It’s time for our 3rd annual Drop-In Awards, and what a year it’s been! There’s 3 new places that I’ve visited twice this year, an “old reliable” that I’ve been to many times, and we’ve had our first ever-guest review.
So, who are this year’s standouts? What makes these CrossFits distinct? The answers will be revealed over the next seven days. I can say this much; It’s been a year of great experiences in parts of the country (and beyond) I hadn’t previously been to. Hopefully, you’ve found the reviews useful for your travels.
So, let’s start get started. You’ll see an award added to this post each day between today and New Years Eve. There’s some new awards this year and some established standards. As always, these awards are for fun…and a little bit of bragging rights.
Here are your Drop-In Awards for 2022:
The Good Things Come in Small Boxes Award goes to CrossFit Salire in Westmont, IL. This CrossFit is located in the western Chicago suburbs and, while it’s not too big in size it’s got a lot of great things going for it. It’s well-equipped and clean. The coaching is great and the people are friendly. This was definitely one (actually two) of the standout drop-ins of the year and they’re high on the recommend list.
The Location Admiration Award is one of the awards that we’ve had since the beginning. It’s designed to honor a CrossFit that’s optimally located for vacationing CrossFitters . This year’s award goes to CrossFit NOLA. If you haven’t been to New Orleans, it’s a great city. There’s so much to do, fantastic music and amazing food. All you need is somewhere to work out. CrossFit NOLA is the perfect place for that. Not just because of their location. They’ve got a great facility, the coaching is excellent and you’ll get one heck of a workout there. So, if you’re in New Orleans, please enjoy everything this city has to offer but it’s not a complete experience unless you drop in at CrossFit NOLA.
The Best Workout I Never Had Award is a new award this year. It might sound a little strange to have an award for somewhere I’ve haven't worked out at but it’s actually for the CrossFit with the best contributed writeup. I’d love this one to become an annual award so please contact me with your drop-in experiences and we’ll get them up on the blog.
But let’s give out the award. The first (hopefully annual) Best Workout I Never Had award goes to V&L Biloxi Fitness in Mississippi. This writeup was contributed by Honey Parker, who spent a lot of time at V&L so, she got a very good feel for everything they have to offer. This is a clean, nice-sized facility with very good coaching and a more than reasonable drop-in cost.
Congratulations to V&L Biloxi Fitness on being the first recipient of this award and thank you to our guest writer, Honey Parker.
The King of the Chippers Award has gone to CrossFit OTG in Egg Harbor Township, NJ for the past two years. And they’ve done it again! My wife and I went for the post-Thanksgiving workout this year and true to form, we got a workout and then some. CrossFit OTG is probably the place I’ve done the most drop-ins and it’s an easy place to visit. I’ve never had a bad experience with the coaches, the people or the facility. However, the workouts can be taxing at times. Hhence the award.
Congratulations to CrossFit OTG on this award and on being our first three-time winner!
The Coach’s Spirit Award is a new award that I expect will become a regular. It’s for those coaches that go the extra step to make drop-ins feel welcome. I’ve met so many great coaches so there’s no shortage of candidates for this one. But this one goes to coach Alicia at CrossFit Cayman. Coach Alicia is easy going, knows her stuff and is a fun person to be around. Congratulations to coach Alicia and to CrossFit Cayman for recognizing and hiring good staff.
The Elbow Room Award was started last year in recognition of the big spaces in CrossFit. After all, we have an award for smaller CrossFit so fair's fair. This year’s Elbow Room Award goes to Iron Flag Fitness (home of CrossFit Iron Flag), in Westmont, IL. Iron Flag has a sizeable workout floor for classes, plus other areas for open workouts, warming up and smaller instructional workouts.
I also want to give a mention for their work with the youth in the community. Good causes deserve recognition too and if we start giving out awards for philanthropic activities, Iron Flag is at the top of the list. Way to go on multiple fronts, Iron Flag!
The Nostalgia Award is our final award for 2022 and it’s new this year. I visit lots of places annually and there’s a growing list of CrossFits I’d love to return to. Frankly, there’s so many candidates for this one that it’s difficult to choose. I’m sure this will become an annual award.
