The title is reminiscent of one of those reports you had to do in grade school; “what I did with my summer”. But, as with so many things in life, the decisions we make can send us down many new paths. My first ever drop-in was definitely one of those decisions.
I mention in my bio that I’ve always traveled a lot and early on in my CrossFit experience I felt like I would get back to the gym after being on the road and it was like I was starting from scratch. Pushups, sit ups and air squats in my hotel room was helping but not enough. I was looking for a more complete workout. Doing a lot of CrossFit-type workouts in hotel fitness centers wasn’t always easy due to lack of space and equipment. And, not that it was a big deal to me, but people looked at me as though I was nuts.
If you ask my immediate family or close friends, you’d know I’m a researcher. I like to know exactly what to expect in order to have a level of comfort. It’s one of the principles that Drop-In Diary is based on.
So, research I did. Many of my travels bring me to upstate New York. I asked a couple of my coworkers, researched online and made calls. I settled on CrossFit Beyond in Albany. I called and spoke with owner, Joy Smolinski. She spent a few minutes on the phone with me and gave me her background and shared the upcoming workouts with me, which made me feel more comfortable coming in.
I was definitely nervous when I arrived. This was new territory. I knew no one. However, everyone was friendly and I was quickly greeted by Joy. I signed the waver and paid my drop-in fee. The rest is below in the usual format. All ratings are on a scale of 1-5 barbells.
Keep in mind, it’s been a while since my last visit there. So, some of this is to my best recollection. Also note that some things may have changed since my last visit. I’ve been there a few times so, this based on my collective experiences.
Joy is very good about responding to voice mail. I haven’t contacted them by email to date. I would more likely email ahead these days and give more notice than I did back then. But the number is on the site so it’s whatever you’re comfortable with.
Their web site is fairly basic in design but gives you all the essentials; class time, contact information, drop-in costs. It also has information on all their coaches, including their training credentials and a little background.
You can sign into classes online but it’s not super easy to find. You’d have to go to Join CrossFit Beyond in the top navigation bar, click on the link provided and it takes you to another page, click on SIGNUP/VISIT and select DROPIN.
When you walk in, you might think that it’s not a super shiny facility and it’s definitely an older building (more on that in the next section). However, there’s a difference between the age/condition of the facility and cleanliness. I’ve never really noticed any issues here.
I thought about this one for a little bit. Again, your first impression is this place is old or not the prettiest. However, it’s a CrossFit gym, not luxury a car showroom. It looks like it may have served as an auto shop in a previous life. Honestly, at the time I had only been to a couple of other facilities and it’s kind of what I’d expect a CrossFit facility to look like; a place to lift heavy stuff and work hard. Subsequently, I’ve learned in my travels there’s so many different looks and feels to places and there’s not one proper setting.
It’s a medium-size facility (not too big but not tiny at all). There’s plenty of room for everyone. There’s a main area in the rear and an area in the front that has a couple of pullup bars and bikes/rowers. The front is a little bit disconnected from the rest of the facility but it’s useful.
The main area has a wall lined with pullup bars. There’s a small free-standing rig outside. The floor is open and roomy. The equipment is a bit of a mix when you look at the dumbbells and plates. Some pieces are older and more weathered than others. There’s metal and rubber plates. However, there’s plenty of equipment. Also, keep in mind it’s been over a year since I’ve been there and they may have upgraded some of their hardware. I’ve seen this happen more than once on return visits.
They also have soft boxes, which not all places have, plenty of squat racks and a good amount of machines.
I can’t recount the specifics of each workout for you but I do recall a good amount of variety.
In my visits, I’ve done barbell workouts, dumbbell workouts, partner WODs, pull ups, sit ups, box jumps and running. There’s been cash-outs on some as well. So, they’re pretty thorough. There also is a warmup at the beginning of each class.
I will say I once had to do a workout there exclusively to music of Britney Spears. Funny…but not terribly fun. I appreciate the sense of humor.
Again, I’m going to best recollection. I’ve worked with a few coaches there. There was maybe 3-4 months of CrossFit under my belt when I first dropped in. Everyone worked with me on scaling and was very patient. I received feedback on my lifts. It always felt like the coaches were attentive, which I was especially tuned in to as early as it was in my CrossFitting days.
The culture here was one of the big factors that kept me coming back. As a first place to drop in, I distinctly remember my sense of comfort was naturally tied to my sense of how welcomed I felt. I was made to feel as I was a part of the class rather than a visitor.
