This week marks three months since I began the most intense workout regimen of my entire life, CrossFit.
What led to me beginning CrossFit was a realization that, if left to my own devices, I would never push myself hard enough to truly make the changes I needed to in order to get in shape. Occasional jogs and going through the chest-and-biceps motions of a traditional gym simply weren’t going to get it done. I also knew that there was no shot that I’d be able to stick to a diet if it didn’t coincide with something more offensive, like physical training of some sort that demanded I take in more nutrients and less garbage.
And so on July 21st, at 258 pounds and sick of seeing my giant moon-face on TV everyday, I walked into the CrossFit Lighthouse in Wantagh, Long Island and submitted to a long-overdue comeuppance. I marched my Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man-frame into a firefight I wasn’t truly prepared for. It’s 90 days later and I still have a long way to go to get back to the old me. But I’m happy to report that for the first time in years I feel like I’m back in control and can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Every day I get closer.
For those who are thinking about trying CrossFit and rewriting their own futures, below are the first ten things that will happen.
1. You will find out how truly out of shape you are. It is likely that your first few sessions at a CrossFit gym will consist of stretching and basic instruction. You will likely sweat like a pig and require numerous breaks to catch your breath even during this relatively easy phase. This is because you are engaging and stretching muscles that have been dormant for years. You will also be sucking at the air for every molecule of oxygen you can get. It will be a week or two before your lungs are really open, prepare to gasp like a newborn taking its very first breath.
2. You will realize how fat you and other regular people are compared to real athletes. This is because your certified instructors will have the physiques of comic book superheroes. You will weigh 40% more than them but they will be somewhere between 50 and 150% stronger than you. It will make no sense that such “little” guys and girls are that much more powerful than you; it’ll be rather disorienting, especially if you’re a big guy like me who thought he was “strong” walking in. The instructors are not huge or freakishly jacked like traditional body builders, but I wouldn’t want to bet against them in any contests of strength. The idea is to be able to lift heavy weights but in as efficient a manner as possible, and then to be able to run a mile while the old school body builder huffs and puffs behind you. And you, big guy, are not strong. You are fat and incidentally may be able to lift some weight up. You will learn about real strength very soon.
3. You will begin learning the lingo and using it without feeling like a dork:
- W.O.D (or WOD): Workout of the Day, this is the combination of exercises, prescribed weights and time allotment that will be the law of the land from the first class to the last. Typically a WOD will consist of one gymnastic move (pull-ups, ring rows, sit-ups etc), one aspect of cardio (rowing, running, jumping rope etc) and one Olympic power-lifting maneuver (back squats, clean & jerks, dead lifts, push-presses etc).
- RX: When one does the prescribed amount of weight and reps, one is said to have RX’d (as in, he or she followed the prescription).
- Box: CrossFit centers are not called gyms, they’re called “boxes” and many of them resemble just that. Typically they’ll be in warehouse-like spaces with cement walls, exposed rafters criss-crossing the ceiling and nought but a black mat covering the length of the floors. There are no smoothie bars or aerobics studios in one’s peripheral vision, just the iron bar you’ll hang from, the weights you’ll thrust up above your head and the ground you’ll drip your perspiration and occasional tears into until you feel as though you’ve become a part of the place. This is your box. There are thousands of CrossFit boxes across the country, but this one is yours.
4. Your friends and family will start Googling the term CrossFit and giving you warnings. “Oh, you’re doing that Cross thing, I think I just read something about that…” They will come across a rare disorder wherein people push themselves past the exhaustion point until their muscle fibers begin to break down and slip through the bloodstream into their kidneys. They will also come across stories about injuries and the like associated with CrossFit search terms. The reality is that these types of injuries can and do occur with any kind of training if taken too far and under the wrong type of supervision. You are equally likely to be injured while ice skating, lifting weights alone, horseback riding, surfing or doing any other type of strenuous activity if you are engaging recklessly and not taking the proper precautions. I would also note that there is an ongoing fear-mongering campaign being waged by the traditional fitness clubs and gyms. They see the proliferation of the CrossFit movement across the country as a massive threat to their membership rolls. There is no possible way that a guy doing his usual leisurely circuit around the same 12 or 15 machines in a gym is ever going to get the intensity of a workout at a CrossFit box.
