After being a coach at CrossFit South Brooklyn in NYC for 6 years I moved halfway across the country to open my own affiliate, CrossFit Lumos, in Austin, TX. This series will chronicle my experience opening the gym and what I am learning along the way. This article is Part 4 of the adventure. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5.
After all these sober posts about the slow and painstaking process of opening CrossFit Lumos, I’m super excited to write this one. It’s about one of my favorite subjects- GEAR! Everyone who knows me knows that I’m a gear nut, with a special weakness for sneakers. So, despite the existential anguish of spending tens of thousands of dollars, planning and then buying the equipment for Lumos has been one of the more fun parts of the build so far. (Although PRO TIP- make sure you factor in tax on your projections, I initially didn’t and made all the sad emojis when I realized I had undershot total cost by ~10%.)
Most gyms seem to go in one of two directions- either buy the absolute minimum and then look for deals on Craigslist, sales, and generous members to fill it out OR place a massive order from one big equipment company, checking the boxes on just about everything needed. Well, I’m a beautiful and unique snowflake, so I did things a little differently, ordering from a mix of companies. I prioritized equipment that solved specific known problems or had unique useful qualities, with price as a secondary (but REAL AF) concern. Here’s how it went:
First and foremost when building a gym and all the shiny equipment that goes inside it one must consider the space of the gym itself. Lumos happens to be fairly long and narrow, and I wanted to preserve as much empty floor space as possible. My old gym (CrossFit South Brooklyn) had wall mounted racks down the long edges of the walls, and I thought they worked well. Still, with 32 feet of horizontal space to play with I didn’t want 4 foot racks (the standard), which would take up a quarter of the floor. After lots of looking, I went with Slim Gym racks from Pure Strength, which can be mounted as close as one foot away from the wall, and have angled pullup bars so you can still kip to your hearts content. I opted for 18″ spacing from the wall, so my racks now take up a total of 3 feet, saving me about 15% of my floor space. Yup, I did the math.
After that decision, I bought most of my remaining stuff from Rogue Fitness (aka The Big Dogs aka The People’s Champs aka If You Don’t Know Who Rogue Is Go Back To Your Pure Barre Class) and Fringe Sport, a local company based in Austin.
During my long drive down to Austin with myrealtighthomeboy Moe, I was fortunate enough to get to stop at Rogue and rub my greasy hands on all their nice equipment. It was great, because although I’ve seen a lot of Rogue’s gear, which is all top top quality and American made, I haven’t seen all of it. I had earmarked a few items that upon handling I realized didn’t work for my space or weren’t significantly different, and found some I had overlooked. If you have the opportunity to “test drive” equipment before you buy, take it!
I was super lucky that my gym happened to be right up the street from Fringe Sport in Austin. Fringe is a cool company that takes care of its local affiliates (many around here have almost exclusively Fringe equipment) and has some really well thought out and innovative items. For instance, I bought my 10 and 15 pound bumper plates from Fringe, because they are made slightly thicker and stronger than the average bump, and resist the dreaded plate-taco that happens when athletes get all bail crazy in their “I’m Rich Froning” fever-dream. (Just kidding, Rich Froning doesn’t bail, he just releases his bar and wills the earth to rise and meet it.)
Sometimes its useful to go straight to the manufacturer, since most companies simply resell their gear anyway. For instance, I got all my medicine balls direct from Dynamax (ALSO Austin based!) I feel a special debt of gratitude to Dynamax, since the “10 General Physical Skills” that CrossFitters aspire to were laid out by their founders Jim Cawley and Bruce Evans. Further, when I was nosing around on their page I found they offered a bulk discount AND custom logo inscribed balls at no extra cost. I’m a sucker for anything custom, so, like Renee Zellweger is fond of saying, they had me at hello.
Speaking of custom joints and logos and such, I actually did spend time thinking about branding and color scheme when picking my equipment. CrossFit gear tends to trend towards black with some splashes of red. My gym’s colors are yellow and grey (with some white/black) so if I could find stuff that stuck to that scheme and didn’t break my bank, I went for it. It sounds silly, but if you look at other successful businesses across the fitness scape, you see that they tend to have a really tight and unified brand identity (think Soulcycle, Orange Theory, etc.) While in NO WAY as important as offering good coaching, intelligent programming, and real gainz, I’m happy that I’ve been able to stick to some semblance of a unified aesthetic.
Lastly, I have spent a lot of time thinking about organization. This is my best chance to put stuff where I want it and make sure that as the gym fills with members and more equipment that the layout is a net positive from a class-flow perspective. I learned many of these lessons at the knee of the uber-organized David Osorio from CrossFit South Brooklyn. David runs the blog Inside the Affiliate, which is a fantastic resource for gym owners, and many of these thoughts and practices are discussed at greater length there. For instance, numbering the holes on your racks, color coding bumpers and barbells consistently, and writing dumbbell weights in hi-vis paint on the horizontal face of the DB all make things easier and smoother for your members. I’ve taken these lessons to heart and will incorporate all of them, but added a few wrinkles of my own- each rack at Lumos has a 20KG (“men’s”), 15KG (“ladies'”) and 15# (“training”) bar racked on its side, so that my athletes can go to their rack and quickly get their bar on the rack and lifting, without traipsing back and forth across the gym or queuing up around a barbell “tree” like its rush hour on the R train (Brooklyn holla!) I know, it sounds crazy- the first time I saw David labelling EVERY SINGLE RACK HOLE in the gym by hand I thought so too- but it makes the experience that much better for your members. Also, you may have noticed in the pictures that if I could I opted for yellow, black, or grey gear- seems silly, but cohesiveness and a consistent brand matter in 2017.
Stay tuned for a full gym walkthrough when the space is completed, in which I will go into even more painstaking detail about shit you never really wanted to learn about anyway!