I didn’t join CrossFit for the community. I joined CrossFit in spite of the community. As an incredibly shy, textbook-case introvert, the last thing I was wanted was to be surrounded by sweaty, grunting, shirtless people while I was trying to undergo a life change.
The first time I walked into CrossFit West Nashville, I was tired, very overweight and unsure what to do about it. When I walked out of that box for the last time, I was fit, confident and very aware of my ability to succeed in many aspects of my life. My transformation during those 20 months did not occur in a vacuum; it transpired within the CFWN community.
I did not make the decision to leave my box lightly.
But why leave at all?
I had stopped seeing progress. The box had just installed Wodify, and all of a sudden the virtual leader board took on a higher significance than the old whiteboard. I’d be proud of what I had accomplished until I saw how I measured up against everyone else in the daily rankings. My attitude turned from upbeat to sour. I didn’t like who I was becoming and how much influence my WOD time had over the rest my day. For over a year I had been obsessed with becoming better at CrossFit. Now I needed to bring my attention back to the rest of my life.
I had to break the cycle. I had to break up with my box.
And had no idea how to do it.
I Googled the problem. I whined about it to my husband. I stayed awake at night thinking about it. Finally, I asked a couple of box owners about their experiences with members who had decided to leave. They had a lot to say about what NOT to do.
“One of of the worst ways to go is to disappear,” says Coach Eric Griffith, owner of CrossFit Brigade. “A member will delete the online payment, and we never hear from them again.”
“We do all of our billing automatically and occasionally a member will just stop showing up and we’ll get a notification that their payment failed,” says Coach Greg Boyd, owner of CrossFit Combusion. “We call and text but they don’t reply.”
The CrossFit business is extremely personal.” — Coach Griffith
Many CrossFit boxes are family owned and depend on a certain number of memberships per month. It’s courteous to give a little notice so the owners are aware the change is coming and can prepare accordingly.
Social media creates a different problem. “We had a member say he was going to leave because of a pre-existing injury that was causing him problems. We offered to help him work around the issue, but he decided CrossFit wasn’t the best thing for him,” says Coach Boyd. “A week later I saw him on social media at another box in full-on action shots during a WOD. I hated that he lied about health issues to get out of a gym membership.”
Even worse is the former employee who leaves to open a new box, and then recruits your members. “As an owner, you expect some of your coaches will eventually want to start their own businesses,” says Coach Griffith. “If fact, the drive and passion that leads to running a business are desirable qualities to have in your coaches. But let me know what you’re thinking. It’s beneficial for boxes to get along. And there are enough memberships for each of us.”
It’s times like this that we learn the true character of people.” — Tara Cheatham, CrossFit Talon
If you do leave on bad terms to start your own business, do yourself a favor and remember what your mother taught you: If you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. By insulting your former employer, you’re also insulting your former students. CrossFitters are loyal, and your former students may be less willing to check out your new facility if you’ve trashed their box to anyone who will listen.
As far as how to leave? The unanimous answer was: Be honest. Tell the truth.
“We want the best for you,” says Coach Boyd. “Come to your coach and lay it out for them. It may be a problem we can fix.”
Coach Griffith adds, “I don’t want unhappy members at my gym. It affects morale and changes the atmosphere. CrossFit boxes are not one size fits all. Talk to me. Maybe there’s something I can do, but I understand if we are not your fit.”
Here’s the dilemma: how do you tell someone who is important to you that what they have to offer is no longer good enough? How do you make them understand that you need a change? And even worse – what if your friendship actually comes at the cost of a monthly hit to your bank account?
I was afraid that if I told the owners I wanted to leave that I would lose the support I had come to depend upon.
Let the broken hearts stand as the price you gotta pay.” — Bruce Springsteen
So it came down to this: stay to make someone else happy or leave to make myself happy.
I left. I kind of told the truth. I tried to emphasize how important the box and that community was to me. But in the end, well…friendships fade when you don’t maintain them.
Here’s my advice: Be kind. Be courteous. If the owners are worth the worry, then they truly want the best for you (and have probably noticed something was up). If they aren’t worth it, well, wish them the best and take the memories with you.
This is your journey.
**A special thank you to Ben and Paul at CrossFit Upheaval for the impromptu photo shoot. Please note: No real memberships were cancelled during the making of these pictures.