5. You will get insanely good at counting. Everything in CrossFit is about reps. 20 clean & jerks followed by 10 box-jumps topped off with 30 sit-ups, then repeat five times and compete for time. Think about the counting, the counting down, the mental division of large quantities of reps into small, more manageable-seeming blocks. “Okay, let me get five more then take a breath and then just three more and then only two sets left until I’m three fifth’s of the way through the five rounds.” This is the kind of conversation you’re carrying on with yourself in the heat of the W.O.D. and you’ll become very proficient at counting backward as well – “seven more…six, five more, c’mon, four…” Whatever it takes to get you through.
6. You’ll begin to respect endurance and stamina. When you’re a kid, your idea of strength revolves around how much one can lift, what someone’s arms and chest look like, etc. If you haven’t yet grown out of this idea, you will upon beginning CrossFit. You will begin to be much more amazed at things like quad strength and lower back strength. You’ll be blown away by the ability of others to do hundreds of airsquats or hold various static positions (holding one’s body in a plank six inches above the ground or half-squatting with one’s back against the wall, with thighs perpendicular to the ground and a 20-pound medicine ball pressed to one’s chest. When you can barely get through 30 seconds in these positions but you see someone hold them for 4 to 6 minutes, all of your ideas about what being strong means will be out the window.
7. You will gain weight at first. The most frustrating part of my first month at CrossFit was the weight gain. Simply stated, because you are using muscles that have been out of the game for years, you will be building those muscles rather rapidly, and muscle weighs more than fat. So while you will definitely be shedding water weight puffiness and sweating like you’ve been on a scavenger hunt in a rainforest, the scale will be ticking up not down. This will drive you f***ing crazy. And then, all of a sudden, you will hit that tipping point where the muscle you’ve been adding is burning enough calories each night to have you start to drop pounds. Then you’ll start to see your clothes fit better and your face shrink. All downhill from here provided you keep going.
8. You’ll notice an uptick in energy, even when you’re dead sore from CrossFitting. This new-found energy bounce comes from the fact that you’re dragging less fat around with you all day and you’re breathing easier. You’re putting less wear and tear on your cardiovascular and pulmonary systems and the dividend is you can keep up with your kids and accomplish more each day. The confidence and happiness that comes along with this is self-explanatory. Wait til you see the little and unexpected ways in which these peripheral benefits creep into your daily routine at home and at work!
9. You will learn about your mental weakness. My box, the CrossFit Lighthouse, posts the Workout of the Day on their website each morning. Three weeks in, once I had learned all the various exercises, I found myself hitting up the site and deciding based on what the W.O.D. was whether or not I was going to attend that day. One day I logged on and saw that there were 3 sets of 20 burpees included, which immediately triggered an inner dialog that went something like this: “I just did burpees on Tuesday and I’m still sore, maybe tonight will be my rest night and I’ll go tomorrow and Friday instead.” I realized that I was picking and choosing the workouts like they were on an a la carte menu, “I’ll do this but I’m skipping that because my ankle is acting up.” Once I realized this about myself, I stopped going to the site. I learned what a bitch I could be, and then I learned to deny myself the opportunity going forward. This is one example of many revelatory moments that have allowed me to get to know myself much better and make the appropriate adjustments.
10. You will learn a lot about your mental toughness. You will find that you barely knew yourself at all before beginning this adventure. That you didn’t have a clue about what really made you tick, your own elemental motivations and desires. In the heat of battle, when your head is soaked in sweat and there is nothing but the clanging of metal and the grunting of others around you, you will reach inside of yourself and go to that next level. When you realize that you are 80% of the way through a particularly punishing workout, you will dig deep and find what you need to get through to the other side. It’s there, and maybe you haven’t had to access it in years – decades – but when you finally do…my god. There is an apotheosis underway. And on the other side of an experience like that (or a series of them), you are a lot less hesitant to step into the breach. You have gained a knowledge (or in some cases, a remembrance) of yourself and what you’re capable of. I pity the person, in life or in business, who dares to face off against you once this has taken place. It won’t be fair to them in the least.
