I was speaking with a friend recently and he said he would be travelling and will need to find a place to drop in. This naturally peaked my interest, so I started to do a little research. How I find places to drop in is no secret and I don’t want it to be. You should have all the tools and information at your disposal to make the best decisions for you.
Realistically, if you invest only a little time, you will significantly improve your opportunity for a good experience.
Where to start? I always start with a search on “CrossFits near” my destination. The “near” is important because if, for instance, you search on CrossFits in Deer Park, TX chances are you’ll get CroffFit Deer Park in your search result and nothing else around it. CrossFits near___ will more often than not get you a list of choices
as seen here.
If you zoom out in Google maps, it will populate with more options. You can also move and/or zoom in.
In some less populated areas you might have to search on CrossFits near a larger city like Houston and drag to the area you’ll be going to. From there, you can set your boundaries based on how far you’re willing to travel.
Which one to select? That’s a matter of taste but I find the Google reviews to be of great value. Things I look for first is the number of stars (the more, the better of course) and the other thing of equal or greater importance is the number of reviews. Ideally, I look for places with roughly ten reviews or more. Anything less than that could be reviews from mom, cousin Billy and their three closest friends. It doesn’t mean it’s not a good place to try. There’s just less data for you to make your decision. If you see a couple of really good drop in comments, you might want to give them a try.
What are people saying? This is important. You could get 5 stars or 1 star with no comments and have no idea why that particular rating was given. The person that gave 1 star could have been having a bad day or an isolated experience. Context is valuable. What people say and how they say it is very telling.
I look for people that say they’ve dropped in to a particular location. You can have regular members that have been there for years giving great reviews and that’s great but they can have established friends and their experience is going to be much different for them than someone who has never been there before.
Even if one location has a slightly lower overall rating than another, if the drop-in comments are strong, as long as a place is well-rated, I’d definitely consider it. A 5.0 is great but doesn’t tell the whole story.
Keep in mind some locations don’t get a lot of drop ins so that information may not always be available to you. Look for details on coaches, programming, how friendly the members are and other things that are of particiular importance to you.
Here’s a couple of examples:
Language you want to avoid is anything negative, of course. But also, some owners choose to fire back at a negative review. That’s understandable. There’s two sides to every story. But having the debate online isn't the answer. I personally prefer to avoid the drama. If you see an owner respond with something like "I'm sorry to hear you didn't have a good experience. Please contact me and we'll do what we can to make it right for you" that's a good indicator that the owner has a good head on their shoulders. They see there was some dissatisfaction, they want to fix it and they want to take the conversation offline. I admire that approach.
Think you’ve found a good location? Great! You’re almost there. The next thing you’ll want to do is go to that CrossFit’s web site to get some key information. Does their schedule fit with yours while you’re there? If not, you may have to find a different location that starts earlier or ends later.
Next, what's the drop-in fee? If there’s language on their site welcoming drop-ins, that’s even better. That means they’re thinking about people like ourselves. Can you sign wavers and pay online? A nice-to-have for sure. Maybe you don’t know what time you can get there. I haven’t been to a place yet that hasn’t been flexible about when you drop in as long as it’s a CrossFit class and not a specialty class. They may also have options like a mini punch card or a week-long fee if you’re there for more than just one visit.
Have they posted the WOD? It’s always good to know what you’re in for. Optionally, if you can’t find the WOD, you can call in and ask. I prefer to do this but I realize not everyone wants to make a project of it. Another factor in my personal decision making is how responsive a place is in getting back to me, how welcoming they sound over the phone and their responses to other questions like do you mind if I scale my workout?
How much time to invest in your search? Realistically, you can probably locate and research a place online within 10-15 minutes. A little more if you call them. However you decide to proceed, the research will be well worth your time. It sets you up for a better experience and gives you the opportunity to find a great workout.
What next? Let them know you're coming. Even if you're not 100% sure you'll make it, you should try to communicate with them to let them know they'll have a drop-in. It helps them more than you might think. I have a piece on this very topic at https://www.dropindiary.com/blog/communicating-before-you-drop-in. Please give it a look.
After you're done...If you liked the experience, give them a nice Google review. You'll be helping the CrossFit you visited and next person looking for a place to drop in.
If you have any questions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wishing you safe, healthy and successful travels!