The Gym as a Community
Crossfit. One of the fields that Crossfit excels in is its tendency to build communities. Most of the boxes that I have visited or heard about are very supportive environments for the athletes that are either regulars or guests. Now, I’m not going to go into great depth in this post about the nature of the community. I won’t discuss the dynamics of the community in terms of the quality or availability of help and advice, just overall encouragement, support, and comfort.
As a member of many gyms, fitness facilities, martial arts studios, and public workout areas, I have a lot of experience with different fitness groups. The reason I continue to provide my services at a YMCA is because of the community aspect that it offers to the members and guests. Every day, individuals come in to check out our facility and as I give them a tour, they realize how much of a more supportive and friendly environment we offer. I ask them where they workout and the most common answers, in order, are Equinox, Spectrum, Dave Barton, 24 Hour Fitness, and LA Fitness. (We are in LA right now.) They change their memberships often and are much happier.
Now, without calling out any single organizations directly, every facility offers something different. Some open in order to make a lot of money, some want to work with celebrity clientele, some enjoy doing what they do, and others wants to help people. Most do it for multiple reasons. I’ve always worked at the places that REALLY want to help people. (Because I can achieve the other three through my private services, when I want.) So why is that supportive environment so important to others? I won’t tell you my reasons, I will tell you what the people say.
They don’t like it when the front desk staff doesn’t say hello and goodbye. They don’t like it when other members ignore them when they ask a friendly question. They don’t like feeling as if they’ll get in trouble for doing something wrong, when it might not even be the wrong thing to do. They don’t want to feel like an employee, member, or guest is going to steal their stuff. They don’t want to feel like people are talking about what they’re doing for their workout behind their backs. They want to feel comfortable, because they’ve earned that by paying for a membership and being a respectable member.
Everyone going to the gym is making an effort to look, feel, and/or live a better life. I respect that in almost every instance and recognize that these people, whether they are health-seekers, elite athletes, or any other level are doing something that they might not entirely want to do or enjoy doing, but are trying to make a difference. Maybe they are having health issues and need to strengthen their heart; perhaps they have come from hard times and becoming a professional athlete could help support a large family, or maybe they are retired, bored and looking for some friends and activity through a group exercise class.
The reason almost doesn’t matter, what matters is that they deserve an environment that is conducive to creating a healthy lifestyle. That doesn’t just mean reasonable rates, great parking, and the best equipment on the market. It also means a friendly and knowledgeable staff plus some members that at least have the courtesy to tell someone, “Sorry, I’m in a bit of a rush, maybe next time.” Now, I’m not trying to change the world or force people at the gym to alter the way they workout. We all know what gyms are more welcoming and those that are a little colder.
If you like to workout alone with your playlist and hoodie on, I’m not stopping you, but if someone asks to work in with you, don’t ignore them. Give them an answer. If some popular facility hired you to work the front desk and you can’t help someone with a question because you’re too busy flirting with the attractive guys and girls that come in, well… to be honest, I’d fire you but maybe your supervisors are okay with that. Says a lot about the facility. Have some respect for the industry and leave some feedback about your facility and what category it falls into below! Finding a great community that supports you is one of the best ways to stay hungry and fit!
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