In my first three months of CrossFit, I came to grips with who I truly was, how out of shape I had let myself become and what kind of impact a steady and compounding list of physical achievements could have on my daily life. Now I find myself fleeing from the city after work each day at top speed just to make it back in time for a class. I find myself declining virtually every opportunity to drink at happy hours and eat lavish dinners and the like. Anyone who knows me will tell you how out of character all of this is.
But I’ve found a new addiction, something that both takes everything from me – physically, emotionally and mentally – and then gives me back even more than I had before. I’m hooked, and now all I want to do is keep getting better at it.
What is CrossFit?
- Common CrossFit Mistakes Most Beginners Make (and How to Avoid Them)
- Advice for Functional Fitness Beginners
- What is CrossFit?
- Why I Love the Sport of Fitness
- Tips for Functional Fitness Beginners
- Workout Gear for Beginners
- You’re an Athlete Now
- Ask the Coach or Other Members
- Workout Terminology
- Movement Terminology
- Learn Technique First
- Patience and Consistency are Key
- Practice Your Double Unders
- There’s No Shame in Scaling
- Get help with Olympic lifting
- Sometimes it Sucks
- Build Your Grip Strength
- Do More Burpees
- No Room for Ego
- Get Out What you Put In
- Mobility and Flexibility
- Don’t Be Intimidated
- Don’t Take It Too Seriously
- Are you a Beginner? JUST DO IT!
- The Gym
- The Workout
- The Competition
- Is It Safe?
- Is CrossFit for Beginners Even Possible?
- The instructor’s résumé
- How a typical CrossFit WOD goes
- Learn more about crossfit:
- CROSSFIT FOR BEGINNERS
- 1. Find a box that fits
- 2. Prepare to actually talk to people
- 3. Expect the unexpected – and learn to love it
- 4. Don’t swear off cardio altogether
- 5. Don’t underestimate technique
- 6. Don’t rinse your rent on kit
- 7. Get the dates in your diary
- 8. Don’t think you have to be fit right now
- 9. Leave your ego at home
- War Of The WODS: How Hard Could CrossFit Be?
- CrossFit Here I Come!
- WODs to the Wall
- The After-WOD
- What Do You Do in a CrossFit Class?
- What You Should Keep in Mind Before Starting CrossFit
- Is CrossFit Actually Dangerous?
- How Do You Find a Good CrossFit Gym?
- What Do You Need for CrossFit?
- Is CrossFit Right For You?
- Beginner-friendly WODs
- Beginner’s CrossFit Gear
CrossFit Q&A: Your Guide To Starting CrossFit
- What does a CrossFit box offer that a commercial gym doesn’t?
- Will CrossFit help me achieve my fitness goals?
- Will I be able to actually do the workouts?
- What should I expect during my first few weeks?
- Are the coaches good?
- Will I hurt myself?
- Is it worth all the investment?
- Do I have to eat paleo?
- What’s with the long socks and special shoes?
- Is it a cult?
- Why does CrossFit generate so much controversy?
- I’m out of shape – should I start CrossFit?
- Reason 1 : The hardest part about getting in shape is motivation
- Reason 2 : But people will look at me funny / make fun of my bad shape
- Reason 3 : But the exercises look so hard, I’m not sure I’ll be able to do them
- How CrossFit gets beginners in the best shape of their lives
- CrossFit is tough.
- Why is CrossFit so different to other fitness protocols?
- What’s the real formula behind CrossFit that keeps getting people stronger, fitter and faster?
- Why does it make you stronger?
- What’s the science behind constant variation?
- How does it get you fitter then?
- How does CrossFit give you aesthetic benefits?
- What is it about CrossFit that helps people lose so much body fat?
- More and more training protocols are including CrossFit type workouts in there. Why do you think that is?
- For beginners CrossFit is like nothing they’ve ever done before. Why is this such a powerful thing for getting in shape?
Common CrossFit Mistakes Most Beginners Make (and How to Avoid Them)
Photo: Johner Images/Getty Images
When starting any new fitness routine, you want to ease into the movements to perfect your form, avoid injury, and, ultimately, get the best results. This is especially true when it comes to high-intensity training such as CrossFit.
