Opening a CrossFit Gym: Walnut Creek CrossFit

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Opening a CrossFit Gym: Walnut Creek CrossFit
With the growth of CrossFit in the past few years, we have seen a spike not only in the pursuit of health and fitness, but also in entrepreneurship. Boxes are opening at a quick pace. Chances are, there’s a box or several in your hometown and perhaps more to come. The time is as good as ever to expand the community. Are you thinking of opening one? Do you know what to expect? In this article, brothers Eric and Andrew Williams share their experience of opening Walnut Creek CrossFit.

When and how did you get into CrossFit?

Andrew: In 2007 my boss at Velocity Sports Performance starting doing “WODs” and I would join him and get crushed every time. It just took off from there. When Every Second Counts came out I was completely hooked.

Eric: Andrew got me into CrossFit during a family function. He had been training at it for a bit and thought he would introduce me to it. I was in terrible shape at the time. And when I say terrible shape, I mean, by today’s standards TERRIBLE shape. The first workout was 4 or 5 rounds of 400m 10pushups and 10 body weight squats.  These days that is something that I could knock out in no time at all. I think it took me somewhere near 30 minutes to finish. I wasn’t hooked quite yet, but got back into it when I was overseas and then really kicked it up in Oct. of 2011. Haven’t looked back since.

What was it that sparked your desire to open your own gym?

Andrew: I have worked/interned at various strength and conditioning facilities over the years and really fell in love with coaching and programming. I loved my jobs but really always wanted to do things my way. I was with two gyms from the ground up and knew that my own gym was in the future. After months of chatting with my brother and now business partner we finally went for it.

Eric: I was overseas and Andrew was commuting from Walnut Creek to Palo Alto…living in his truck…talking about all of his ideas on how to improve his current gym and so on. We skyped a few times a week and that’s basically all we talked about…me getting back into CrossFit and his experience coaching. Before I came back home, we decided we would have a go at it – mixing his coaching skills and my business skills.

How long has your gym been open and how has the community grown?

Bringing together the community
Andrew: We have been open a little over 6 months, we are seeing new faces every week and they typically are the friend or friends of a current client. We are beginning to hold weekend friendly competitions with workouts and food. Everyone is supportive and proud of the work they have accomplished.

Eric: We offered our first class July 30th of 2012. The community has grown tremendously. We are approaching 40 dedicated clients (the first ones you seem to rarely hold on to) and are starting to feel a real sense of purpose with our members. They seem to trust us, are excited to share their wins and losses with CrossFit and are always looking for ways to get involved and succeed. It’s been very positive so far.

What do you believe separates you as an independent gym within the larger community of CrossFit?

Andrew: We are a smaller gym where you will have the same coach day in day out. We have a little more focus on sports performance with attention to plyos and sprinting mechanics as well as muiltidirectional speed and competency.

Eric: Our one-two punch. I chat with the clients, run the Facebook page, take pictures, send out emails, organize events and think of ways to get people excited (and Andrew definitely does this stuff too). I also work out alongside the members from time to time and basically act like a big cheer leader for the whole thing. Coaching can be an exhausting endeavor, so I think this allows Andrew to focus his energies on good programming, being a stickler coach and worrying about their performance.  The CrossFit culture is demanding…it requires much more than membership maintenance and writing WODS.  I feel like between the two of us, we can actually give our clients 110%.

Is there a specific structure to your staff? To your classes?

How the classes are structured
Andrew: Our classes start with a comprehensive warm up specific to the movements to be performed that day. Then a block used for strength/power or plyo/speed work and finally the WOD. The length of the WOD is based on the time needed to complete the strength/power for that day (i.e shorter strength, longer WOD, typically).

Eric: That’s about it.

What were some of your best experiences throughout the process?

Andrew: Everyday is a great experience because small improvements are always happening. Seeing someone finally look great on a squat after months of practice, mobility and auxiliary squat work is very satisfying.

Eric: Seeing people get stronger. Say things like, “I’ve never had so much fun working out!”  “When can we do another competition” or seeing members that are complete strangers go out for a drink to just hang out. That is really positive stuff right there.

What were some of your worst experiences?

Andrew: Coaching the first class all throughout the day to the last class can lead to some pretty long and tiring days.

Eric: Being so low… so down in the dumps that the gym might not even get off the ground because of circumstances beyond our control. Pumping our resources into the venture without a shred of certainty that we would ever open, writing check after check after check after check can make you crazy and miserable. It was all worth it in the end. We pulled through.

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