The 2022 Drop-In Awards
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 email@example.com. 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!
Dropping In at CrossFit Cayman
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.
Market Street, Camana Bay
KY 1-1202 George Town
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
Dropping In at V&L Biloxi
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.
Late last year I started a new job in the Chicago area and, although it took some time to drop in during one of my monthly visits, I was finally able to workout in the area. The first place I visited was CrossFit Salire in Westmont, IL.
Honestly, I had looked at a different box a little closer to my hotel, but I was having shoulder issues at the time, and they were going heavy on the shoulders that week. How fortunate I was to find CrossFit Salire. This is a relatively small gym but great all-around environment.
How did CrossFit Salire rate? Let’s find out. Remember, all ratings are on a scale of 1-5 barbells.
Sometimes I wish I had separated out this category. I’ll be honest, their website isn’t the greatest but the communication I received more than made up for it.
Most of the navigation of their website is from the hamburger menu on the top right. If you go to schedule, there’s a URL but it’s not clickable. I had to copy and paste it into another window to see it. To find details on dropping in, go to FAQ’s and scroll down to the second to last FAQ. You’ll find pricing and other details. Just above FAQ’s in the menu is some details on their coaches, which I always like to look at. Overall, the site has the information you’ll need but it’s just not very intuitive to navigate.
The good news is I emailed them (located at the bottom of all the pages on their site) and got a very quick response from their owner, Melissa. She told me who would be coaching and gave me details on how to locate the facility. I received info about the workout so I knew what I needed to bring with me. I actually visited them a second time a couple of months later and Melissa sent me the workouts for that visit as well.
No real issues here. The first time I visited was an early morning class and the second time was in the afternoon. The floor was in good shape. The afternoon class showed signs of the day’s use more so than the morning, which was expected but nothing bad. There was a little chalk on the rig and even less on the bars. It was nothing that raised an eyebrow. There’s spray bottles and rags and the members used them. The bathrooms looked clean each time I visited.
CrossFit Salire is a small-ish facility but doesn’t feel cramped at all. They have one rig along the side wall and some free-standing squat racks on the other side. They’re well equipped and quite organized. I liked their rack for wallballs. It was almost like a display. Everything seemed to have it’s place. They use the wall space to hang equipment like their benches. They even have racks to hang their rowers.
There was no shortage of bars and plates and, although things showed signs of normal wear, it all seems to be in good shape.
I mentioned I’ve been there twice, each on a different trip. Both workouts were equally challenging in different ways. The lifting component of the first one included a front quat at 85/90% of your max, followed by a 3-minute EMOM of a front squat at 60% x 3 reps. Then the fun began with descending sets of 40-30-20-10 wallballs and 10-8-6-4 deadlifts (225# RX). It got real tiring real fast. But it was a good challenge.
The second workout started with a lifting component of a E2MOM of a 3x push press. The workout was an EMOM of a 45 second row on the first minute followed by a pushing component of 30 seconds for the second minute. I chose bench press but people did push ups as well. It was slated as a 10-minute workout but the coach asked for votes to double it, so we ended up doing a 20 minute EMOM. Fun!
I really enjoyed the coaches here. On my first visit, Haley was the coach. She’s very personable. She introduced me to the modest size class (of 3). And had the others introduce themselves. There was a thorough warmup and she walked us through all the movements. She stayed focused on us and encouraged us throughout the workout.
On my second visit, it was coach Karen. And for the record, it was her idea to turn the 10-minute EMOM into 20. She was also personable, attentive and encouraging. So, I guess I’ll forgive her for that idea of hers.
Each time I’ve visited, the classes were only 3 people (including myself). I like small classes but it’s harder to gauge the culture with fewer people. However, there’s three things that motivated me to score this so high. First, there was an earlier class in the morning of my first visit and they were very friendly and welcoming to me. Second, when I returned 2 months later, one of those people from the earlier class was in my class and he remembered me and where I was from and immediately engaged me in conversation. Third, everyone I interacted with was very nice. I didn’t feel like an outsider at all.