Heading into your first box or CrossFit WOD is a bit different from any boot-camp class you’d try at your local gym-the strength training and plyometric moves involved are complex and require precise form and familiarity. Winging it isn’t really a viable option if you want to avoid injury.
This isn’t to say you should be scared to try something hard or something new; quite the opposite, in fact. But learning about the common CrossFit mistakes most beginners will make can at least help you feel more comfortable with what to expect on day one. (First step? Lace up the right pair of sneakers for your workout.)
Here, CrossFit trainers share common mishaps when starting a CrossFit program, as well as a few safety tips. Once you’ve got the basics down, don’t be surprised if you’re hooked on this heavy-lifting style of training.
Crossfit Mistake #1: Bad Form
There are lots of exercise names thrown around CrossFit rooms (or written on a chalkboard). This can be confusing and intimidating for newbies, says Melody Sanchez, an instructor at Brick in NYC, since you might not know what certain exercises mean. For instance, what’s a goblet squat? Experienced CrossFitters might be able to jump right in, but that’s a dangerous idea for beginners.
Ask for help. There’s no shame in telling the instructor you’re new to this. Heck, you’re out there trying to get strong with the rest of them. Any box will have a skilled instructor who can break down proper form for you to ensure you’re safe. If he or she doesn’t immediately ask if there are rookies in class, just make your presence known.
Two exercises a lot of CrossFit beginners get wrong: The air squat and the deadlift, says Sanchez. And these two power moves are important to get down as they are “basic foundational movements of any weighted or other complex movements” you could do later in class.
How to do a proper air squat: Stand with feet hip-width apart and toes turned out slightly. With weight in your heels and chest lifted, bend knees and squat low and keep knees behind toes. Press up through heels and squeeze glutes to come to standing.
How to do a proper deadlift: With feet slightly less than hip-width apart, holding weight in both hands, slowly hinge at the hips and lower weight straight down in front of your shins. Keep back straight, careful not to arch or round. Push through heels and squeeze glutes to come to standing.
What’s more, new (and sometimes even seasoned) CrossFitters alike will end up sacrificing form for reps, trying to do too much before they’re ready, says Todd Nief, owner and lead trainer at South Loop Strength & Conditioning, a CrossFit studio in Chicago. Beginners tend to go all-out too quickly, where “they might be willing to let their technique go to do a workout faster or to get more reps done in a specific time frame,” he says. This is where mistakes are made and injuries happen.
Bottom line: It’s not your fault if you have bad form in the beginning, but it’s on you to ask the instructor to show you proper form. Get the form down pat from the beginning, and you’ll be able to safely grow as an athlete from there.
CrossFit Mistake #2: Not Pacing Yourself
When new to CrossFit, “many people have a poor understanding of how to pace themselves in challenging conditioning workouts and hit a point of global fatigue relatively early in a workout,” says Nief. (Here are a few tips for pacing yourself in CrossFit AMRAPs.)
“If you have 20 minutes of intervals and you go out way too hot, you may find yourself barely able to hold it together five minutes in,” he says. If you give it everything you’ve got in round 1, every subsequent round is going to feel impossible.
The goal of a training session like that is to find an uncomfortable but sustainable pace, he says. So, “someone with a poor understanding of their own pacing may go out and row at a 1:45/500m pace for their first minute of rowing, and then do 20 burpees in their first minute.” (FYI, that’s a really fast rowing time, and a LOT of burpees.) If you hit the ground sprinting, by the time you get to the end of an interval, your muscles and endurance will start to fail, and with it, your form. When your form goes rogue, overcompensating for weak, tired muscles can set you up for injuries.
Learn how to properly pace yourself by maintaining the same reps to time ratio with perfect form, suggests Nief. As your endurance and strength progress, you can work your way up to using proper form with higher reps.
CrossFit Mistake #3: Being Hyper Competitive
There’s no denying it: CrossFit can fuel your competitive drive, which is okay to an extent because competition can be motivating. Of course, support and camaraderie exist in the box, but the high energy level and stats written next to names on a whiteboard (275-pound back squat?!) can make it easy as a newcomer to compare yourself with more experienced heavy lifters or even CrossFit Games hopefuls in the room.
