proxy, will take on the traits that you hold dear. You want people to feel included, so they want people to feel included. You want people to have a positive experience, so they want people to have a positive experience. It all comes full circle.

Gym Culture and Member Experience

Your gym culture serves as the precedent for your member experience. If your members have a good experience, it’s because you’ve instilled a great gym culture.

Your member experience can be hard to measure. Make sure you’re following the proper protocol to enforce a quality member experience and gym culture.

Be Professional

It’s easy to slip into a false sense of security if you’re buddy-buddy with gym members. You want to be approachable, but you still want to act professional at the same time.

You have to adopt a sense of responsibility over the health and safety of your members, as well as your prospective clients.

You are a problem-solver. You’re a health and fitness haven that can help anyone who walks through your doors. Visualize that and then make it part of your gym leader identity.

Set procedures in place and follow them so that you can have a chain of command and actions. This also helps you teach others to lead in your absence, however brief it may be. A good leader inspires others, and being professional is part of that.

Listen to Others

You’re a problem-solver, as we said, but how do you know what problems there are to solve?

It’s not about what you want to solve; it’s about the problems that are actually present and there. You have to listen to what they’re going through and help devise a solution based on that.

Everyone is coming to the gym for some reason that is partially rooted in emotion. They want to make vast improvements to their lives and produce good habits, so how can you listen to them and help them achieve that? It’s usually on a personal basis; just start listening and you’ll know.

Educate and Inform

Someone is paying for a monthly membership to your gym. They should leave with education on fitness and health, and be informed about their current stride without overwhelming them.

Answer their questions well, but don’t give too much information all at the same time (it could be intimidating).

To educate and inform people, you must remain approachable and never get upset or feel like they’re distracting you when a member asks for help or information.

How to Establish Successful Gym Culture

You want to have an impactful and excellent gym culture, but where do you start?

The best place you can possibly begin is by thinking about the feeling you want your members to have when they leave the facility.

Were they moved? Were they happy? This is how you get those results.

  • Celebrate Everyone: Even if it doesn’t seem that way, members want the attention of the gym owner. They want the attention of the trainers and staff. Do you know why? Because you and your staff are welcoming, inclusive, and celebrate everyone and their accomplishments. That’s how you become liked, and that’s how you drive your brand. Members want to model the behavior of the most influential person in the room, but you’re not just influential because you own the gym; you’re someone who leads by example, welcomes all, and gives a genuine feeling of inclusion to every person you talk to. That’s what people want to emulate.
  • Find Out Who’s Missing: CrossFit is all about being inclusive. Who, from your city/town’s demographic, is missing? We always hear things like “I don’t see color”, but the fact is you should see color so you can understand how to include those who may be marginalized. If your community is predominately white, it can be intimidating for a person of color to join that gym. Use inclusive marketing materials, treat everyone the same, and connect with individuals based on who they are, not what they look like, what their body type is, or any of the above. Welcome everyone with arms wide open. Everyone has their own struggles, and we’re not likely to share those exact same struggles with everyone who walks in the doors. You know how we can connect with them, though? By making an all-inclusive, safe and tolerant space that makes sure nobody feels left out in the slightest.
  • Be Inclusive, Not Exclusive: Avoid using gendered, well, anything! This doesn’t mean you can’t understand their gender, it means that there aren’t men’s barbells and women’s barbells. They shouldn’t be defined by gender, but rather by the weight of the barbells. It’s very easy for a man to feel emasculated because they see the bulkier guy two benches down using larger barbells. Some gyms would have unintentionally gendered weightlifting stations as well, based on the starting minimum weight. Stop the perception of men being stronger than women and make sure your space is inclusive to all without excluding certain boundaries based on gender alone.
  • Foster Intention, Not Expectation: Help your athletes to set goals. This is difficult because you don’t want to seem like you’re telling them what they’re lacking (that is not the intention in the slightest). Instead, you want to help them see a goal, reach for it, and actualize it. They should be comfortable reaching for goals and welcome to smash through new boundaries. The gym can be a self-conscious place, even when you least expect someone to experience self-consciousness. You want to lift people up, and make them feel their absolute best. Help them feel intentional with their goals without putting expectations on themselves. Hitting a goal is great; trying your hardest is great, too. It’s not a success-based metric, but an effort-based metric.

Success Stories

Success stories are critical to how your gym culture expands and exceeds itself. Most members have an emotional reason behind exercising. Even those who seem like it’s easy might really, really have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning.

Success stories are most driven by emotion. How can the person listening to or reading the success story connect and resonate with the message, and make it about them? How can they see themselves in that success?

You can use success stories to help with every aspect of your gym culture. Use them to inspire, use them to motivate, and use those success stories in a transformative way (with permission of course)—to market your brand.

It’s your gym culture that created a success story compounded with the efforts of the athlete in question. Success stories are a major driving force for decision-making, so why not include it in direct response marketing fliers? Posters that hang in the windows of your gym? Video ads on YouTube?

Utilize success stories to market your gym as a solution, not just another subscription. Your gym culture is an emotional product that you can market to prospective members, and you absolutely should.

Cultivate Your Gym Culture

Your gym culture as a CrossFit affiliate is important. It must embody their core values and principles, as well as the core values of your own gym.

Inclusivity, excellence, and positivity are all important to maintain a gym culture worth sharing and continually cultivating. Understanding the CrossFit Affiliate Handbook is something beyond simply reading it.

Be sure to read our other guides that break down every element of what it means to be a CrossFit affiliate, how to utilize their handbook properly, and become a successful gym owner as fast as possible.

James Plata

James Plata is the Marketing Director at PushPress, a fitness-nut and hoarder of all gadgets. He brings 10+ years of experience in startup tech and fitness to help gym owners rebel against useless and overpriced software.

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