Drop-In Cost and SWAG
Really standard fare here. The drop-in fee is $20 and you can charge it or pay cash. Shirts are $25. There are no package deals that I’m aware of. I didn’t get a shirt honestly because I have so many now. But this is what you can expect to pay these days.
CrossFit Salire is one of those good things that comes in a small(ish) package. It’s not a huge facility, it’s a little out of the way and the classes are small (which isn’t a bad thing). But it’s really got it where it counts. Their workouts are well programmed and well coached and you feel welcomed the minute you walk in the door.
I’ve been here twice and I fully plan to return. Hope you get the chance to check it out if you’re in the western Chicago suburbs.
263 West 61st Street
Westmont, IL, 60559
As we celebrate the second year of Drop-In Diary I look back and it’s been another year of challenge. However, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been fruitful. Doing a very social thing in a time where social things are not always encouraged means you must take extra measures and give extra consideration.
As you know, it was a year of ups and downs in terms of safety and the effect of the pandemic. While the global situation ended the year on a down note, there were definitely positives. Many restrictions were reduced, allowing drop-in visits to occur, and they certainly did.
So, let’s focus on those positives. That’s where I like to live and there were a lot of blessings to count. While I wasn’t able to travel as much as I would have liked, I was able to get to several new locations, including 3 islands. What’s not to like about that. I was also able to stop in on some old friends like CrossFit for the People and CrossFit OTG; Two of my favorite places.
I changed jobs at the end of 2021. Sadly, Drop-In Diary doesn’t pay the bills…none of them. This job change means that I won’t be getting to the upstate New York area nearly as much. But now I get to the Chicago area frequently and there’s lots of places to visit there.
As I reflect back, I also think about the original mission for Drop-In Diary, which I remain focused on. There’s lots of people that travel and many that don’t feel comfortable with the unfamiliarity of dropping in. By visiting places and trying to provide a comprehensive picture of what it’s like at a given location, my goal is to provide some familiarity and comfort so that athletes can maintain a better workout consistency and better overall health.
The unexpected and tremendous dividend for me has been getting to know athletes, coaches and owners, finding new friendships and getting a better understanding of the CrossFit world. It has made me love this venture even more and has motivated me to keep going.
What’s in store for 2022? We’ll have our first guest drop-in review, which is very exciting. I can’t be everywhere and if we can expend our coverage through the feedback of others, I’m all about it. I’d love that to be the start of a trend. Safety protocols have become a relevant consideration so, I will include more information about them from my drop-ins. Also, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. So, more pics when I drop in to give you as complete a picture of a place as possible. I’m also lining up more gear reviews and want to include a couple more nutrition pieces as well. And, of course, as many drop-ins as possible!
So, I want to thank my growing following and anyone who has supported me. I hope you’ve found Drop-In Diary to be a useful tool. If you can, I’d love more feedback so Drop-In Diary can be even more helpful.
I look forward to bringing you more in 2022. As always, wishing you safe, healthy and successful travels.
The 2021 Drop-In Awards
It’s hard to believe another year has passed already. And we’ve had another year of trying to navigate around the pandemic to stay fit. It turns out, I was still able to get in a number of drop-ins this year and there’s been some award-winning experiences. I hope you’ve had fun reading about them and I hope they’ve been informative for you.
Now it’s time to reflect back and honor the best drop-ins of the year. This was a fun and popular event last year so, why not make it an annual thing? No, this isn’t the Oscars. There’s no statuette given to each winning box. This is for fun… and a little bit of bragging rights.
Just like last year, these awards go to things that particularly distinguished a CrossFit. Any CrossFit that I’ve been to in 2021 qualifies, even if I’ve been there before. Some of the award categories remain the same and there some new ones. But who stands out from the pack in each category? We’ll give one award every day between Christmas and New Year so be sure to check in each day to find out.
