Ballston is one of the newer boxes in Arlington. They opened their doors in February 2012 and are located on the ground floor of a commercial office building on Glebe Rd (same building as The Melting Pot). I was looking forward to checking them out — partly because the owner, Tucker Jones, appears to be a man of faith, but also because their website gave me a really positive vibe.
WOD Schedule and Additional Offerings
Ballston offers 3-4 WODs a day. Additional services include: yoga, occasional seminars, adventure travel, personal training, and a free weekend class.
Although their address is Glebe Rd, their “storefront” is actually along N. Wakefield St. The website describes their facility as “3,800 square feet of space with 16’ high ceilings, new equipment, and floor to ceiling windows around half of the gym.” I found the space clean and nice, although not as polished/finished as Patriot’s space. There was only one bathroom,
and no shower. Edit: Tucker let me know they have access to a mens and womens locker room, each with two showers.
There is limited free parking in the area, but there is a garage underneath the building with pay parking. At 6am, I found space on nearby N. Vernon St before it became permit restricted. They are also close to the bike path and a short walk from the Ballston Metro.
There were eight people at the 6am WOD I attended, with one coach present.
Prior to the start time, only a few people were doing a little light stretching or shoulder pass-throughs. I am used to Rubicon’s vigorous warm-up, so I did one round of Cindy to wake my muscles up. I felt a little conspicuous and hoped it didn’t seem like I was showing off. At the start of class, we rowed 800m as a group to warm-up.
We spent about twenty minutes on Low Bar Back Squats, in a 5-5-5-5 series. There are three sets of J-cups, mounted on their pull-up rig; the rest of the class used moveable squat stands (I used the latter). I prefer using the rig-based system as it is more stable, I find re-racking on the individual stands a little precarious when the weight gets heavy.
WOD / Met Con
The WOD was a descending/ascending ladder of overhead squats and hand-release push-ups. It was a shorter met con, but challenging. I was the only woman to do the workout Rx’d, which surprised me. I am not the heaviest hitter at my gym, not by a stretch, but I learned from Tucker that many of the members are new to Crossfit and have not yet worked up to Rx’d standards. This makes sense as they have only been open a few months.
The biggest surprise to me was when I learned they are not allowed to drop weights (on weekdays). This is a huge bummer and, IMO, a significant drawback. In a follow-up conversation with Tucker, he shared that they save their heavy strength work for weekends, and have plans to build 5-6 platforms where they will be able to drop the bar.
Post WOD / Cool Down
There was no additional core work, like Chef often does, nor was their any emphasis on post-WOD stretching. I did see some foam rollers but did not see anyone use them. Although to be honest, after putting away my equipment, I got wrapped up in a conversation and totally forgot about stretching myself.
Coaching / Instruction
Prior to lifting, the coach did a good job of demonstrating and explaining the proper technique for this movement, but did not explain the purpose or how to progress through the 5 set series. I am used to working towards some percentage of my working max and usually calculate that number to figure out what weight I should be lifting. Since we didn’t do that, and I was sharing a bar, I just progressively moved up in my weights, but never got close to my working max, or even my 85%. It was good practice working on my back squat, but I did not receive any constructive feedback, which was disappointing, especially considering the small class size.
Social / Vibe
I think Ballston has a great social vibe. People were friendly and engaging. I think smaller boxes are great for creating a sense of community. The only thing I missed was a level of intensity — at least among the women. I was (it seemed) the most experienced female Crossfitter of my class and I missed not having stronger/faster better women to push and challenge me.
My Bottom Line Impression
I liked this box a lot. It wasn’t as intense as what I’m used to, but I suspect that will change as the membership continues to grow and get better at Crossfit. I did like the community vibe and the close proximity to my house was a plus. The class times offered right now are pretty limited, but that too will increase with membership. I did not like that you can’t drop weights and having to deal with Ballston’s parking challenges could be a pain. But overall, it was a positive experience and I would definitely recommend them to anyone looking for a close in box.