“More often than not, the newcomer tends to compare themselves to the person next to them,” says Sanchez. This interferes with the “slow and steady” mindset. “You might feel pressured to pick up the same weight because you don’t want to be viewed as the weak link in the class,” she says. But the reality is no one cares-everyone is competing against themselves.
Instead, go with your gut instinct. If a weight feels too heavy, drop it (gently), and choose something more in your range. Keep track of your progress, and over time, you’ll see how you can successfully and safely work your way up. (Here’s a guide for picking the right weights for your workouts.)
CrossFit Mistake #4: Drastically Changing Your Diet
Let’s be honest: CrossFit is not usually for the casual exerciser, so it’s likely that you’re looking for a performance boost, a fitness challenge, or a body composition change if you’re signing up. But if you get caught up in the promises of a hard a** and chiseled abs, you might think that you need to go all in-with your workouts and with your eating.
“Many people who are new to a program like CrossFit get excited and they want everything quickly. They want results. They want to compete with the people in classes who have been training for years,” says Nief. To get there, you might be compelled to jump on the latest diet (such as the keto diet or counting macros or IIFYM just because that’s what your new CrossFit friends do. While these restrictive diets can have their benefits for health and performance, they aren’t for everyone or every CrossFit athlete, and they can be tough to implement in the real world, says Nief.
When it comes to training and getting results, it’s really about finding a balanced diet that provides energy and nutrition to crush your workouts and refuel and recover afterward. It can be as simple as that.
CrossFit Mistake #5: Not Being Consistent
While you know that consistency is key to seeing results, having trouble sticking to a new workout routine or maintaining your motivation when things get tough is a totally valid and real thing that even the most experienced athletes know a lot about. And LBH, CrossFit has a learning curve-from the lingo to the lifting-there’s a lot thrown at you as a newbie. But staying on track is crucial for CrossFitters who really want to advance their practice and see those 1 rep max numbers go up.
Find a box buddy or mentor who can help keep you accountable and sign up for those early morning classes with you. When work, life, travel, and DOMS get in your way, you’ll have each other pushing you to stay strong and committed. Give it a few months: If you’re officially a WOD junkie, awesome, but if you gave it your all and realize CrossFit just isn’t for you, that’s A-OK, too. When fitness is fun, you’re more likely to want to exercise. Finding what works and what doesn’t is part of the process.
- By By Isadora Baum
Advice for Functional Fitness Beginners
Is starting functional fitness on your list of goals? No? Well, it should be! Just kidding, I just say that because I love it so much. If you’re new to fitness, or maybe even new to working out, there’s no need to worry because these kind of workouts can work for you regardless of your fitness level when you start.
What is CrossFit?
This is taken from the official crossfit.com website:
“CrossFit is constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity. All CrossFit workouts are based on functional movements, and these movements reflect the best aspects of gymnastics, weightlifting, running, rowing and more. These are the core movements of life. They move the largest loads the longest distances, so they are ideal for maximizing the amount of work done in the shortest time. Intensity is essential for results and is measurable as work divided by time—or power. The more work you do in less time, or the higher the power output, the more intense the effort. By employing a constantly varied approach to training, functional movements and intensity lead to dramatic gains in fitness.
The CrossFit program is driven by data. Using whiteboards as scoreboards, keeping accurate scores and records, running a clock, and precisely defining the rules and standards for performance, we not only motivate unprecedented output but derive both relative and absolute metrics at every workout. This data has important value well beyond motivation.
Overall, the aim of CrossFit is to forge a broad, general and inclusive fitness supported by measurable, observable and repeatable results. The program prepares trainees for any physical contingency—not only for the unknown but for the unknowable, too. Our specialty is not specializing.”
Why I Love the Sport of Fitness
I love the intensity, the variety, the sense of community and the results I get from functional training. Over the last few years it’s become my main form of fitness and I’ve seen more improvements in my strength and conditioning than ever before.
I love the competitive aspect of the sport. Being competitive pushes me harder than I ever would on my own.
I love achieving things I previously couldn’t do. Once you start hitting PR’s, whether it’s in the clean and jerk, or getting your first pull-up or jumping on a 20 inch box, you’ll know what I mean. There is always a new goal to chase after.