The coaches introduced me at the beginning of each class. People introduced themselves to me each time I was there. On the evening of a partner workout, one of the members approached me to be his partner. There was plenty of congrats after each class as well as the occasional post-class chatting. This is a really good group of people.
Drop-in Cost and Swag
The cost to drop in on their web site is $15. It specifies you must have CrossFit experience, which is reasonable. My recollection is my cost was $20. It’s possible they’ve changed their price on the web site since I’ve been there or the listed price isn’t accurate. Either way, it’s a fair price. However, you might want to get that clarified. Joy also said I could take a class and just purchase a shirt as a drop-in fee. Unfortunately, they didn’t have anything in my size at the time. Perhaps on my next visit.
It’s said that first impressions are lasting impressions. This was definitely the case with CrossFit Beyond. I may not have continued with dropping in without the great start that I experienced here. It's very well run. The workouts are thought out and the people here are fantastic. I’ve visited several places in this area but I definitely want to make my way back to CrossFit Beyond.
Wishing you safe, healthy and successful travels.
Albany, NY 12207
On December 26, 2019, I visited CrossFit OTG for a post-Christmas workout. This was my fourth visit to OTG and I was joined by my wife, who has come with me at least a couple of times. The family that works out together stays healthy together. It’s close to where my family lives, so it’s very convenient while I’m there.
CrossFit OTG is in Egg Harbor Township, NJ, which is about 15 minutes from Atlantic City and less than an hour east of Philadelphia. I was referred here by sister (yep, more family CrossFitters), who had dropped in several times previously. So, I didn’t do my usual vetting via Google reviews. However, in looking at the reviews, there’s plenty of drop-ins that offer their experiences and they’re quite positive.
I spoke with the owner, Nick before my first visit there. He was very personable on the phone and happy to have me join them.
CrossFit OTG is the kind of place where you definitely get your money’s worth from your workout. It’s common to get cash-outs and some fun warmups as well.
Let’s give you some details. (As always, all ratings are on a scale of 1-5 barbells)
In researching CrossFit OTG as if I weren’t referred there, all the information you’d need is on their web page. There’s a couple of links to get to the drop-in details. Their schedule offers lots of options. They also post the movements (but not the rep scheme) for their WODs for the entire week, which is convenient. You can sign up to drop in online to save you (and them) time when you arrive.
Nick (the owner) was happy to answer any questions when I first called. At that time, my sister had recently dropped in for a week and he remembered her. He was very welcoming.
Their web site offers details on each of their coaches, including their certification levels as well as background information and insights into their personalities as it relates to CrossFit. I haven’t seen many sites that offer more details on their coaches.
CrossFit OTG maintains a good level of cleanliness. Granted, you’ll see a fair amount of chalk but there’s a difference between well-used and dirty. If you look at an area of the floor that’s not too close to the rigs, you’ll see it’s clean. They encourage people to wipe down their equipment when done.
I have noticed a fair amount of chalk on the barbells. However, dumbbells, kettlebells, wall balls and cardio equipment all looked good. The bathrooms appeared to be in pretty good shape as well.
OTG is a large facility. There’s a warm up room and a spacious main area. There’s two rigs; one against the back wall and a free-standing rig on the side – plenty to accommodate a large class. They also have a dozen Echo bikes, more than a dozen rowers and plenty of weights and plates. You should have no trouble getting a set of dumb bells or a kettle bell in the weight you want to use.
Most things are in good condition here. I noticed some slam balls that were dead but there were several in good condition. They also have some soft boxes, which is very nice.
You’ll know you’ve had a workout when you’ve left CrossFit OTG. That’s not meant to scare you. It may just be a timing thing, but I seem to be there for a lot of “chipper” workouts. Guess I’m just lucky.
Seriously, I don’t mind long workouts. After all, I’m on a mission to build a better me. It’s also important to remember while the workout may challenge you, there’s plenty of ways to scale for your needs. The coaches will help you.
For this workout it was an ascending round of 10-20-30 wall balls and dumbbell snatches and descending 30-20-10 pull ups and no push up burpees. There was a scaled version on the board as well, which plenty of the athletes selected, myself included. The WOD was followed by a nice little cash out of ab work (v-holds, hollow rocks and Russian twists).
Nick was the coach on this day. I’ve also visited when Rob was the coach. Rob did a great job introducing himself, explaining the WOD and checking on us throughout the workout.
On this particular occasion, Nick had everyone gather at the display to explain the workout and then started warming us up. He went through the movements with us, breaking down the dumbbell snatches into its fundamentals. We warmed up on all the movements prior to the WOD.