Here are your 2021 Drop-In Awards:
1. The Home Away from Home Award goes to my good friends at CrossFit for the People in Albany, NY. They won the Most Fun Ice Breakers Award last year. I had the opportunity to drop-in this past July and it was like coming home.
My work used to bring me up there all the time and I’ve had many visits there. The athletes and owner, Kayla are some of the nicest people I’ve ever worked out with. Sadly, I’ve changed jobs and won’t have the opportunity to make it back anytime soon. I will certainly miss them. So, there’s some nostalgia in this award. Congratulations to you, CrossFit for the People. Stay fantastic!
Want to learn more about CrossFit for the People? You can find my full review at https://www.dropindiary.com/blog/crossfit-for-the-people.
2. The Good Things Come in Small Boxes Award goes to Happy Hour CrossFit in Nassau, Bahamas. This is a small facility but you get just as much quality here as many of the big boxes in the states. It's Boxing Day and it’s no coincidence that this award goes to Happy Hour CF today. I’ve been to Nassau on Boxing Day before and it’s a celebration like no other. I highly recommend it if you can make it there. And I highly recommend Happy Hour CrossFit.
Check out the recently-posted full review at https://www.dropindiary.com/blog/an-island-drop-in-at-happy-hour-crossfitwww.dropindiary.com/blog/an-island-drop-in-at-happy-hour-crossfit.
3. The King of the Chipper Workouts Award goes to CrossFit OTG, in Egg Harbor Township, NJ for a second year in a row. Our first two-timer! It’s always well-earned. I love visiting OTG and interacting with the great athletes after I’ve peeled myself off the floor from one of their workouts. Keep up the good programming, Nick. Thank you, sir. May I have another!
It's been a while since my last full review on OTG but things have remained pretty consistent. Check out the full review www.dropindiary.com/blog/crossfit-otg.
4. The Elbow Room Award goes to CrossFit Bexley, in Columbus, OH. We had a small box award. It’s time to represent the other side of the fence. If you like wide open spaces, prefer to social distance or just like a nice echo, CrossFit Bexley doesn’t disappoint. It's got two sizeable rigs and a whole lot of space in between. This place would make Batman reconsider his accommodations. And I’d go as far as to say it’s got more cool toys than the Batcave too.
Haven't had a chance to see the full review? Look no further:
5. The Lives Up to the Hype Award goes to CrossFit Mile Zero in Key West, FL. When I told people I was going to drop in at CF Mile Zero, many said that they had heard about them or had heard good things about them or that they’d like to go there. Of course, they’d like to go there. It’s Key West.
So, when you think of Key West you’re thinking laid back, cool people and just a good vibe. All true! I’ve witnessed it myself and I would do it again in a heartbeat and hope I can. That doesn't mean they're laid back during the workout. It is CrossFit Mile Zero so you'll get your money's worth. Owner, Jeff is a really good guy and the athletes there are all super nice too. Way to go, CF Mile Zero!
Want more details? See the full review at https://www.dropindiary.com/blog/vacation-drop-in-at-crossfit-mile-zero
6. The Location Admiration Award goes to Rock Life CrossFit in St. Thomas, USVI. This was originally called the Most I Wish I Were There Every Day Award (long-winded but still applies) and I thought it was going to go unrivaled for quite some time. I didn’t expect to be back in St. Thomas so soon. Rock Life is an amazing CrossFit in all categories, and you can’t beat the beautiful location. If you get to visit St. Thomas (and I hope you do), you don’t want to miss this place.