I love the community. I’ve made lifelong friends at the gym who share similar goals and outlooks as me and having gym buddies makes showing up everyday that much easier.
In class, the last person get’s the loudest cheers, everybody gets a high five, we all support each other, root for each other, suffer together, compete against each other and just have a lot of fun. Having a community to share fitness with changes the game. Friends, accountability, community, support, coaches, programming, all these things will keep you coming back.
I don’t think functional training is the end all to be all when it comes to fitness and I know it’s not for everybody. But I do think it can be an incredible and enjoyable fitness journey, or a valuable supplement to an already solid fitness routine. When it comes to fitness, I think you should do whatever you enjoy and whatever you’ll actually do day after day.
I also think it’s a great introduction to lifting weights if you’ve never done it before. I’ve always been into weightlifting but for women who are new to strength training, I think lifting can be wonderful for showing them just how strong they can be and how powerful and amazing their bodies are.
It takes the focus off weight loss goals and puts it on improving your skills and abilities. You’ll start to focus on a better back squat or getting your first pull-up rather than fitting into a certain size of jeans.
Read my post on weightlifting for beginners.
Tips for Functional Fitness Beginners
If you’re a fitness beginner, I hope these tips help clear up any hesitation you may have and help you get started on your fitness goals today!
Joining a gym where I could attend functional fitness and weightlifting classes was one of the best fitness decisions I’ve ever made. Although I had been doing this style of workouts for years on my own, there is no comparison to doing it with a ground of positive, like-minded people.
If you’ve been putting off getting started, don’t wait any longer and don’t be scared. YOU CAN DO IT.
What to Expect at your First Class
As a beginner, any quality gym will run your through a series of introductory classes before you join the regular program. These may be called “on ramp” classes, fundamentals, foundations or something along those lines. In these classes you’ll learn what functional fitness is all about, you’ll do some beginner workouts, start learning all the movements and they’ll help you start to feel more confident in the gym.
Once you complete your fundamentals classes, you’re ready to join the regular classes. Every gym is different but every one I’ve been to begins at the whiteboard with a review of the programming for the day.
The coach will quickly go over what’s to come and give you a run down of the WOD, or “workout of the day”. After that, again depending on the gym, you’ll either warm up as a group or work through a suggested warm-up at your own pace.
After the warm-up, it’s time to get to work. You’ll notice members will probably go ahead start grabbing weights and setting up equipment, depending on what the workout is. Before the work begins, the coach should demo the movements and go over some cues for whatever you’re working on that day.
Typically, class programming will include a strength portion in which you’ll work on something like Olympic weightlifting, deadlifting, squatting or bodyweight strength or you may work on a skill like handstand push-ups. After the strength or skill portion of the class is complete, most days will involve a WOD. WODS can be anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes or more and can movements such as:
- assault bike
- double unders (skipping)
- weightlifting such as snatches or clean and jerk
- any form of squatting such as front squats, back squats or air squats
- kettlebell swings
- dumbbell thrusters, snatches or cleans
- gymnastics movements such as kipping pull-ups, chest-to-bar pull-ups, muscle ups, handstand push-ups, handstand walking
The WOD will be different everyday, which is part of what makes functional fitness so fun! And no need to worry because every single movement is scalable down to whatever level is needed.
Workout Gear for Beginners
Good news, you don’t need any special clothing or gear to get started..
Regular workout clothes and some athletic shoes will do the trick. Essentially anything you’re comfortable moving in. I typically wear workout shorts or tights and a tighter-fitting tank top or t-shirt. Most days, I don’t use any extra gear except maybe my lifting shoes.
I like my workout clothes to be tight enough that they stay in place while I’m training but not so tight that I don’t feel comfortable. When you arrive to your first class you might see women wearing minimal clothing, guys with their shirts off and a myriad of knee socks, wrist wraps and weight belts. Don’t worry about that. Wear whatever you feel like. Anything works.
Suggested Gear for Your Journey
As for gear, there really isn’t anything you need. There is absolutely no special clothing you need to get an awesome workout and start seeing improvements. Your box will have the equipment needed to complete the workouts and from there, it’s all just extras and accessories you can discover as you progress in your journey.
