If you look up CrossFit images, you’ll find many pictures of insanely ripped men and women. This gives the idea that CrossFit is only for a certain type of person: hardcore fitness buffs.
And while CrossFit involves intense workouts, it is for everyone.
The question, though, is does your box provide a welcoming environment for everyone who walks through the doors? Here are some tips to help promote universal access at your CrossFit gym.
Educate Staff and Members
The first step toward a welcoming environment is always education—and it needs to start at the top. Affiliate owners and partners should be the ones driving this shift toward a more communal environment, and their enthusiasm and passion will trickle down.
So, start organizing training sessions with your partners and managers. Talk with them about your vision for a more supportive environment and collaborate on ways to educate other staff members.
Some ideas include training, workshops, and webinars. To make these events more engaging, you can invite a guest speaker or combine the training with a healthy lunch event. And, of course, ensure that the training content always comes back to fitness. Don’t just cover community-building in general but explore how they apply to your box.
For example, these workshops can discuss common examples of poor gym etiquette and how they can impact the entire environment—and even lead to a harassment case. Another potential topic is unconscious bias in the gym and how to combat it. Since people aren’t always aware of unconscious biases, one workshop can focus on realizing those deep-rooted beliefs and creating a new thought process.
Remember, education isn’t just a one-time thing. These workshops or trainings should be regular events, so staff members can hold each other accountable as they work toward inclusionary goals.
And don’t just stop at staff training. Your Affiliate members have just as much of an effect on the gym atmosphere as your staff, so they also need to contribute to a welcoming environment. Consider organizing a special event to discuss community-building goals and best practices. Or you can send emails with resources and best practices—especially those that are covered in staff trainings.
Develop a Language Usage Policy
Part of these educational workshops and events should cover language usage. Before you start educating people, you need to establish a language usage policy that makes everyone feel welcome regardless of their race, gender, or religious beliefs.
It should cover some of the general no-no’s, like the following:
- Derogatory comments
- Offensive remarks
- Exclusive language (i.e., gender-exclusive terms like “guys”)
- Sexual innuendos
While these points are important, language in the fitness industry must go much further than that. There are several stereotypes in the fitness industry that your language can either support or help overcome.
For example, many people believe that they have to already be fit to start CrossFit training and that boxes are filled only with elite athletes.
Those statements are so far from the truth. But sometimes, the language that members and staff use can reinforce those stereotypes and make members uncomfortable. As you develop a language usage policy, consider the following guidelines:
- Don’t connect body size to fitness or workout ability.
- Avoid talking about things like ‘getting ready for bikini season.’
- Don’t connect working out to physical appearance—focus on the person’s health and strength.
- Celebrate strength and endurance rather than weight loss (or gain).
- Focus on healthy behaviors rather than ‘good’ or ‘bad’ habits.
- Be mindful of differently-abled people.
- Celebrate each person’s personal improvements without comparing them to others.
Once you develop your language usage policy, incorporate it into your staff training exercises and send it out to members. You can even put up posters to remind people of appropriate language and encourage a ‘hear something, say something’ policy to help combat offensive or derogatory language.
Promote CrossFit Gym and Training Accessibility
CrossFit training works for everyone—but Affiliates need to ensure their box accommodates people of all ages, levels, and abilities.
This starts with the gym set-up and membership care. Consider these questions:
- Are there wheelchair-accessible entryways and bathrooms?
- Is there a kid-friendly area?
- Is there appropriate equipment for adaptive athletes?
- Does the layout allow for easy mobility?
- Is there a screening process to evaluate every member’s physical ability and personal training goals?
- Are trainers appropriately implementing modifications or accommodations to better serve each member?
- Are there gender-neutral restrooms and changing facilities?
The next step is making sure people know about these accessibility options—ideally through varied program options. For example, you offer different class levels, from beginner to intensive training. Or you can schedule population-specific classes for kids, adaptive athletes, seniors, etc.
Utilize Effective Marketing
Of course, just offering these classes is not enough. You need to get the word out through effective marketing.
Affiliates can advertise their varied menu of class options on their website and social media profiles, in addition to developing paid ad campaigns. These marketing strategies should include more than just program names and dates—their visual component is essential. Make sure to incorporate photos that represent and resonate with the target demographic.
This inclusion should also continue outside of targeted marketing. In other words, it should be normal for Affiliates to utilize a variety of images online and share stories from members of all backgrounds and walks of life. You can easily do this with member highlights that celebrate many types of achievements and contributions.
Create a Welcoming Environment
As you develop a strong, welcoming marketing strategy, you may see an uptick in new gym members. This is great—but remember, first impressions matter.
The moment that potential or new members enter your CrossFit gym, they should feel a sense of your gym’s community. Your staff should understand the importance of friendly and respectful interactions (this would be something to cover in the staff workshops!) to help offer a communal atmosphere from day one.
Affiliates can continually foster this welcoming environment by organizing special events and activities for the entire CrossFit community. These could be fitness-related—like mini-CrossFit Games—or more social events, such as a community cookout or fundraiser. The end goal should be to create a supportive, accepting environment for everyone in your community.
Embrace Feedback and Continuous Improvement
Creating an environment free of discrimination takes time and constant evaluation. Just as you regularly set new fitness goals, you should always look for ways to improve your CrossFit gym’s environment.
Implementing varied training programs and workshops are great—but don’t stop there. Ask for member and staff opinions and establish channels for feedback. You can send out an online feedback form via email, leave a suggestion box on the front desk, or set up a survey on social media. Always offer the option for anonymity, as these topics can be sensitive.
Once you get the feedback, consider if and how you should implement it. Then regroup in a few months and evaluate the Affiliate’s progress toward creating a more inclusionary environment.
Make sure to keep a continuously open mind about how you can improve. Best practices are constantly evolving, as should your policies and strategies.
CrossFit is a community for anyone and everyone—from kids to seniors, from beginner to advanced athletes. So, each Affiliate should embrace and promote those varied experiences.
By implementing the best practices above, you can start on the path toward creating a truly welcoming and inclusive CrossFit gym environment.