You won't want to miss the full reiview either. https://www.dropindiary.com/blog/dropping-in-at-rock-life-crossfit-in-st-thomas
7. The Better Than Mickey Award is our final award of 2021. Some people love a certain mouse in the Florida area. But there are others worth visiting. I’m speaking about MouseTrap Fitness, home of CrossFit MouseTrap in Orlando. This excellent box is right around the corner from the parks and you don’t have to wait in long lines or pay exorbitant prices for a great experience. The people are cool, the workout is hot, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Learn what makes CrossFit Mousetrap as good as they are. Check out the full review at www.dropindiary.com/blog/crossfit-mousetrap-getting-back-to-dropping-in
Once again, this has been a challenging year to drop-in, but we have persevered. There have been some unforgettable experiences in 2021. Congratulations to all of these award winning CrossFits. I hope you will have the chance to try some of these places out. If not, maybe you’ll find some drop in adventures of your own. If you do, please let me know about it. I would love to hear from you.
What does this mean for the awards from last year that weren’t presented this year? Well, I guess you get to keep your title. Keep on bragging because I haven’t found anyone who could top your award-winning characteristics.
I hope you’ve enjoyed all the posts and I hope you all have a safe, happy, and healthy 2022!
I’ve visited Nassau, Bahamas several times. Each time, it’s been a one-day visit off a cruise ship. After a few visits, I really wasn’t interested in any excursions. Sometimes I wouldn’t even get even off the ship.
But wait a minute. Could Nassau have a CrossFit? Why, yes. Yes they do. And it’s close to the cruise port. Happy Hour CrossFit is less than a 15-minute walk from the cruise port and it’s definitely worth getting off the ship for.
If you come in via a ship, you can grab a cab (and there will be plenty waiting for you) or you can take a walk. I decided to walk. I turned left out of the port and that curved around to Bay Street, where you turn left and it’s about a half mile from there. You will notice two things if you walk: 1. there’s no numbers on any of the storefronts at all and 2. Some of the closed down storefronts look pretty rough. It’s not a bad neighborhood. It’s just in bad shape on and off until you get about 2 blocks out from Happy Hour.
Happy Hour CrossFit is in a building adjacent to a Rubis gas station on the left side (headed away from the port). If you have concerns about the walk, the cab ride will be short and should be cheap.
I arrived in port with just enough time for me to make the 9:00 class. I was the first person off the ship. It was raining but me and my crappy umbrella took on the wind and the rain so we could make class in time. With the lack of street numbers and the condition of the storefronts, I was not sure how far down I had to go. I stopped in an open business and they helped to point me in the right direction.
Finally! I made it, just a couple minutes late from my stop for directions. Class had just started. Coach Jamie turned to me as I opened the door - “Matt?” I said “Jamie?” and he welcomed me into class. How did it go? You know the scale – 1-5 barbells. Let’s see how many Happy Hour CrossFit racked up.
I sent a message a couple of weeks in advance to let them know I’d like to drop in on their Contact Us page. It took a few days to get a response but the response was very enthusiastic. “So awesome to hear you will be visiting us!” I love that kind of welcome.
After that, the information flowed easily. He gave me the cost to drop in and for t-shirts (more on that later). Jamie also shared their safety policies like having a picture of my vaccination card and wearing a mask until I got to my workout area. As we got closer, I asked for the workout and Jamie sent it over. Knowing what to bring reduces overpacking.
The website covers all the basics. You have to click around a little bit to find things. It has a Drop-In selection in the header. However, there’s no way that I can see to set up your drop-in online. Jamie reserved my spot in the class and I paid in cash when I got there. They have several programs there in addition to CrossFit and they’re illustrated on the site.
An important note, particularly with COVID is class sizes here are very limited. Given the size of the facility, which you’ll read more about below, and the rules in the Bahamas it’s a good thing. But you’ll definitely want to be sure you communicate when you want to take class so you can get a spot reserved for you.
Nassau is an island, of course. So, there’s lots of sand, and not just on the beach. When you first walk into Happy Hour CrossFit, there’s a shallow tray with water in it for you to step in to get the sand off your shoes. The floor looked clean. There was a little bit of chalk visible on the rig but I didn’t see any on bars. Everyone in class wiped their equipment down after class was over. I did not have the opportunity to inspect the restroom.
