At CrossFit Rail Trail we believe in community first. A great gym culture is built on relationships. We make this apparent during introductions at the start of each class. We foster connection when all athletes, of differing abilities, perform variations of the same workout. Furthermore, our community encourages camaraderie by cheering everyone on to the finish.
We believe a great community is built in small ways, every day. However, it shouldn’t stop there. Community flourishes outside of normal classes, during organized gym events. For this reason, we host various events throughout the year. One fan-favorite coming up for Halloween is our “HalloWOD”! Many of our events are run the same way each year. This creates tradition, and makes them easy to organize after the initial planning. If you want to grow the community at your gym, consider hosting an event with the following components to make sure it’s a success.
For “HalloWOD” members are invited to dress in costume for a workout and after-party. We don’t program weights for this particular workout, as it could be dangerous to perform in costume. Instead, we do a lot of body weight movements, and traditionally team up with partners in the spirit of fun. The format is an AMRAP (as many rounds and reps as possible) so everyone finishes together. Furthermore, to keep it safe and fun, we don’t keep score for this event. In the absence of performance tracking, members are encouraged to let loose and have fun. During events where we do want to track performance or scoring, we rely on Triib for event management, which allows us to focus on community.
Another component essential to the success of community building events is to create traditions! For “HalloWOD” one of our Coaches, Kelly G, always programs a dance routine warmup. It’s completely outrageous and hilarious, and sets the fun tone for the event. Kelly has been known to leak details about the music or movements on our community facebook group, building the event anticipation.
To promote events, we create a Facebook event in advance and invite all of our members. This allows us to keep track of attendance, and encourages participation as members get FOMO when they see their friends signing up online! During classes we make announcements about upcoming events and ask who’s going to inspire participation. For certain events, such as memorial WODs, competitions, and fundraisers, we hang flyers up around the gym. Additionally, we host a few events each year that are programmed for friends & family with no prior CrossFit experience. We’ve found that a newbie-friendly event encourages people who might be otherwise intimidated to give CrossFit a shot!
A surefire way to win at event attendance is to promote free food! We typically provide some food and organize potluck dishes for our events. We always supply the basic necessities like plates, napkins, beverages, etc. as well as some party food like hot dogs, burgers and salad. Easy options to feed the masses work best, plus everyone tends to be hangry and appreciates something hearty after a workout. The potluck aspect further contributes to the community vibe as food brings the many different cultures in our community together! We haven’t found this cost to be too high for us as gym owners, and it’s worth every penny. You must be willing to invest back into your community if you want to build it strong!
After most events, we keep the gym open for a casual after-party. Everyone pitches in to clean up, put equipment away, and set up food and games. The festivities typically consist of games like corn hole, spike ball, music and mingling. There are always plenty of photos taken to document the fun, which everyone seems to enjoy. This becomes especially apparent in the days following, when they are shared in our members-only community facebook group (another great way to grow your gym family!). We strongly believe there is no better sign of a great community than seeing your members enjoying themselves at the gym long after the workout has ended.
Author: Mike Burnes
Mike Burnes is Co-Owner and Coach at CrossFit Rail Trail in Hudson, MA, and US Veteran, serving with the Army National Guard.