You’re an Athlete Now
When I first started, even though I loved it right off the bat, I didn’t feel comfortable enough to call myself a “CrossFitter.” I thought I wasn’t a CrossFitter because I couldn’t do kipping pull-ups or handstand push-ups. But wait, why not? I was there day after day, doing the WODs just like everyone else.
If you’re there and you’re loving it, don’t be afraid to show it, talk the talk and be proud of your accomplishments, no matter how large or small! You’re a “CrossFitter” as soon as you start.
Ask the Coach or Other Members
Don’t know what an AMRAP is? A 1 RM? How about an EMOM or T2B? Don’t worry about it! CrossFit has weird terminology. Whether it’s about the use of acronyms, the upcoming workout or foot placement during a squat, ask your coach or a more experience athlete for clarification, they’ll be happy to answer your questions.
AMRAP. As many reps as possible. This is a style of workout in which you perform as many reps as possible in a set amount of time. If you want to try an AMRAP workout, check out these AMRAP Workouts.
EMOM. Every minute on the minute. EMOM’s are one my favourite types of workouts. They’re easily scalable for beginners and are a great way to get a lot of work done in a short amount of time. I have many EMOM workouts on the blog you can try. Check out these EMOM Workouts for Conditioning.
For Time. Sometimes written as RFT (rounds for time), or just for time, this style of workout simply means you’ll perform the prescribed workout as fast as possible. Try this Conditioning Workout to get an idea of what these workouts are like.
- TTB or T2B. Toes to bar.
- HSPU. Handstand push-up.
- MU. Muscle up.
- BMU. Bar muscle up.
- C2B. Chest to bar pull-up.
- WB. Wall ball.
Learn Technique First
Don’t rush adding weights to your lifts before you’ve really got your form down pat. It’s better to form good habits and get your technique down at a lower weight before you start piling plates on the bar.
If you start increasing weights before your form has had a chance to improve you could start developing habits that will be harder to change later on. And as tempting as adding a few more plates to the bar can be, I don’t typically go beyond what I can perform with decent form, but that’s just a personal preference. As always, listen to your body and do what you feel comfortable with.
Patience and Consistency are Key
Just keep going. If you’re enjoying it, give yourself at least 3 months before you decide if it’s for you or not. Be patient. Results take time but if you’re consistent, they absolutely will come.
The exciting thing as a beginner though is that results come fairly quickly. You can really see a difference in your strength and overall fitness in just a month or two.
That being said, depending on your athletic ability when you start it can take years to achieve quality RX movements and weights across the board and that’s totally fine. There’s no rush, you just gotta keep working and enjoy the process. There’s no need to stress or compare yourself to others. Yes, there is a competitive aspect to the sport but the biggest competition is always against yourself. Aim to be better than you were yesterday and just keep repeating that.
If you commit to one year of consistent training, it’s amazing what you can achieve. I think 2-4 classes a week is a realistic for beginners, depending on your level of fitness when you start. It may take a while for your body to get used to training at that intensity, so at the beginning you might need more recovery time between training days. Over the first few months, start workout your way up to training 5 days a week.
Practice Your Double Unders
What is a double under you may ask? A double under is skipping while swinging the rope under your feet twice with each skip.
In my very first official class, the WOD was made up of a ton of double unders, of which I couldn’t do a single one. Oh, the frustration, the whip marks. Ughhhh. I tried with all my might to get that skipping rope under my feet twice with each skip but it just wasn’t happening. All the while I was tensing up what seemed to be every single muscle in my body, trying way too hard and completely exhausting myself.
I couldn’t progress in the workout because I couldn’t get past the double unders. So I started practicing. I practiced until I could do 10, then 20, then 50 and now, I can do over 100 unbroken. For the first little while, they killed me. I’d have to rest after 10 or 20 because I found them to be so physically exhausting. I kept practicing.
Now I can fly though them and move on without rest. My body adapted, my technique improved and now I actually get excited when I seem them in a WOD! Practice them, you’ll improve and it will make for a much better experience when double unders pop up in a WOD.
I’d recommend purchasing your own speed rope that’s properly sized for your height, that way you can practice anytime and not have to scramble to find a suitable loaner rope pre-WOD. You don’t have to shell out for a fancy one either. You can get a decent double under rope for around $15, while if you want to doll out a little more, you can spend as much as $50.
