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Think Outside the Box: Offering CrossFit at Your Rec Center

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CrossFit is not a typical community recreation offering, considering most of these facilities usually emphasize activities and services for the whole family. However, CrossFit can be a great addition to your programming, in spite of any hesitations you might have about drawing “hardcore” exercisers to a traditionally family-oriented environment.

This was one of the basic challenges the YMCA of the East Bay had to overcome when launching its own CrossFit programming back in 2016.

“Our initial fear was to not be taken seriously,” said Julien Marquez, the health and wellness director at the East Bay Y. “Many people associated the YMCA with easier programs and classes. Moreover, many YMCAs have started bootcamps or cross training programs that mimicked CrossFit — most of them weren’t successful.”

In spite of that challenge, Marquez and the East Bay Y are CrossFit affiliates and have turned the program into a legitimate profit center. “We wanted to be known as an official and legitimate CrossFit affiliate,” he said. “Our programming is the true hybrid of what CrossFit is about.”

In his experience getting the program off the ground, Marquez has identified three basic “must-haves” for any facility offering CrossFit classes:

  • Education, especially with a background in physiology and anatomy. Having a strong understanding of strength and conditioning programming in regards to balancing movements and volume, etc.
  • Excellent customer service. A friendly, welcoming and supportive staff is the key to any successful business.
  • Marketing and promotion. Consistency is key.

Program participation has also been helped by the additional benefits members get when they sign up to the East Bay Y as CrossFit members first.

“As the most affordable CrossFit box in the East Bay, our pricing and amenities are extremely attractive to individuals with or without children,” said Marquez. “Our YMCA’s CrossFit membership includes two hours of childcare per day, as well as access to locker rooms with showers, the outdoor swimming pool, outdoor basketball courts, weight room and cardio equipment, and over 100 group fitness classes.”

Since its inception, the CrossFit program has helped the East Bay Y reach a previously untapped demographic, and given a place for “hardcore” exercisers to have a group fitness tribe at a much lower cost than other CrossFit boxes in the area.

Despite being a non-traditional offering, CrossFit can be successful at a community recreation center, as the East Bay Y has proven. “Three years and over 80 members later, we are very happy with the state of our box and our members,” said Marquez.

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Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the editor of Community Rec Magazine. He can be reached at bobby@peakemedia.com.

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