This is a small facility. It may be the smallest CrossFit I’ve ever been to. You walk directly in on the main workout floor. There’s a small rig on the left that’s about 4 positions wide. There’s a few pull up racks on the wall on the right. It’s pretty open along the length of the floor. Opposite the front door, there’s a short, wide hallway with some bikes and ski ergs. It leads to a room in the back with several rowers for their Rowfit program.
As a small facility, they use their space well. There’s a rack for everything. Barbells are racked on the walls. There’s stands for their plates, a rack for wall balls and benches are mounted on the walls as well. Most of the equipment is in good condition. Some of the plates look like they have gone through their paces but nothing terrible. There was plenty of equipment for everyone so no worries there.
We started with an AMRAP warmup, followed by a strength metcon on a 15-minute clock to build to a heavy set of 2 power cleans and 1 hang clean. We had the option to squat clean, which I elected to do (I know, crazy).
The remaining workout was a partner WOD. There was an odd number of people so I was on a team of three where they went/I went. It was 5 x 3-minute rounds of 3 power cleans, 6 push-ups and 9 air squats. There was a 1-minute rest between each round and you picked up where you left off after the rest.
I like this kind of workout. It’s varied. It has strength and sprint movement and the warmup really warmed us up. It may not have been overly complex, but it kept us moving and it worked out multiple muscle groups. Sounds like CrossFit to me.
Jamie is the owner and head coach. He’s CrossFit Level 1 certified. However, from my travels and experiences, he presents himself beyond that level. He’s quite attentive. There’s athletes of all skill levels in his class and he worked with all of them based on their needs. I saw him offering feedback to the beginner-level athletes and the more experienced ones. He shared a tip with me for an adjustment as well.
Jamie has a lot of enthusiasm. You can see his passion for what he does. He’s encouraging. During the workout he made the rounds and checked with everyone. He took advantage of the rest periods to communicate and keep us motivated.
As I mentioned above, there was a big mix of skill sets. There’s lots of different backgrounds here as well. It’s a nice blend and a good dynamic. People weren’t overly social, but I wasn’t there before the workout started and that can make a difference.
There was plenty of congrats after the workout and I got to chat with a couple of people. All quite nice. There was no negative vibe at all.
Drop-In Cost and SWAG
This is an interesting one because this is a different country and costs are different. Everything costs more on an island, whether it’s in the US or abroad. The drop-in cost was $25. Relatively speaking, not terrible.
The shirts are $35, which is more than I’ve seen anywhere else to date. However, value is in the eye of the beholder. If you’re a drop-in shirt hound and you're good with the price, grab one. The name and logo are pretty cool. I wouldn't have minded one but they didn’t have one in my size, so the decision was made for me. Either way, the shirt is not my primary objective so I wasn’t worried about it.
Happy Hour CrossFit is a small place, but they really get the job done. Jamie is a great coach, and did a great job with the variety of members. I felt welcomed. The facility is in good condition and things are well laid out for the small size. A very good overall experience.
You’ll have to make your choice for you on your best mode of transportation to get there but I did not feel unsafe on my walk there. And, it’s a very short cab ride from the port if you prefer to go that way.
Happy Hour CrossFit
671 East Bay Street
When travelling to St. Thomas, there are certain essentials you must bring with you: a swimsuit, sunscreen, sandals, sunglasses and your CrossFit shoes….Because if you don’t drop in while on St. Thomas, you’re missing an experience.
On this trip I visited Rock Life CrossFit, which is in the capital town of Charlotte Amalie. You’ll definitely want to get there if you can. I’ve actually been to a CrossFit on the island before but this time the schedule worked out where I could go to Rock Life and I really wanted to drop in here.
My wife and I got an Airbnb with our good friends and there was plenty of time, so I had the flexibility of being selective of my class. When I saw the opportunity to train with their level 3 CrossFit coach, I jumped at the chance. I’m told they currently have the only L3 CrossFit coach in the Caribbean.