In reflecting on it, I can’t think of a better first recipient of the Nostalgia Award than CrossFit Beyond in Albany, NY. My first drop-in was at CrossFit Beyond and if the experience weren’t as good as it was, I probably wouldn’t have tried it again. My positive interactions with the coaches and athletes there set me on a course that’s been pivotal in maintaining my health on the road and that consistency was the spark that brought Drop-In Diary into existence. If that’s not worthy of recognition, I don’t know what is. Thank you, CrossFit Beyond!
And there you have it! Our 2022 Drop-In Awards. Lots of great adventures and experiences this year. Congratulations to our winners for their well-earned awards. Readers, please keep them in mind for when you’re travelling. There’s a reason they’re award-winning CrossFits.
If you’re out there and have a great drop-in experience, we want to hear about it. Please contact me on the socials or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Maybe that will be the next Best Workout I Never Had.
I hope you’ve all enjoyed this year’s awards and reviews. All the best to everyone in the new year. Let’s do this again next year!
You know I take the occasional cruise. We love going to tropical locations for fun, relaxation…and CrossFit! On Grand Cayman, there’s so many things to do; Fantastic snorkeling, 7-mile beach, sights, food. I could go on, but I won’t. Why? Because I didn’t do any of that.
No, I climbed onto a bus that was headed towards one of the beaches and got off at the first stop for a 5-minute walk to Camana Bay and CrossFit Cayman. It’s not far from George Town but probably a bus or a cab ride. It’s walkable but on the far side – about 4km, depending on your starting point.
When you arrive you’ll find yourself among restaurants, clothing and jewelry shops in a very nice shopping center. My first reaction was “huh?!” But I turned the corner and there it was.
Now, this never happens, but I was actually in Grand Cayman twice within a few weeks. So, what did I do? I don’t think I have to tell you. And, it was apparently intriguing enough for my wife to join me the second time around.
Let’s give you all the details. You know how it works. All categories are rated on a scale of 1-5 barbells.
CrossFit Cayman has a good website with their schedule, drop-in pricing and information on coaches. The site is intuitive, making the information easy to find.
As usual, I reached out via email to let them know I was dropping in and, especially because I was coming off a cruise ship, I wanted to pack as light as possible so knowing the workout and what gear to bring was important.
In less than 3 hours, Tarasa, one of the founders, responded to me. She answered all my questions, including the SWAG cost (more on that below). She didn’t have the workout information initially but asked me to contact her a little closer to my trip and she was able to get me what I needed. On the second trip, I reached out again and Tarasa was just as responsive.
CrossFit Cayman was clean on both visits. I was at the noon class both times so, there were morning classes before I got there. There was some chalk on the rig but other than that everything looked pretty good. I checked the bathroom both times and it was clean.
This is an interesting facility due to its location in a shopping center. First, because it’s in a retail space, there’s a lot of people passing by and that’s something I’m not accustomed to. There are offices overhead so I was told on each visit not to drop the bar to the floor to keep the noise down. And, one of the workouts had a run where we were basically running through the shopping center, weaving past shoppers.
The space itself is a happy medium. It isn’t too small but isn’t huge either. There were some gaps in the flooring, but it wasn’t in the open floor area. It was by the rig and the barbell stands. You still have to be mindful of it.
They have plenty of hardware and they do their best to keep it in good condition but it’s tough with the humidity. There's a fair amount of rust on the rig and the bars were weathered but not in bad condition.
CrossFit Cayman also is the only space I’ve been to south of Dallas that has air conditioning. I thought “this is really going to help”. Honestly, I don’t know if it did. Especially with the workout that had the run, it was so humid I’m not sure it had any more impact than a good fan. It’s not a complaint. Just an observation.
The workouts were balanced and challenging. On the first trip, we started with 6x2 back squats with the intention of getting to a heavy weight. This was followed by 5 rounds for time of a 200-meter run (which like I mentioned was a little strange, having to run through the shopping center), 9 strict pull ups and 7 front squats. A good balance.