It’s clear Nick enjoys what he does. You can tell he takes pride in his business and is passionate for CrossFit. He wants to challenge you and help you succeed. He’s encouraging and energetic throughout the entire workout.
As this location is close to the beach, they appear to get a lot of drop-ins. The coaches have routinely introduced me at the beginning of class. My wife and I both got a welcome back hug from Nick when he saw us. We saw him introduce a drop-in from South Carolina before the next class.
Every time I visit, I get to chat with people a little more. People are approachable here. And many have started to recognize us when we come. People encourage each other. There’s plenty of “good job’s” and fist bumps when the workout is over.
Drop-in Cost and Swag
The cost to drop in to CrossFit OTG is $20. However, if you are a Wodify athlete and sign in through Wodify it’s $15. They also offer a 7-day pass if you’re going to be in town for a week for $50. If you want to get a lot of workouts in during the week, it’s a great value. More details can be found at http://www.crossfitotg.com/drop-in-visitors.
As with many places, swag is a bit hit-and-miss here. It often depends on how picked over it is. They didn’t have anything in my size but I liked the design. Nick said new shirts were due to arrive soon. So, I’m sure I’ll pick something up next time I return. Shirts were $25 each or 2 for $40.
I enjoy visiting CrossFit OTG. Nick has a clear passion for CrossFit and I always get a heck of a workout there. The people are friendly. I feel more comfortable there with each visit. They cater to drop-ins and treat you like you’re a member. I will definitely visit them a fifth time and beyond.
Wishing you safe, healthy and successful travels.
3330 Bargaintown Rd Suite 1
Egg Harbor Twp, NJ 08234
In July, 2019 I was doing some work in Portland, ME and had the opportunity to get in an early morning workout at Beacon Community Fitness, formerly CrossFit Beacon. I think it’s worth mentioning that Portland is a great town. It’s right on the water. Plenty of great food and shops. There’s also lots of places to visit both north and south of the city and costal Maine is absolutely gorgeous.
There’s lots of CrossFit/workout options in the Portland area. I was staying by the airport and had 3-4 within a 10-minute drive. I settled on Beacon due to their volume of high online ratings, their responsiveness to my call and their scheduled workout for that day. When I called ahead they gave me all the details I needed and the person I spoke with was quite upbeat. They said they’d be happy to have me workout with them.
It’s easy to get to, just of I-295. I arrived a few minutes before it opened and there were a couple of people waiting in the parking lot already. When they opened up, I introduced myself, paid my drop-in fee and signed the waiver and went to warm up.
Here are the details. (As always, all ratings are on a scale of 1-5 barbells)
I initially called and left a message and was responded to promptly. I reviewed the workout with them and let them know which class I’d be at. Everything was smooth there.
They’ve got a clean web site that’s easy to navigate. There’s some info on all of their coaches, lots of testimonials and a class schedule. There’s a section for drop-ins right on their main navigation bar. It’s got all the details and contact information.
There’s a section on the main navigation bar for the WOD as well. It indicates the workout for the current day and past days.
It’s also worth noting that the communication I’ve had with them since my visit for additional Q & A has been exceptional.
Beacon is quite clean. Granted, I was there for the first class of the day but you can tell they take care of the facility. No residual chalk or dirt buildup that I could see. I’d say more here but there’s not much else to say. Less is more in this case.
Beacon Community Fitness is a somewhat different facility. It looks like a business front when you arrive with windows up front. It’s a stand-alone building. When I walked in, there’s a room with a handful of rowers and assault bikes and a small open floor. At first, I was wondering what else there was. Then the coach showed me through a doorway with a few steps up to the back room.
This room was much larger. It’s not massive but it was a pretty decent sized class and we weren’t on top of each other. They don’t have a traditional rig. They have a line of free-standing racks that are anchored to the floor, each with a pullup bar. There’s also stations along the wall with wallball targets. Everything is pretty well organized. The equipment appeared to be in good shape. No signs of abuse or neglect. The building is situated right in front of a running/biking trail, which is great for running workouts.
We warmed up with stretches and a run. From there, the strength portion was a sled push. We had a little extra time so we did some tire flips as well (always fun).
The metcon was more aerobic capacity. It was several rounds (I believe 5) of 10 burpees, 100m run, 10 air squats, 100m run, 10 push ups, 100m run, 10 box jumps, 100m run. So, we used the running trail. The interesting part was when we retuned from the run, we came in through the front section and ran across it, and up a ramp to the back. This kept people from running into each other when they were entering and leaving for the run. It all worked out.
