Is Potomac Crossfit a good place to start crossfit training?
March 2, 2011 7:41 PM   Subscribe

Is Potomac Crossfit in Arlington, VA a good place for a crossfit beginner?

I'm 23, male, and fairly athletic. I've played soccer/basketball pretty much my whole life, but I have never done any sort of real weight training programs. I've recently become interested in crossfit, and the closest crossfit gym is the Potomac Crossfit.

I've read the related posts here and the general idea seems to be that it's a good program but the quality varies greatly from gym to gym, leading to poor results and serious injuries.

The reviews from Yelp seem to be very positive but I was hoping for more specific/personal experience. For instance how good are the trainers at pushing individual without sacrificing safety etc.

Or if you have recommendations for specific trainers or other better gyms nearby. Just general advice/warnings on crossfit are welcomed as well.

posted by typography to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The DC/Metro area is home to some very good affiliates. Personally, I am a big fan of Crossfit Bethesda (I mean, I do go there after all) and all the trainers there but I have heard good things about Potomac Crossfit from other people I've talked to. A regular at my gym likes to gym-hop and makes sure to hit Potomac regularly.

If you are interested in giving Crossfit a shot and don't mind shooting up to Maryland, give me a MeMail.
posted by Loto at 7:45 PM on March 2, 2011

Best answer: I can't advise you specifically about Potomac Crossfit, but here are some things to keep in mind when selecting a Crossfit gym:

Background of the Coaches
If every coach's background is in Crossfit, Crossfit, and more Crossfit, and all of their certifications are Crossfit-based (i.e. Crossfit Powerlifting, Crossfit Weightlifting, etc), that's not a great sign. It indicates the coaches may be of the "Crossfit is All" mentality, which can lead to a singlemindedness in the Crossfit ethos ("men will die for points," "20% slop" in your form is acceptable, etc) that leads to bad form and injuries.

If there is evidence that the coaches participate in things outside of Crossfit--they organize groups going to powerlifting competitions, or running 5Ks, or have a USA Track & Field certification or a USAW Level 1 Olympic lifting coach certification, that's point towards them.

If there is no "On-Ramp" or introductory program for beginners, that assesses beginners for imbalances, weaknesses, mobility problems, and slowly introduces proper form on the movements without requiring all-out intensity from Day 1, that's a bad sign. It should last at least two weeks, ideally four.

Look at the blog or website of the gym. Go back a few pages in the blog if you have to. See if the coaches talk about doing a "strength cycle" or an "endurance cycle" or basically anything that indicates the workouts are not randomly pulled out of their butts. Talk to the coaches beforehand. If they say "We do everything randomly in order to constantly vary the stresses on the body blah blah blah," expect that you will make good gains in the beginning (like every beginner makes gains in anything) but eventually they will peter out and stagnate without more focused programming. This could be six months or a year down the line.

If you have a specific goal or sport you're training for (soccer, marathons, powerlifting, etc) and they say that everyone needs the same program no matter what, that's a bad sign.

Injury Rate and Recovery
This is more difficult to determine. But if you go to the Crossfit Boards search for the gym or members in the "Injuries" forum, and threads keep popping up, that's a bad sign.

If you ask the coaches what they do for guiding their clients to mobility or prehab work, and they say "Nothing," "You can do that on your own," or look at you like you're crazy, that's a bad sign. If they don't know what a SLAP tear or rhabdo is, that's a really bad sign.

Emphasis on Form
This is really important because it is where a number of Crossfit trainers fail and push their clients to injury. A regular globo-gym trainer may teach crappy form, but it will be on machines and they'll likely be only letting you do such light weights that the worst thing you can get is tendonitis. But bad form, using heavy weights, under high intensity like in a timed workout, for multiple repetitions is a recipe for disaster. So if you watch the videos for your Crossfit affiliate and it's clear that as people get tired they are flopping around, they lose tightness and slump forward when they squat down for thrusters or squats or what have you, they "reverse curl" their power cleans, they let their back go lax on their kettlebell swings, and the trainer is encouraging them to push harder, that's no good. This can be difficult for the layman to assess because you may not know what good form looks like. You probably know what a tired person looks like, though. And if people's backs are rounding over and slumping like they're about to collapse and the trainer does not yell out corrections, that's no good.

If all the affiliate follows is the Zone, no uncounted Paleo, just Zone Zone Zone, that's a bad sign.
posted by Anonymous at 8:52 PM on March 2, 2011

Came into the thread to comment, see that Schroedinger gave you a very complete answer. I'll just add a little commentary to the things Schroedinger already mentioned:

On ramp classes -- this would be something like a 9 to 12 class sequence to teach you all of the movements. There are 30-something exercises that come up all the time in crossfit workouts and another couple of dozen things that come up once in a while. Some of the movements are highly technical. Most boxes also have a free intro class to give you a taste; the on-ramp is going to take a time commitment and cost a couple hundred bucks. It will be called something like on-ramp, elements, or foundations; if they have one, it will be a requirement before you can join a regular class. When I started three years ago, no one was doing on-ramps. Knowing what I know now, if I was starting today, an on-ramp would be a deal-breaker requirement for me.

Emphasis on form -- ask to swing by and watch a class. You don't need to know what good form looks like, the main thing you'll want to look for is that (a) the trainer goes through the movements ahead of the workout and (b) the trainer is correcting people as they go. If those two things are happening, then you'll likely be in safe hands.

Other things to look for: does the class warm up as a group, or on their own? I'm biased towards group warmups. Do they spend any time working on skills? Does the class do any stretching or rolling out before and/or after the workout?

Finally, I'll mention that crossfit gyms are like bars: each one has their own vibe based on the clientele and trainers. So it isn't so much that one is better than another (though I would certainly agree that the quality varies), but you might find that one just fits you better.
posted by kovacs at 9:32 PM on March 2, 2011

My friend uses a Crossfit gym in northern Va. Not sure if it's Potomac or another one, but she does live in Arlington. She says her Crossfit gym has social events that feature alternating cups of keg beer or shots of tequila with lifting to failure. It sounds like, among other things, a great way to get injured.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 10:53 PM on March 2, 2011

Just general advice/warnings on crossfit are welcomed as well.

Ok, I say this as someone who has attended multiple CrossFit gyms and has friends who own an affiliate. CrossFit is not a "real weight training program." It's almost the opposite of one, in fact.

If you're the type of person who absolutely needs to spend a bunch of money and attend a group class in order to get motivated to work hard, and you have a bunch of money to spend, and you find an affiliate with great coaches, it could be your best bet.

Otherwise, you can accomplish absolutely any athletic goal much more efficiently, inexpensively, and safely via other means. And you'd do so by picking a goal and actually training for it, rather than doing a random hodgepodge of stuff that sounds "hardcore" and is as likely to get you hurt as it is to improve your performance in any measureable capacity. The main thing CrossFit will make you better at is doing CrossFit.

Again, I know for a fact that CrossFit has done great things for a lot of people. I think CrossFit is better than 90% of what people do in most gyms. And maybe if not for CrossFit, those people never would have learned how to work hard in the gym and get results. But that says more about the general lack of real gyms and real training than it does about the efficacy of CrossFit as a methodology. You will get results if you work really hard and consistently at anything. You'll get the best results if you work really hard in a way that follows a logical plan towards a specific goal, and that's not what CrossFit is about, and that's one of the reasons that increasingly many intelligent, high quality CrossFit affiliates are no longer affiliated.

Feel free to mefi mail me if you like.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 2:13 PM on March 3, 2011

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