The second workout was a twist on a 21-15-9. It was 21 power cleans, twice the amount of push ups and 21 box jumps, then 15-30-15 and 9-18-9. I usually don’t look forward to the box jump portion of a workout but it was a good opportunity to rest my upper body. Those push ups really added up.
The coaches warmed us up appropriately each time. I felt like I got good workouts.
There was a different coach on each visit and I was very pleased each time. On the first visit, coach Alicia ran the class. She’s knowledgeable and outgoing. She introduced me to the class and was very attentive to everyone throughout the hour. She answered questions and helped with scaling options. She was very spirited and personable.
On the second visit, we had coach Nathan. I honestly can’t remember whether he introduced us to the class but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. He too was very attentive and encouraged us throughout the workout.
There’s lots of good things to say about the people at CrossFit Cayman. When I first visited, there were a handful of athletes standing outside of the gym. There’s a gap between classes and the coach hadn’t gotten there for the noon class yet. I started chatting with a couple of them while we waited. Everyone was very nice. Some people were a little more to themselves than others, but you’ll see that anywhere you go. There were several athletes that encouraged each other during the workout.
Here's the real kicker. After class I walked over to catch a bus back to town. The busses wait until they’re full to take people back and it was the middle of the day so, the bus was practically empty. I asked how much a cab was and they tried to gouge me. I said okay, I’ll walk back. It’s only about a 40-minute walk. I had time so I didn’t mind. About halfway back I heard someone calling my name. I was looking around thinking, “it must be for someone else. Who knows me in Grand Cayman?” It was one of the athletes from class. He offered me a ride the rest of the way back. It really doesn’t get better than that. Super nice.
On our second visit it was a little more subdued. There were maybe 6 people total, including myself, my wife and coach Alicia from my first visit. It was still a welcoming vibe.
Drop-in Cost and Swag
The drop-in cost for a single class is $30(US), cash only. My suggestion is to bring exact change because if they give you change, it will most likely be in Cayman Island Dollars. Depending on how long you’re staying, you may be bringing home cash you’ll have to exchange. Exact change is easier.
Shirts are also $30(US) and the selection is limited, or it was for me. My wife was able to get one in her size. Men’s large, on the other hand, is a more popular size and therefore harder to come by.
So, yes, this is more expensive than you’d normally pay in the states but keep in mind that you'll find most things more expensive in the islands.
Realistically, if you’re coming off a cruise ship, you’ll probably go to the beaches or sight seeing. However, if you’re on Grand Cayman for a little while, CrossFit Cayman is a great place to get in a workout. The workouts are well programmed, the coaching is very good and the people are friendly. I was happy with my experience each time. Just remember to bring exact change and don’t drop the bar.
Wishing you safe, healthy and successful travels! And a very happy holiday.
It’s late June, it’s New Orleans, it’s hot and it's humid (kinda goes without saying). So, what does any right-minded CrossFit athlete do? Why, work out, of course! I couldn’t not visit CrossFit NOLA when we were in town. How would I live with myself?
And I have no regrets at all. We were going to be sweaty anyway, so my wife and I took a quick rideshare over to CrossFit NOLA to enjoy a 6:30am workout. BTW, the woman driving us over was super sweet and told us all about making homemade pralines (delicious).
CrossFit NOLA has a few locations. We were staying just outside of the French Quarter so, we went to the downtown location on Magazine Street. Our rationale for going to the early class was it would be “less humid”, and perhaps it was a little, but we were just fooling ourselves. It's sweat-a-palooza no matter what time of day.
But we got our money’s worth. Here’s what we experienced. Reviews are on a scale of 1-5 barbells.
There’s complete drop-in information on their website. Be sure you select the proper location. I had also sent an email asking for pricing, as I didn’t see it on their website and what their upcoming workout would be.
Someone responded to my email within about 24 hours and gave me all the details. She sent me a link to set up an account, which gave us $5 off our first workout.
Between the website and the email communication, we had all the information we needed.