As a separate note, Beacon is one of the places that has religiously posted workouts daily during the pandemic. I did a couple of them. Extra credit for reliability!
I was greeted by coach Tyson. His official title is a coach/lightkeeper. I’m told he’s one of the founders and “continues to be that steadfast person who continues to keep the light on for us all!” How can you not like that?
Tyson is the type of person who makes you feel comfortable. He was quite hospitable and introduced me to the class before we got started. He said their drop-ins pick the music genre for the class. I went with rock. Wanted to go with something with as much universal appeal as possible.
Tyson was quite attentive to everyone throughout the workout. He was good about answering any questions I had.
Beacon has a friendly culture. You can see there’s a sense of community here. They’re quite outgoing and I had the opportunity to interact with several members. The coaches help facilitate this culture. I was made to feel welcome and a part of the group. There was plenty of encouragement among members during the workout and post-workout congratulations.
Drop-in Cost and Swag
Drop-in costs are slightly higher than I usually see at $25 but not unheard of at all. They do offer a couple’s drop-in rate of $40 and weekly individual classes for individuals and couples at $60 and $100 respectively, which is pretty good.
I don’t have clear notes on the swag cost but I recall it was a good rate. I believe around $15 with your drop in.
When I reflect on a drop-in, I find that a big measure of a drop-in is how comfortable I felt. Beacon Community Fitness is an easy place to feel comfortable. I really like the coaching and the people here. Those are two of the top criteria for me. I hope to get back to Portland soon and I’d love to visit Beacon Community Fitness again.
Wishing you safe, healthy and successful travels.
Beacon Community Fitness
341 Marginal Way
Portland, ME 04101
I know I may have said this a few times before but really like returning to places I’ve dropped in to previously. My return visit to Hunter’s Creek CrossFit in Orlando was especially important to me because Hunter’s Creek was the first CrossFit I had ever written about. The first time I had dropped in there I was only contemplating blogging about my experiences. So, I was sure there were observations I hadn’t made the first time around. And, after several visits to other places since my first visit there, I knew I would come with a different perspective and would be able to make more educated observations.
This write up will compare and contrast some of my previous observations to my first visit. A lot of the ratings for Hunter’s Creek have gone up in this review, so please reference this write up when making your drop-in decisions for the Orlando area.
Ready to see what happened? Me too.
The communication was good the first time. This time I contacted them via email and received a direct response from their owner, Daniel. I had a particular concern due to an injury and Daniel assured me he’d be able to help me modify and still get an “amazing workout”. Frankly, his reassurance was the difference between me going vs. sitting it out.
I signed in to class and paid my drop-in fee online so I was ready to go when I arrived. I had previously wrote that this option was not available. So, either something changed or I missed it, which is more likely the case.
I wanted to get a closer look this time to my last visit. I poked my head in the bathroom, as that can be telling. No real issues there. This is a busy, active facility. However, they manage to stay on top of things. The floor was clean as well as the equipment.
Again, not the largest place I’ve been to but it doesn’t have to be. I did observe on my first visit that some of the rubber plates were loose on their steel hubs. Some of those plates are still there but it appears they’re “thinning the herd” and there seemed to be a greater proportion of newer plates. There’s not a great abundance of machines (rowers/bikes) but they have a few. I may have missed some but I did look around.
I also mentioned in my last write up that the rig “appears to be solid”. I got to use it this time and I want to amend that statement. This rig would most likely require a shifting of tectonic plates to move. It’s the most solid rig I’ve ever experienced. It’s got supports on top of it that I haven’t seen anywhere else. It’s not going anywhere.
There’s a good layout here. The rig is in the center with plenty of space around it. So, if you have a workout that involves pull ups and a lift, everyone can be stationed around the rig and they don’t have to navigate around other people to get back and forth to their stations.
Hunter’s Creek seems to have a good formula. It started with a thorough warmup followed by a review of all the movements for the workout.
This workout included a lift progression of push press, push jerk and split jerk. The metcon included push press, push jerk, burpees and jump rope, which I modified to the ski erg to accommodate my leg injury. It felt like a complete workout.
My first time at Hunter's Creek I had a really good experience with their coach. This time the owner, Daniel, coached the class and the experience was very similar. I had mentioned that I had a mobility issue this time around. (It seems I often do - Things get more interesting when your age starts with a 5.) Daniel gave me a means of modifying while, as he promised, still getting an amazing workout.