Depending on where you’re staying, getting there might be a little challenging. If you’re in Charlotte Amalie (which I was), it’s generally a quick cab ride. If you’re further east, in a place like Red Hook, it’s a longer trip. St. Thomas doesn’t have Uber or Lyft so, that’s not an option. Cabs or rental cars are your main choices. They do have some public transportation as well if you want to explore that and save a few dollars. I recommend a cab.
As I was on a vacation schedule, I didn’t have to select the earliest class (hey, sleep is a great vacation activity too). Did the drop-in live up to my expectations? You’re just going to have to read on to find out. You know the scale; 1-5 barbells.
I filled out the online form to let them know when I would be in town and that I’d like to drop in. I received a response within a couple of days from their Director of Operations, Rachel. She started of with “We would love for you to WOD in paradise with us!” Pretty inviting.
Rachel shared their location , their proximity to key landmarks and instructions on how to register for the class. She also gave me details on steps they’ve taken to keep safe and sanitized. Any follow up questions were quickly responded to.
The website is easy to navigate. Drop in details are easy to find under “SIGNUP/VISIT”. Just click on the class or classes you want to take and fills in the price for you. The details on their coaches, including certifications, are under “ABOUT”. The only thing that’s not there is the day’s workout, as you need a sign-in for it. However, I was able to ask in my email communications and Rachel sent it to me ahead of time.
If you’re contacting them from the States, this is a US territory so it shouldn’t cost you any extra if you want to call them. The same rule should apply if you’re on a US calling plan while on the island. However, their email responses were very punctual so that might be your easiest method.
As you walked in, there's a sign detailing Rock Life's safety guidelines. They were limiting class sizes when I was there and encouraged social distancing and the wiping down of equipment. There was a big bottle of hand sanitizer as you walk in the door.
There were two classes in direct succession before mine so, it was a good opportunity to see how everything held up for my class. We were using rowers and barbells. True to their guidelines, everything from the prior class had been wiped down. After our class, we were asked to wipe everything down as well. Spray bottles and rags are easily accessible.
This is a pretty good-sized facility and, while there was dust in some of the far corners off the main floor, I really saw no cause for concern. I had a look in the restroom and things seemed to be in good shape there as well.
Rock Life CrossFit is located literally across from a huge bay where cruise ships dock (none in town that day). You can look out the window and see clear blue water and sail boats. A workout with a view.
It’s not a small facility. It’s also not a huge, cavernous warehouse like you see in some places but there is ample space. The main workout floor is an “L” shape with the rig in the middle. The rig is unique, at least to my travels so far. It’s two positions deep, meaning there’s a section that comes out of the wall with uprights like you’d expect to see and then another section with uprights in front of it. It’s kind of like double parking. It’s a little less social distanced but a good use of space. Overall, there’s plenty of space. It didn’t feel cramped at all.
There’s plenty of hardware and everything is in generally good shape. There are good amount of barbells, a rack with dumbbells, a separate rack with slam balls and kettle bells and a third with wallballs and more kettlebells. Some bars had a little rust but you can’t help that being in such a humid environment. There’s about seven or eight bikes and an equal amount of rowers.
There’s additional workout space on the right-hand side when you come in just beyond the reception area and a warmup area in the back.
This was my kind of workout – a chipper! It started with a deadlift building to a 1-rep max. I didn’t bring my belt, so I took it a little easier. I also may have received a small speech from my wife about how we we’re on vacation and I better not crush my back. I may or may not have had those words in my head when I was lifting. I actually mentioned that little speech to the coach before the workout and she may or may not have reminded me as I was building up. I’ll leave you to speculate on that.
The metcon was for time:
60/45 calorie row
45 chest to bar pullups
15 bar-facing burpees
One of the things I liked about the programming is they had an Rx and two levels of scaling posted. You could additionally scale from there, of course. But this made it easier for people to just select one of the levels to work on. They were all plenty challenging. It was a guaranteed good workout no matter which one you selected. I personally Rx maybe 4-6 times per year and this wasn’t one of them. It’s about getting a good workout and I had no complaints.