When we arrived, it was the second class of the day. Everything was clean and well maintained. The restroom was clean, and the floor was clearly cleaned from the previous day. The rig had some chalk on it but that’s about the only thing I could find.
Did I mention it’s hot and humid there? As with any of the places I’ve been in the southern US to date, they don’t have air conditioning. However, they have something I haven’t previously encountered; the biggest box fan I’ve ever seen. And it has some real power!
The downtown location is big and open with plenty of floor space and tall ceilings. The floor is alternating rubber and platform wood.
There’s a single rig that’s pretty long which runs down the right-hand wall as you enter. There’s plenty of bars and plates that are in good condition, especially considering the humidity. On the opposite side, there’s several lifting platforms, squat racks and smaller hardware. Overall, it’s laid out well with lots of functional space.
For our visit, the workout was certainly thorough. We warmed up with a 3:00 row + 10 ankle biased split squats, 10 abmat situps and 10 wall assisted thoracic rotations. I think we did that 3 times. Then, it got a little more challenging - 8-10 rear foot elevated split squats per leg in a farmer hold with dumbbells, building over 3 sets to a heavy weight.
And, for the main course, it was 4 rounds of 20 Turkish situps with a 20/14# med ball overhead, 20 alternating pistols and a 20 cal row, with a 16 minute time cap. Pistols are not my best movement so the coach suggested I do 20 curtsey lunges with the 20# med ball (ugh!).
This workout was tough. We were definitely feeling it the next day. I believe most people didn’t make it under the time cap and those of us that did only barely made it. But we all felt like we got a full workout.
Although I can’t be 100% sure, I believe coach Phil ran our class. He was welcoming and answered any questions we had. He was organized and got all the drop-ins situated before the workout. We got help with scaling options and he was encouraging throughout the workout. As time allowed, he was cordial and chatted with us.
It was a little difficult to assess the culture here because it was a small class, maybe five or so, and I believe there were more drop-ins than member athletes. Nevertheless, the coach had each of us introduce ourselves before class and everyone was friendly.
Drop-in Cost and Swag
The cost to drop in is $25 for a single class and $75 for a week (unlimited classes), so if you’re in town for a while it’s a really good deal. As mentioned earlier, in the response to my initial email I was sent a link to sign up that gave us $5 off our first class. You have to set up an account, which is a little unusual but not time consuming. They also sent a link to their waiver to get that out of the way before arriving.
The first shirt purchase is $15 (I’m not sure how much subsequent shirt purchases cost), so between that and the discount to drop in, there’s certainly incentive to give CrossFit NOLA a try. They had a pretty good stock and a fair amount of variety.
If you’re willing to add a little sweat to your sweat, CrossFit NOLA is definitely worth a visit. They’re strong in all areas. They’re easy to communicate with, the programming and coaching is very good and the facility is clean and well laid out. I can only speak for the downtown location, but it was impressive and I would expect the other locations would run themselves similarly. The next time I’m in town, I’m definitely dropping in here again.
Wishing you safe, healthy and successful travels!
CrossFit NOLA (downtown)
1309 Magazine Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
In November, 2022 I paid my second visit to Iron Flag Fitness, home of CrossFit Iron Flag, located in Westmont, IL just west of Chicago. I didn’t get the opportunity to write up my first visit so, we’ll make this one a “two-fer”. I’ll give you highlights from both visits. I’ve said in the past, it’s always nice to return to a place to see how consistent they are.
On many counts, Iron Flag (we’ll call it that for short) was consistent. I’ll point out those consistencies, and maybe a couple of inconsistencies in the details below.
I wanted to make a special mention here. Both times I’ve been here I’ve had the opportunity to speak with one of their owners, Kelly. Not only is she gracious, she and her husband spend a lot of time and effort giving back to the youth of the community. They have a non-profit focused on getting kids resources for the classroom and getting them involved in athletics for stronger minds and bodies. So, big bonus points here. You can learn more at https://www.ironflagathletefoundation.org/.
In terms of location, Iron Flag is in Westmont, IL which is very close to Oakbrook Terrace and not far from Elmhurst and Naperville. My hotel was very close to Westmont so it was an easy trip for me.