When class first started, Daniel introduced me and another drop-in to the group. He gathered everyone around the board to review the workout. He warmed us up and went through all the movements we'd need for the class.
We matched up with similar height partners for the lift. Daniel did an excellent job of making the rounds with everyone to observe and encourage them both during the lift and the workout. It’s a very hands-on coaching environment at Hunters Creek which I particularly appreciate.
Special thanks to Daniel for helping me get some pics after class, as my arms were too shaky after all that shoulder-to-overhead.
I really like the people at Hunter’s Creek. They’re friendly and they’ve got great energy. You can tell they’re proud to be members there, as you’ll find in more close-knit CrossFit communities. One of the guys I was partnered with for the lift gave me a helpful tip.
In between rounds in the metcon I looked up and received a couple looks of encouragement from nearby members. There was plenty of congrats after the workout was done.
Drop-In Cost and Swag
No real change here from my previous visit. $20 to drop in and $25 for a shirt. However, they did have a shirt in my size this time so I was happy because I really like their logo design.
I get to the Orlando area a lot in my travels and I’m honestly torn between making Hunter’s Creek my go-to place and checking out other places to experience, as that’s now what I do. It’s nice to have a place that I know will be consistently good and I’ll feel comfortable with. I’m sure I’ll return. If you’re looking for a place to try in the Orlando area, I think you’d be very happy with Hunter’s Creek CrossFit.
Hunter’s Creek CrossFit
2120 Orinoco Dr #200
Orlando, FL 32837
If you’ve read some of my other posts, you’ll notice a running theme of communicating with the places where I might want to drop in. This will help both you and the CrossFit you are looking to visit. And there is definitely a give-and-take to the transaction. So, here’s some thoughts on communication.
Let's start with the obvious – As of this posting, places are just starting to open back up now. Different states have different rules and different CrossFits are moving at different paces. Most places won't be ready for drop-ins for some time but as things improve, you'll definitely want to find out what an individual CrossFit's stance is on dropping in. They will almost certainly have limited class sizes for a while.
Let them know you’re coming – While you can drop in unannounced, it’s definitely good etiquette to let your host to know that they’ll have a drop-in and give a reasonable amount of nitice whenever possible. In a recent interview with CrossFit owners (more from that in an upcoming post), I was told the ideal notice before dropping in is to contact them the week before. This gives them time to respond.
There may be something special going on that’s not mentioned on the schedule. For instance, they could be preparing for a special event which may affect their ability to accept drop-ins at that time.
It's also a good opportunity to let them know if you have circumstances they should be aware of like a mobility issue.
You’ll know what to expect – There’s many places that don’t list their WOD on their web site. It may be on an app that you don’t have access to it. Also, per the above special circumstance scenario, you have the opportunity to learn if there’s anything you need to expect. Calling ahead is a very good opportunity to ask any other questions that may not be addressed by their web site. For instance, some sites don’t list their drop-in fees.
Getting a hint of the culture – It may sound odd that you can get a sense of the culture from a phone call or an email but if you pay close attention, you can learn a lot from how the person responding to you communicates. Do they sound welcoming? Do they say things like “we’d love to have you”? Do they have a few minutes to answer your questions and give you details? Are they willing to help you if you need to scale a workout? If so, these are good signs. If they sound like it’s an inconvenience, you may have caught them at a bad time or it also might be a sign that you want to keep looking.
Bringing the right gear – As many of us are flying to our destinations, it can be helpful if you can pack lighter. If you know there’s not going to be double unders or heavy lifting and you can leave the jump rope and weight belt at home, that’s always a plus. If there’s going to be a run as a part of the workout, you can decide if you’d prefer to bring running shoes.
Finding the right workout – I recently called a place and they had a WOD scheduled that was very similar to what I had done the night before at my home CrossFit. Two days in a row wouldn’t have been a great idea. So, while the CrossFit checked off all the boxes for the type of place I wanted to visit, the workout wasn’t right on that day and I kept looking. (Don't worry, I'll be back.)
You may have certain things that you want to work on or want to avoid because it might exacerbate an injury. That communication will be important for you. If the workout isn’t right for you on that day, maybe you go on a different day or at least you'll know to have a scaling option or, if there’s other drop-in options in the area, perhaps you want to look further.
Communication is an important tool in finding the right places to help you stay fit in your travels. There’s a lot you can learn from an email or a 5-minute conversation that will not only help you make the best choice for you but to better assure that the place you select will get you a result you'll be happy with.
Please contact me if you have any questions on this or other drop-in/travel topics at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wishing you safe, healthy and successful travels.