In Affiliation, Videos

December 23, 2009

Video Article

Skip Chase opened the 57th CrossFit affiliate—Mt. Baker CrossFit—in 2005. While many affiliates have chosen the closed-class model for various reasons, Chase decided to go with an “open-gym” system that minimized his start-up costs and didn’t exclude people who couldn’t commit to a specific class time.

Chase recalls that some affiliate owners were skeptical of his choice when it was discussed on the Message Board in 2006, but years later he’s still doing the same thing with success. A common criticism is that the open-class model doesn’t create the same group cohesion you see when members always work out together at the same time, but Chase believes his system ensures greater mixing of athletes who might come one day at 9 a.m. and another at 6 p.m.

Besides, having many small groups of athletes starting WODs at different times puts less stress on the locker room and the parking lot.

Video by CrossFit Films by Jordan Gravatt.

6min 18sec

Additional reading: Sign on the Dotted Line: Affiliate Membership Contracts by Andy Petranek, published Dec. 1, 2007.



19 Comments on “Open Gym: Mt Baker Part 1”


wrote …

On the road up to five days per week, I’m rarely in the same city at “nine o’clock” on consecutive days. I appreciate few things more than affiliates that permit me to complete a main site WOD, irrespective of their programming. While I understand the risk assumed if all drop-ins followed their own programming, were it not for owners of the same mind as Mr. Chase, I could potentially follow as many as 75 affiliates’ programming over the course of a year.


Joseph Powell wrote …

We are very similar, for EXACTLY the same reasons Skip stated. When we started up in Arizona (vs. Kentucky where the first Chaos Compound was) it was do or die. No part -time job or full time job to lean on. The thought of classes would have stunted our growth greatly. A new entity in programming, and a new intenty in "person" to this community. I train people all day long averaging 12 hours Monday through Friday and 5 on Saturday. Long hours, but it works. People get to train as they wish and meet new people.

Coming from a military background, I really am just sick of time hacks. Now, myself and the athletes can start the WOD on our timing or rest between sets during strength work as we wish. Warm-up as we need. I have basically 3 of everything, and rarely run out of equipment, while following Crossfit main page almost to the letter, with Brand X scaling...three weeks behind. The movements come around much faster for most as well. Amazing when we get an out of towner, who has been at it for months, then visits once or twice and learns things that have been killing them the whole time. Now they can slow down and the trainer can get more personal. Really works well with our several "Silvers".


wrote …

Sounds good to me.


wrote …

I actually train at Skip's gym every once in a while, it's where I started crossfitting. I can say from experience that the open-class model works great, and doesn't sacrifice community really. I don't have the opportunity to go very often, but when I do, the trainers still remember me and I feel like a part of the community. It is a lot easier for people to get started as well, because they're not bound by a schedule and can have their 'tryout' workout anytime they want.


wrote …

I got to see Skip at Fil Fest 08. Incredible person! Sorry I didnt take the time to meet him. Infectious energy, hung on every word of his time at the mike. As an affiliate owner I am so grateful to see this video and how he runs his box. CrossFit produces a hero a day, every day. What a community! People share their experiences openly and pave the way for others to benefit.
Thanks Skip, Coach, Lauren and the Whole Community, the World has become a much better place since CrossFit! You all make it happen..... Thank You.


wrote …

My community Box, the doors are closed most of the day when classes are not being conducted.

As a Crossfitter and a businessman, my schedule does not permit me to maintain "regular" hours so I need that open gym.

From a perceptive point of view, driving by and ALWAYS seeing those Crossfit doors rolled down with no cars in the lot, I believe they are not running successful business. It's the middle of the day and the place is closed.

From a business perspective, they have many expenses to pay and closed doors does not pay the bills or make them accessable to newbes.


replied to comment from Richard Edwards

Richard, I am on the brink of starting my own box and due to my real job can only train mornings and nights. I agree with your points but don't rule out closed doors as a possible necessity or temporary work-around.

Questions for box owners: How do you manage trainers with the open gym format?? It would seem easier to keep eyes on all that stuff going in a class format? Thanks.



Tom Seryak wrote …

We use a format similar to this. It allows us to train our clients more individually; more work for us, better human performance for them when compared to the class model. On make-up days like today, we may have several different wod's going on at the same time. In my opinion, this is much more valuable than the CrossFit class and we charge accordingly. The sense of community is actually better. Competition can suffer slightly at times, but i don't see it as significant. The whiteboard does just as good a job as in person competition. That being said, our fees are higher...which actually helps pre-qualify those that are looking for "cheap". Trying to explain the difference in our model from the typical CrossFit class model has been the biggest challenge...


wrote …

I like skips model. I found crossfit on line. visted my local box did a intro fran WOD loved it but the class schedule didnt work for me so i am doing WOD on my own. I am currently unemployeed and seriously thinking of opening my own box. if i do i will use Skips model. Also i am from the east coast and the cert 1 are always sold out and if you find one farly close its 3-4 months out. wish there where more certs on the east coast.