Let’s get into the details. As always, each category is rated on a scale of 1-5 barbells.
Each time I wanted to visit, I filled out my name, number and email on their drop-in webform and they promptly responded to me. I asked about the workouts, and they were able to text me the details for the days I was interested in. They’re very responsive and helpful with answering my questions.
Their website has drop-in information in the top banner. You can easily find their schedule and location on a map. They currently have a popup promoting a sale. Not sure if it’s always there but it’s easy to get out of it and move on. There’s also a chat bot for questions. If you scroll down, you’ll find details on their coaches, including CF certifications.
The only downsides I could find was it would be nice if they posted their WODs in advance, which was mitigated by their great communication. Also, on the home page there are a lot of fast-moving images and flashing colors. I found it difficult to look at, but that’s me and it’s easy to scroll down past it. That doesn’t change the fact that just about all the information you need ahead of your visit is easy to get to.
Iron Flag is pretty clean, given that it was late in the day each time I’ve visited. There’s some chalk on the rig and the floors showed the day’s use but it’s pretty clear they clean it regularly. What I didn’t see were people wiping down bars and their workout area after they were done. They do have cleaning supplies, as I asked for them after the workouts.
I checked the restrooms and, for the time of day, they were in pretty good shape.
This is an interesting facility. There’s several distinct areas. There’s a main floor, as well as an area that appears to be used for specialty classes like barbell training and an area on the far side of the gym for what looked like an open gym-type setup/warmup area. There are several restrooms and an area to stow your workout bag/gear.
There’s a lot going on simultaneously here but there’s plenty of space. It’s by no means small.
Iron Flag is well-equipped, with plenty of barbells, plates and machines. There’s no shortage of smaller items like wall balls and dumbbells either. The barbells and were a little on the rusty side but not terrible.
The workouts here were varied and challenging. The first time I visited, the workout was DT (five rounds of twelve deadlifts, nine hang power cleans, and six push jerks). It was particularly challenging for me because I had just come off a competition a couple of days before that had a DT variant in it. There’s something to be said for timing.
On the second visit, the workout was 3 rounds of 8 strict pullups, 16 pistols, 20 med ball situps and a 600m run. With a durability workout of 4 sets of 10 barbell rows and 20 banded pulldowns for dessert. It was sufficiently challenging but all things I could do (with a slight scale or modification here and there).
I liked the variety and the thoroughness of the workouts. I don’t mind a cash out so the durability workout on my second visit was not an issue. As always with workouts though, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Coach Guy ran the workout for us on my second visit, and unfortunately I can’t find my notes on who was coaching the first time. He may have been coaching then as well.
It was a little different between my two workouts. Both had thorough warmups. The second one moved a little quickly, but it was a longer workout and they had to be sure not to run over into the next class. So, he timed it well there.
I was introduced to the class on my first visit but not my second. I think Guy called me by a three different names. That’s okay. I’m not great with people’s names when I first meet them either.
On both visits, when I had questions there was no issue with getting an answer or help. Guy helped me scale the pistols so they were doable for me while still challenging. Both times the coach kept an eye on the athletes and encouraged them. However, for the durability workout on the second visit, the coach left the floor, I believe to take a call. We were well under way by then and there was not a whole lot of risk with the movements but just something I don’t typically see.
Overall, the coaching experience was positive but it’s my job to report all the details to you. I regard this as a small issue and it would not keep me from returning.
The culture is positive here. It’s a busy place and I could see athletes interacting with each other. Each time I visited, there were at least a few members that directly engaged with me. Kelly, the owner, has been very welcoming each time I’ve visited and took time to speak with me. I would say that I was well received, and people are friendly.
Drop-in Cost and Swag
The cost to drop in to at Iron Flag is $20. Standard fare and it’s even starting to be a little on the bargain side, given the current economy. Shirts are $30, which is not as much of a bargain, but they seemed to have a fair bit in stock and a decent variety (there's more than what's pictured below).