I mentioned earlier that I had the opportunity to take a class with a Level 3 certified coach – coach Megan. Why is this significant? I’ve taken plenty of classes with excellent L1 and L2 coaches. To me, an L3 coach goes into a much deeper level of detail on form and technique, at least the one’s have worked with. It also is a level of commitment that you really can’t have unless you’re passionate about health and fitness. I have the good fortune of having an L3 coach at my hometown gym and he has taught me so much about my form, staying fit and in good health.
Coach Megan shows that same attention to detail and commitment. She pointed out little nuances in my technique as I was working that I normally don’t have called out. She was also upbeat and encouraging throughout the class. A chipper calls for a little extra encouragement from the coach, as people need that push to help them through. I rarely give 5 barbells but it's deserved here. Megan did an excellent job.
This is a place that lends itself to drop-ins. It’s in the heart of a vacation spot. The coach introduced me to the class and involved me in the discussion. There was a range of skill level among the athletes and they all seemed comfortable.
One of the members asked me more about where I was from, as she had lived near Washington DC for a while. There was some light chatting among the athletes during the lift, encouragement during the workout and congratulations afterwards. This is a friendly place.
After the workout, I had the opportunity to chat with the owner, coach Cory. He was very cordial and shared some points of interest to check out while I was on the island.
Drop In Cost and SWAG
The cost to drop in is $20. St. Thomas is generally an expensive place so that’s a pretty good price. The shirts are $25 but if you purchase one when you drop in, it’s discounted to $15. An offer I couldn’t refuse.
They had a decent selection of shirts. My favorite was the “Deadlifting in Paradise” shirt, which they had in every size but mine, of course. Unfortunately, they only had one shirt in my size. At least my choice was clear. I would love it if Cory could contact me if they ever get the deadlifting shirt in again in a large.
I really enjoyed my experience at Rock Life CrossFit in St. Thomas. It was a great overall experience. It’s got great coaching, the facility more than does the job and the people are very friendly. I highly recommend it.
St. Thomas is one of my favorite places to visit so I’m going to bet this wasn’t my last visit to this beautiful island. I’m also willing to bet that this wasn’t my last visit to Rock Life CrossFit. I look forward to returning.
Rock Life CrossFit
1000 Beltjen Road, Suite 2
St. Thomas, Virgin Islands 00802
When you go on vacation, you think about things you’d like to see, activities you’d like to try and places where you’d like to eat. For me, it’s natural to also look for places to drop in. It’s not about having something to write about. It’s part of the adventure. I love to meet athletes in the CrossFit community and learn about the coach’s/owner’s stories as well.
When I went with my family to Key West this past July I was really excited to go to CrossFit Mile Zero. This is a well-reviewed place and, hey, it’s Key West! I was really hoping it would have that Key West vibe.
It was a short Uber ride from our hotel near Duval St. My wife and I got there early; almost 30 minutes before our class time (don’t ask why because I just don’t know). When we arrived, there was a class going on so we hung outside for a little bit so we didn’t interrupt. Coach/owner, Jeff popped out and said we don’t have to wait outside and welcomed us in.
I decided to stay outside for a few minutes and walk around the back. I discovered an interesting outdoor area that they have. More on that when I talk about the facility. I eventually went in and my wife was already chatting with Jeff. By then my friend Justin, who crossed paths with us on this vacation, showed up. Justin is an excellent athlete and coach in his own right, but I was especially happy to have him join us because getting him to drop in while on vacation is kind of like trying to spot a unicorn.
Time to share some details. You know the scale; 1-5 barbells. Here we go!
As I had been hoping to get to Key West for a while, (and was sitting at home during the pandemic with nowhere to go) I had time to become pretty familiar with the web site. There’s a nice big “DROP IN” button that always stays at the top of the page. You really can’t be much more drop-in friendly than that.
The site has details on the coaches, including their certifications, the schedules, WOD for the next day and rates. It’s quite simple and straight-forward.
