Gymtimidation: Owners Beware and Be Informed

Written by CrossFit C2L owner, John Ziegler

It’s a real thing, Gymtimidation, honest. The word may be a little made up but the feeling is legit. People come into a gym or box and feel nervous, apprehensive, and a little scared right out of the gate. There are large gyms that feed off of this like Planet Fitness where they don’t allow people to do certain things. That is an incorrect way to handle it if you ask me but it is an effective answer to how this happens. The reality is the culture of a gym is in the hands of those that own it. So now you have to look around, and within, and ask “does gymtimidation exist in my gym and if so what do I do about it”. Great question, and here’s some help to get your atmosphere turned into one that is welcoming, warm, and full of positive energy.


Let Them Be

The Planet Fitness solution to making people feel comfortable is backwards. In creating an atmosphere that tells people to not be loud, grunt, celebrate, or wear, well, gym clothes they are beating their chest and trying to be the big kid on the playground. It’s the same intimidation issue just in reverse. Why not just let people be who they are?

That means let the grunters grunt, let people get out those primal yells to make that PR happen, and let the quiet folks be quiet if they choose. But you must love them all the exact same. That means if you are a loud lifter you can’t ignore the quiet people, you must reach out to them and embrace them. Work extra hard to let them know they are welcome, just like everyone else. Embracing everyone as the individuals they are instead of trying to turn them into someone they aren’t will go a long way in making them feel like your gym is home.

Don’t Be a Bully


Who knew coaches could be bullies? Truth is I can’t tell you how many stories I have heard from clients that tell me how their old coach found out they were thinking of making a switch to somewhere else and literally cornered them about it like a bully on a playground. You don’t own your members. We are in a service industry, it is our job to serve those in our gyms. If someone comes to us and says “hey sorry I am looking at going somewhere else” then stay calm and find out why. Asking a few simple questions can reveal a lot about what is going on for them and why they aren’t happy anymore.

Don’t bully someone into staying though, that’s not going to end well. Sure the person may cave under the pressure and stay, but down inside that person is going to harbor a resentment and the way you handled it will get out in your community at the gym, as well as outside of it. That is serious damage done to your reputation, especially with potential new people who will ask around.

You Are In a Service Role, Serve


When you signed up to own a business and be a coach you signed up to be a server. No I am not talking about a “what time would madam like tea” kind of server, but you are a server none the less.

When people come to us looking to make a change, ramp up their game, train to compete, whatever the reason is we are responsible to give them what they need. Health and fitness are vital to our longevity as human beings. It is our responsibility to take care of these people, to listen to them, to be here for them, to care for them like their doctor should. If we are stand-offish, late, don’t return emails or calls, or play on our cell phone in class we are failing. There is no task to small for us to handle when it comes to serving communities.

Be Humble, Be Gracious, Be Great

trisha and mike

The best CrossFit boxes I have ever been to I only ever saw an owner WOD once with a class. It was so out of the ordinary that I was literally shocked and paused to watch it happen. It was awesome. They crushed the WOD like it was nothing, and the minute they were done they were the biggest cheerleader in the room. They went from person to person out of breath covered in sweat giving that life saving “come on you can do this” type of encouragement.

When class ended and everyone was congratulating the owner on his time he simply said thanks and turned the conversation onto how impressed he was with the progress that individual had made since coming and how proud he was of them for pushing so hard. You could see smiles widen on every face. He made it about them, and not himself.

Coach Don’t Compete


One important thing about the story above, the owner wasn’t the coach on duty that day. There was another coach responsible for handling class and he let that coach handle class. If you want people to feel good about being in your business don’t stop coaching and start competing with them. If you are the coach on duty then COACH. Suddenly dropping out of coach mode and into competitor mode in order to “show ‘em how it’s done” isn’t how it’s done. Your members will remember how you decided to stop coaching in order to compete, and they will resent you for it. They are paying a lot of money to be coached, encouraged, and taken care of, not to have you step in and hammer out the WOD.

If you do want to do the WOD with a class, ask permission to do so from your class first. Some classes would welcome having you suffer with them, but make sure its with them and not against them.

In the End, It’s Not About You

Sure it’s your business. You sweat, slave, and work your tail off to make it work, but it’s not about you. It’s about the people walking through the door and how they feel. If they feel comfortable then you will succeed plain and simple. You could have great programming, amazing equipment, and a huge space but if you don’t take care of your members and treat them the way they deserve it won’t last.

One of the best compliments we’ve gotten since opening was from a couple that dropped in, Mike and Tricia, who told us their favorite box was one they visited that made them feel at home right away, like they belonged and were welcome. They told us we had that same exact feel and offered to help in any way they could. We couldn’t have been happier to hear that and thought at that moment we were doing things the right way.

Take care of everyone that walks in, make them feel like it is all about them, and they will help you grow beyond your wildest dreams.


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