How To Do An Open Gym

How To Do An Open Gym

sept 5

As CrossFit has increased in popularity over the past decade, through the development of:

  • The nearly six-month long CrossFit Games’ season (Open to the Games),
  • The commercialization of the Games itself (sponsors, ‘super athletes’, ESPN coverage),
  • The opportunities for athletes to compete outside the Games arena,
  • And the opening of thousands of affiliates worldwide (in some cases, seemingly on every corner of a city like Starbucks)

Clients demand more time to train and put in extra work has increased.

That being said, the concept of an ‘Open Gym’ or availability of gym space—no formal group classes included—is still very much an under-utilized platform for many gyms worldwide.

The Open Gym Model

While the ‘open gym’ model technically does exist through globo gym models, such as a Gold’s Gym, 24-Hour Fitness, or YMCA, there is undoubtedly a difference in the style of training and equipment available at these mega-gyms versus your raw, box setting or functional fitness style gym (think rubber mats, pull-up rigs, squat racks, bumper plates, boxes, air-dynes, rowing machines, rings, kettlebells, wallballs, Oly lifting bars, etc.).

And thus, the trainee, the athlete who wants to train to get better, and better yet, follow his or her own individualized design fitness program runs into a dilemma.

Where can he or she go to get the most out of his or her training? To put in the extra time required to get better—not just at CrossFit, but at their own fitness in general.

After all, one can only improve so much during a 45-60 minute group fitness class during the week—even if they are going practically every day.

Here at OPEX, we implement a unique model that is just now beginning to spread worldwide—trainees with varying goals and abilities (from ‘I want to look good naked’ to ‘I want to compete at CrossFit Regionals and/or excel at my sport’), who all come together under one roof, in one big well-stocked gym to follow their personally designed programs under the leadership and direction of their own remote coach, who programs and keeps track of their training weekly.

It’s the best of all worlds: Community + fitness + personal improvement + client-centered goals + safety (trainees complete programs that are ‘just right’ for them and push them to their own personal limits; rather than demanding they RX a workout with a weight they cannot control, or choose to stay ‘stuck’ in their comfort zones of pull-up bands and the same weight day in and day out).

On this note, we take great pride in leading other gyms and coaches to confidently be able to do the same: Offer an open gym setting that still breeds community, while fostering the individual growth, development and betterment of all the trainees who truly desire to improve—not spin their wheels doing random, constantly varied workouts with no real goal in mind, other than ‘get more fit’ (which is eventually a dead end in group fitness; another topic for another day).

So therein lies the question: How do I do this Open Gym thing the ‘right way’?

How to Do an Open Gym:

Logistics. First things first, ALWAYS understand your insurance policy so that you are protected.  If you want to offer an open gym make sure it is understood on your policy.

Know your what. Stay aligned with what you are selling. At OPEX we believe in individual programming, so it makes perfect sense for our clients to be on the floor and able to do their own programming.  If you are selling group training then open gyms can sometimes (not every time of course) lead to people wanting their own programming and if you don’t sell it—or direct them where to find it, it can lead to resentment down the road.

Consider your business model. How does open gym fit into your model?  Does it lead to better retention?  Does it lead to clients being more engaged or having a better lifestyle?  Does it lead to future trust and better results that lead to better retention/sales? Think bigger picture here.

Space-matters. Make sure that Open Gym does not get in the way of other class times.  When people bust in on others in classes it often leads to resentment or chaos. If space or equipment is a limiting factor, consider ‘off times’ or additional times to offer Open Gym to create this space for those trainees looking for something more. 

Check in. Just because those trainees and clients of yours, who prefer Open Gym, are doing their own thing does not mean they are ‘off your watch’ or could care less about being part of community or a coach-client relationship with you. Get to know your clients. What are their goals? What is their why behind their training? What ‘slight-edge’ resources could you suggest or offer for them, just like you may think of your group fitness class members (nutrition resources, direction for programming/individualized design.

Expand yourself. Why not start customizing and developing intelligent programs for those individuals in your gym who are ready to take on more? Consider getting schooled yourself in intelligent program design through The OPEX Coaching Certificate Program—an intensive, yet easily do-able program offered online and/or through our in-person modules—to help you become a TOTAL COACH. Stop throwing random workouts together because they sound ‘hard’ or ‘fun’, or programming for others, based on what has worked for you. Truly sink your teeth into learning how to customize a training program to individuals that helps them get to where they want to be.


CrossFit® is a registered trademark of CrossFit, Inc. OPEX Fitness’s uses of the CrossFit® mark are not endorsed by nor approved by CrossFit, Inc., and OPEX Fitness is in no way affiliated with nor endorsed by CrossFit, Inc.

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