Kristopher Germain wrote …

i love the model you have described. my big question is how do you pay your trainers?
the system that i am pursuing currently involves closed classes, where a trainer would be fed clients, but also rewarded for building his/her own micro-community because they get a percentage of each athlete that they have in their class. this should be an incentive for them to build their classes, and also reward them for being great coaches because people will stay in their classes. with full classes, the trainers can make very good money.
this closed class model made immediate sense to me and seemed very easy to incorporate. the book keeping seems very straight forward as well.
i notice that you have a ton of trainers listed on your site. i also know that your box has been thriving for a while now, so i'm interested to know how you take care of you coaches to allow for even more growth and a stronger community.
given the choice of open/closed classes, i would absolutely choose the open gym model. i just don't see how that works as easily yet.



Jesse Gray wrote …

These videos are incredibly helpful for an aspiring affiliate owner like myself. Real world examples of CF box business models really help me figure out what kind of facility would work best for my situation. Right now I am thinking some sort of hybrid would probably work best. I am thinking that when I open, I will probably have either two or three formal classes a day in addition to extended periods of open gym time. Possibly, open doors at 5:30/6:00am with a morning class, keep it open until 1:00 with a noon class then shut down for a couple hours, open back up a 3:00, class at 4:00 and then keep the doors open until 8:00 or so. Any thoughts people?


Cody Limbaugh wrote …

Kurtis or Laurie (if you are reading)

I would love to hear more on this approach. There is a conversation about this over in the Affiliate Msg Board too.

My big questions:

Coaching of newbies: Intro classes or still just integrate into the "open" day?

Coaching of movements: I use the warm-up/cool-down portion of our structured classes to teach and coach and intergate skills & drills. How do you do this if you are being interrupted by people coming in and out at different times?

People falling through the cracks: Any of your athletes neglect warm-ups or skill development?

Memberships: All unlimited? Are you racking visits?

Coaches: What are your compensation and schedule systems?

I admire you all and would love to learn more! Thanks!


Cody Limbaugh wrote …

"tracking" visits


replied to comment from Jesse Gray

Here is what I experience in my place, which is not a CrossFit Box just a training center. I have been running this for 13 yrs.

Mon - Fri
5-7AM Professionals,athletes, early workers and before school parents.
8-9:30AM Moms
10-11AM Retirees

3-4PM Kids
4-6PM Kids with teens
6:30-9PM Mostly adults who were unable to hit the early morning wod.


we do the same think with the warm-up. we usually have 2 skills that we practice that are integrated into the warm-up. we have clients reserve a training "start" time through zen planner that is set-up so that no more than 5 clients can start at any one particular time. we have reservation times set-up on the half hour...this is how we control things getting out of hand. it is working extremely well, but again, we are pretty small scale. my plan is to use the same system if/when we get bigger only have additional coaches available. currently it is one trainer, myself or my wife, per no more than 5 clients at a time. as i said before, i find this option more attractive for both myself as a coach and the client. however, you can't charge $100/month and be profitable doing it this way...nor should it be that cheap...


wrote …

I am 23 year old affiliate owner in Ma. I am also a third grade teacher, so I run open classes with one of my trainers from 8 am to noon. The our afternoon hours, which I run are from 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm. I totally agree with Skip on this mode of scheduling. I still have a great community and people get to see everyone who works out at my crossfit gym. Sometimes life does not allow a person to follow a set schedule, so this works best for my clients. I also find it creates greater opportunity to get more clients and also I want to be known as the crossfit gym who is always there and ready to take on new people and create a sense of caring and respect for each client. With the open gym method it creates a sense of always being there for the client and not forcing them to come to a regular scheduled class.
Thanks Skip for the inspiration

Vagabond CrossFit


Frank DiMeo wrote …

Great insights (as always) thanks!
We use "open gym" in the afternoons and people really like it.


wrote …

Skip, you are , as always, an inspiration to me. I love this concept. It makes it seem more possible to "do it!" I AM gonna pick your brain, my friend!

By the way, I DID finish the 100 day challenge. Again. Where's my t-shirt? ;p


wrote …

I walked into Mt. Baker Crossfit in July of '08 and never realized how lucky I was. I'm in the Navy, and that day read an article posted by the Center for Personal and Professional Development that said essentially that the Navy doesn't support the Crossfit program - needless to say, I immediately Googled Crossfit in the Pacific NW, and lo and behold, there was one right down the road. I walked in the door, and was met by Skip, who asked me if I was ready to work out. He also told me that one of two things would happen after my workout - I'd either be hooked, or I'd walk away thinking "those people are crazy." Having been in the Navy for over 20 years, and a fitness afficiando for my entire life, I thought maybe I should give it a try. At the end of my three rounds of CF warm-up, and what I described as some "little girl" exercises like jumping rope, box steps, throwing a ball up against a wall, etc., I thought to myself, "this isn't so hard." The next morning I felt like I had been run over by a dump-truck. So I went back to Mt. Baker CF for another try. Skip was wrong, because both things happened...I was hooked, and I thought that Crossfit'ers were crazy....and I wanted to be one of them.

Skip provided an incredible amount of coaching, motivation, and guidance as I gradually got in the best shape of my life and became a fire-breathing Crossfit'er. It was a sad day when we packed up and moved on to another duty station, but I'll always have fond memories of being pushed to my limits there at Mt. Baker Crossfit!

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