When the Box gets Awkward

uncomfortable conversations

Charlie Sims, the Affiliate of CrossFit Regeneration in Louisville, Kentucky, remembers teaching a college friend a deadlift. In the middle of the class, she turned to him and asked, “Charlie, are you looking at my butt?”

“I go ‘Yeah, I am. But I’m not checking out your butt. I have to know where your hips are in relation to your knees and your shoulders and all that stuff.’ My wife thought that was the funniest thing ever,” he said.

Confrontation doesn’t really scare Mandi Reading, the co-owner and head Coach at Shotgun CrossFit. She said those conversations are just part of the job.

“As a small business owner and just running a gym, you have to accept that you’re going to have awkward conversations and you’re going to have problems. We’re dealing with 100-plus people coming through our doors everyday. It’s part of the job,” Reading said.

Uncomfortable conversations can range from fixing a movement to asking for payment. But how Affiliates and Coaches handle those conversations may lead to the retention or loss of a member.

For conversations dealing with money, both Sims and Reading said they prefer to have those behind closed doors, and with a sense of humor to lighten the mood.

If a member can’t pay for a month, Sims offers opportunities to receive a discount on membership fees, such as cleaning or working in childcare.

“We don’t want you to quit, but I can’t just give you a free gym membership. And so those conversations happen behind closed doors or in a room like this where there’s nobody listening in because that’s embarrassing for them to say,” Sims said. “There’s things we need done and I’m not good at them. You’re probably better at them than I am. Let’s figure out an option.”

Reading also says she gets to know her members on a personal level, which may lead to personal conversations during a WOD or at the gym. She wants to show her members that she cares, but wants to respect the class time, so she will typically follow-up with that member after class and just listen, as does Sims.

“I listen to them. I want people to know that I care. And often times, if they’re coming out with just a bucket a rage, it’s nothing against me or the person who’s standing beside them. They’ve just had a hard day and they’re willing to trust me with their rage,” Sims said. “I’ll carry that weight. I’m fine with it.”

As far as correcting movements, both Sims and Reading handle it with a sense of humor. “It’s just the human body, you’ve got to talk about it. You’ve got to put your hands on somebody and move them a little bit, and I’ll always let them know that I’m going to do that or is it OK if I do this,” Reading said.

Sims said there might come a time when the wrong thing is said in those uncomfortable situations, but to not dwell on it. “The worst thing that you can do is say the wrong thing and then forget about it. Because if I say the wrong thing, then I need to be willing to make it right with that person and apologize.”

Reading finds it more detrimental to the culture of the Box to experience an uncomfortable situation and not solve the issue.

“I talk to our Coaching staff about this all the time, but we are in a people business first and the fitness business second. So people, always first. Our community is No. 1 at our gym,” Reading said. “If the members feel valued and feel a part of something bigger, it brings out the best in them. And then it brings out the best in us.”

In any situation, Reading and Sims agreed treating members with respect is key.

Hayli Goode is the former digital editor for Peake Media.