Iron Flag Fitness was definitely worth a second visit. I had a good workout each time, the facility is clean and there’s plenty of hardware to go around. The people are friendly, and the owner is particularly nice. I really like they work they’re doing to give back to the community. If you find yourself a little west of Chicago and are looking for a place to drop in, you should definitely check out Iron Flag Fitness.
Iron Flag Fitness (Home of CrossFit Iron Flag)
20 East Chicago Avenue
Westmont IL , 60559
By guest reviewer, Honey Parker
I was going to be in Biloxi MS for a few months and was looking for a gym. Spoiler alert - I found a great one! I had two choices. V&L Biloxi Fitness (formerly V&L Biloxi CrossFit) and Crooked Letter CrossFit. While Crooked Letter’s site was more inviting and showed more trainers, V&L was closer to where I was staying so I started there. Color me CrossFit lazy.
Having started doing CrossFit in Park City Utah and dropping in on boxes in New Jersey and Maryland, I was in for something new. Life’s just different on the Gulf Coast. (Hint: Leave your Lulus at the door.)
Communication Information Availability
I called and left a message saying I was interested in dropping in. It took a couple of days to get a response, but when the owner, LaTisha called me back she was welcoming and told me everything I needed to know to get started. I never did find a WOD listed anywhere.
You can find information, including their schedule, on V&L Facebook. To get specific drop-in information, you’d have to call.
You have to look past the age of some of the equipment. Older bikes and rings can appear dirty and first glance, but everything is wiped down. The mats are clean and floor work felt fine. There are buckets out with spray bottles and paper towels to wipe down equipment when you’re done using something. Everyone uses them. The bathrooms are very clean and there are spray bottles and towels in there as well.
The space is quite large particularly for the class sizes which were all relatively small. I was often working out in classes of four or five. The biggest class I was in was eight people. Tons of room for all and more than enough equipment.
Every workout has a warm up, a strength element and a more cardio element. The more cardio element has options for three level of intensity. There’s a fair amount of cross-pollination within a workout. You might do the weight from the middle level and the reps from the RX level. That worked for me. And cool-down…that’s on you. The first time I dropped in, there was nothing organized after the workout. So, I asked LaTisha if they did a cool down. Her response? “We usually just lay down in front of the fans.” Welcome to summer in Biloxi.
The schedule is more limited than I’m used to. They just don’t have a lot of coaches. There’s an early morning class that ends while I’m still in Dream Land, an 8:00 am then a 4:15pm and a 5:30pm. And no classes on Saturday or Sunday. 8:00 am works for me so that was fine, but I would have liked a Saturday class.
Honestly, I’m used to more of a review of movements than what they do here. So that was a bit odd. I would like more of formal review. But once we got going, the coaches were all watchful and there to point out how to improve on form. And if you asked anyone to show you something specifically, they will. It’s a relaxed vibe, but the work is good, right and true.
The owner, is great. She’s equally easy with men and women. All the coaches are casual, yet welcoming. The welcoming nature of the other people working out was hit or miss. Some of the people were very friendly and some of the guys had no time for me. That’s okay. I’m there for myself. I enjoyed the people willing to be receptive, but I was usually the one to reach out.
Drop-In Cost and SWAG
This score is an average between drop-in cost and swag. I did a 10-visit pass and the first class was free, so I felt it was a good deal. A single class cost is $15, which is very good.
Not a lot of swag. When I asked about it, she said her T-shirt supplier had gone out of business. She’s considering getting her own printer so they won’t be dependent on a third party.
If you’re not from the South or the Gulf Coast, it’s a bit of a culture shift. Utterly not fancy. But if you’re willing to hold back on your judgment, it’s a cool vibe and a solid workout. The owner is easy company, and nothing seems overly judged. Everyone works out at their level and pace and it’s all good. I’ll be bummed to move on.
V&L Biloxi Fitness
875 Barthes St.
Biloxi, MS 39530
About The Author
Honey Parker has been a CroissFit athlete for 13 years (as of this post). She is also a successful author of both professional books and novels, including the 3-book Careful-ish series.
For more information on Honey, go to www.honeyparkerbooks.com.