As far as communication, I submitted an inquiry through their contact form on the site and Jeff responded to me promptly. I asked about any advanced info I could get on the workout so I knew what gear to pack. Although he wasn’t able to give me the exact workout, he gave me enough of an idea so I knew what I needed.
There’s really not much to report here, which is want you want in this category. My wife checked out the restroom and said it was fine. Equipment got wiped down by athletes after class was over. I did notice some chalk on a few of the bars sitting in the racks but the floors were clean and so were the rigs.
This is an interesting facility. It was formerly a post office. I’d say it’s medium/large-size (there’s no real scale to go by). There’s a large main room with a two rigs on opposite walls. Beyond the main workout area, you’ll find several little rooms here and there. There’s a warmup area in the front that may have been a former office. A short hallway off to the side with barbell racks mounted on the walls leads to a small room where they keep their swag (more on that soon). There’s another area in the far back that looks like it was the loading dock in a former life with some stand-alone racks, a bike and a bunch of plates.
And then there’s the outdoor area with mats and pullup brackets. Although I didn’t use it, I liked it. It seemed like you could hold a medium-sized class out there and have plenty of space. Maybe not the best in July after the sun comes up.
For equipment, there’s loads of bars, weights, at least 8 bikes and about the same number of rowers. I couldn’t see anything was really missing. Everything is in good condition.
The strength portion of the workout was a 7x3 back squat or front squat for 3 sets at 75%. I elected to do back squat, as did my wife. Justin went with front squats.
The metcon was 8 rounds for time of 5 burpee box jumps/step ups (20/24) and 10 DB hang snatches (35/45) with a 30 second rest in between rounds.
This was a really good vacation workout. It wasn’t too heavy, nor was it “soul-crushing”. It was perfect to keep us moving and worked off some of that vacation food. In looking at their historical workouts, they change things up plenty so there’s no guarantee you’ll get a similar workout but that’s really what CrossFit is – variety.
Jeff did an excellent job of explaining the workout and getting us warmed up. He demonstrated knowledge of form and movement. He checked on everyone throughout the class to be sure they were all set. I received several visits from Jeff while I was working on my back squat. He was encouraging to all during the workout.
In several ways, the culture was an extension of the coaching. Jeff is the owner, so it makes sense. Jeff made it easy to feel comfortable. When he introduced us to the class he had us tell everyone one thing about us. I was blanking so I did something I never do. I said “have a blog where I review all the CrossFits I drop in to all over the country”, which prompted Jeff to instruct his members to be “really nice" to me. Honestly, I don’t think it would have made a difference. I knew CrossFit Mile Zero had the vibe I was looking for before I said anything.
The members were very nice. Everyone said hello. My wife shared a space on the rig for the strength portion of the workout with one of the members who was gracious and friendly . A few members chatted with us and most of them gave post-workout congrats.
After the workout, Jeff spent some time to talk with us and sent us a list of places to see and things to do while in the keys. There was an excellent overall feeling of welcome here and if you’re the type of person that’s a little bit hesitant because of feeling out of place, this is a really good place to go.
Drop In Cost and SWAG
The drop-in fee was the standard $20. They also have a $60 weekly drop-in rate, which is pretty good if you’re in town for a while. The shirts were also $20. They had plenty of variety, which you don’t always see. That little room at the end of the hallway had a big set of shelves that were pretty stocked. There were ¾ sleeves, tee shirts and tanks. You should be able to find something in your size.
I was hoping to have a really good experience at CrossFit Mile Zero. Maybe because I worked it up in my own mind because of where it is and how long I was waiting to go there. The experience certainly met my expectations. What stands out to me was the overall feeling of welcome here and that’s huge to me. Big kudos to coach/owner Jeff for creating a great environment. My only regret is it’s not a place I can get to with any regularity. I will look back fondly.
CrossFit Mile Zero
3224 Flagler Avenue
Key West, FL 33040