I’ve been doing CrossFit for about a year and I wanted to take a moment to talk about what it’s really like, because I’ve seen a lot of people all over the internet either declaring their undying love for the sport, or demonizing it and talking about how it’s dangerous, irresponsible, blah blah blah.
First of all…calm down, everybody. It’s exercise. Nothing more, nothing less. And despite what some of my fellow CrossFit athletes may tell you, it’s not for everybody. That’s not to say it’s not for you though. You’ll need to decide that for yourself.
My personal journey with CrossFit began with a friend of mine who moved to the other side of the country about a year prior. She came back for a visit and all I could think was Man, she looks FANTASTIC. I want to look that good.
I was in a bit of a workout slump at the time, and by slump I mean I was spending most of my time slumped over on the couch watching Netflix and eating snack foods.
It was time for a change. My husband and I talked about it and together we decided we would try out CrossFit to see if we liked it or not. After doing some research on local affiliates and reading reviews, we chose a place that was pretty close to our house, Offshore CrossFit (I have to give them a shout out because they are amazing).
We tried a free introductory class and decided we liked it, so we signed up for their Essentials program, which was a six class series designed to teach newbies like us the fundamentals of CrossFit.
After that, we signed up as regular members and we’ve been going ever since.
I’m not hardcore and I’m not as diligent as I should probably be (when times get tough, I tend to fall off the wagon a little bit), but CrossFit has overwhelmingly been a positive thing in my life.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re deciding whether or not it’s for you:
What is CrossFit?
It’s a workout program that combines Olympic style weightlifting (think: big barbells with large plates on the sides), interval training, constantly varied movements, and an element of healthy competition.
What do you mean, competition?
Each class has a WOD (workout of the day) and your performance during the WOD is recorded and put on the leader board. You can see how you did that day compared to everybody else in the workout. Some people are motivated by that. It’s also a good way of competing against yourself. Over time, you can start to see how your performance improves by looking at how you did today vs. 6 months ago.
What is a typical class like?
We start out with a warm up. This includes some stretches, some lunges, and something called The Burgener Warm Up, which is designed to warm up your muscles in preparation for the Olympic style lifts you’re about to do. The warm up also usually includes a little bit of whatever you’re going to be doing for the rest of the class. For instance, if you’ll be doing deadlifts during the class, a few deadlifts at a lighter weight will likely be included in the warm up.
After the warm up, there’s the “Skills” portion of the class, which works on a particular skill. This varies from day to day, but will usually focus on one particular lift. You’ll practice how to do the lift with a coach’s supervision and will work on improving either your form, or doing it with the heaviest weight you can, etc.
After that is the WOD. This is usually a circuit of various movements and it’s usually either an AMRAP (which stands for as many rounds/reps as possible) or a timed METCON (metabolic conditioning) workout.
Here’s a couple samples of something you might do:
AMRAP: 15 minutes, 5 deadlifts, 4 pull ups, 200 meter run. This means that the circuit is to do 5 deadlifts, 4 pull ups, and then run 200 meters. You’ll do that as many times as you can in 15 minutes.
METCON: For time: 21 box jumps, 21 kettle bell swings. 15 box jumps, 15 kettle bell swings. 9 box jumps, 9 kettle bell swings. That means you’ll do all of those things and at the end you’ll record how long it took you to get through it.
But…I’m intimidated. I’m really not in great shape.
Don’t worry. All of the movements can be scaled to your level. Nobody expects you to show up and lift as much weight as the huge, buff guy next to you. Nobody expects you to be able to do everything right away. If you can’t do something, they will have you try an easier version of that movement instead. It’s supposed to be hard, but hard for your fitness level. I’ve been going to CrossFit for a year and I still can’t do a pull up, but they have ring rows, which I can do, so I do that. I can’t lift as much weight as some people, so I do it with less. Everything can be scaled so that anybody can do it.
The other thing you should know is that CrossFit people are really nice. They will encourage you and cheer you on, even if you’re the chubbiest, slowest person in the room. Trust me, I know…I’m the chubbiest, slowest person in the room. Don’t be intimidated. Everybody is really nice…I promise.
Is CrossFit expensive?
It can be, but it varies. Each CrossFit “box” is owned by an affiliate, and they set their own prices. There are often different packages available depending on your needs, but this varies as well. It is more expensive than going to a regular gym, but you’re also getting coached workouts, people paying attention to your form and monitoring you, as well as a community atmosphere, so I say you get what you pay for.
I’ve heard it’s easy to get injured doing CrossFit…
This can be true, but there are a few keys to not getting injured.
- Listen to your body. If something hurts or is bothering you, just stop.
- Let your coach know if you need a modification for something. Don’t try to push beyond your limitations.
- Choose your affiliate wisely. I read a lot of reviews when choosing mine and I loved the extensive backgrounds in personal training and Olympic weight lifting our coaches have. These guys really know their stuff. Make sure you find somebody who is willing to pay close attention to your form and not push you too far too quickly.
Do I have to eat Paleo?
Short answer….NO. But you should definitely focus on eating healthy, whole foods and definitely include more protein in your diet to assist your muscle recovery. This will help your performance and overall health. Of course, the CrossFit overlords aren’t going to swoop down and punish you if you have some pizza and beer, but you’ll certainly feel it during the workout. It’s up to you.
Ok, I’m convinced. How do I choose an affiliate?
A quick Google search will tell you what your local options are, but make sure to read the reviews and ask questions of the owners and coaches before you get started. A few things to find out/ask..
- Find out about their resume. How much experience training people do they have? What certifications do they have?
- What do their online reviews say? Any warning flags? If so, keep looking.
- Do they have an introductory course or Essentials program? If yes, this is a good thing!
- Try out an intro class before you commit. Did you like it? Did you feel like the coach paid enough attention to your form and made sure you weren’t going to hurt yourself? Also get a sense for how you like it there. Did you enjoy the experience?
If something doesn’t seem right, try another place. I tried a different local place before I landed at Offshore CrossFit and I didn’t like it as much. There were no horrible warning signs or anything, I just didn’t like it as much, but I felt at home when I stepped into Offshore. If you try it out and decide CrossFit just isn’t for you, that’s ok as well. The best exercise is the exercise you actually show up and do, so find whatever it is that you enjoy and what gets you moving.