BUY A SPEED ROPE HERE
There’s No Shame in Scaling
The “RX” used in WODs is simply the “prescribed,” or recommend weights or standards for any particular workout. If you’re just starting out, simply use it as a point of reference for choosing your weights. Do what is best for you, on any given day. You’ll get the most out of the WODs if you can move through them quickly and efficiently with proper form.
Even the more experienced athletes will sometimes scale workouts, in fact I do it all the time. Things change day to day and there are a lot of factors than can affect your abilities on a daily basis. Know that you don’t always have to lift the heaviest weights to get a great workout.
If you have a good coach, they’ll want you to choose the appropriate weight for you on any given day and should help you determine where you should work if you’re unsure. As for exercise standards, those are always scalable too. Pull-ups, push-ups, box jumps – they all have modifications for beginners. Choose what you know will be challenge but is also realistic and safe. It’s never worth an injury just to put an “RX” on the board.
Get help with Olympic lifting
The Olympic lifts are the snatch and the clean and jerk, which are two different methods of moving a barbell from the ground to overhead. If you’ve never done them before they can be awkward and a honestly, a little scary.
I don’t think the time you spend on them in class is quite enough to get it down if you’re new to it. If you want to progress faster and make your WODs safer and more effective when Olympic lifts are included, I’d recommend working with a coach 1-on-1 or taking an Olympic lifting-specific course or seminar to get some extra help.
I’ve found lifting shoes to really help too, I’d recommend Nike Romaleos or Reebok Lifters. I’d also recommend reading my post on Weightlifting for Beginners.
Sometimes it Sucks
This is particularly true if you’re newer working out all together. You’re probably going to be crazy sore, some workouts still leave me sore for days on end. Sometimes you will curse the day you ever stepped into your box. Sometimes it’s really hard but you start to love that about it and you always feel awesome after you’re done.
I’ve noticed that my mental toughness has improved leaps and bounds since starting this style of fitness. Where I used to give up, I’m more often able to ignore my screaming body and push through when I want to stop. You get stronger, both mentally and physically, you get better at things you used to suck at and you actually start to enjoy it, even on the days you know it’s gonna be brutal.
Build Your Grip Strength
One of the hardest things for me at the beginning was simply just hanging off a bar. This made pull-ups and toes to bar really difficult because my grip was so weak and I could only hold on for a few seconds. It takes a bit of work to build those muscles up if you haven’t done it much before. Depending on your level of fitness, start practicing a dead hang off the bar for about 10 seconds and then build up from there. Try building up to a few sets of 30-60 seconds before or after classes.
Practice often and you’ll be surprised how quickly your grip strength, shoulders and lats will adapt to supporting your bodyweight. It will make a huge difference as you begin to progress into pull-ups and other gymnastic-based movements, as well as gripping the bar during Olympic lifts.
You can also practice farmer carries and other various kettlebell and barbell holds to help build your grip strength however, I’d still recommend hanging often.
Do More Burpees
There’s no getting around the fact that burpees suck, for everyone. But if you do them more often, they’ll suck a little less and eventually you won’t want to cry when you 60 burpees in your next WOD.
Burpees require strength and conditioning and are one of the best exercises out there for improving both those of these elements. Practice. Do more of them, even if you despise them to the core of your being, just keep at it. We’ll suffer together.
No Room for Ego
There just isn’t room for an ego at the gym, if there was, there would be a whole lot more injuries going around. Do your best. Listen to your body and don’t compare yourself to someone that’s been training for years. Instead, let them be your inspiration!
Guys, there are going to be women who are stronger and faster than you. Get over it. In your 20’s? Guaranteed there will be a 40 or 50 year old who can kick your butt. Deal. This is one of the reasons why functional training is so motivating, and humbling. Work hard and push yourself but always leave your ego at the door.
Get Out What you Put In
This pretty much goes for anything in life, doesn’t it though? You want something, you work for it. There isn’t really any way around that, but it is possible. You can achieve anything you want in the gym, if you work hard, be consistent and put in the work. Work on your weaknesses before and after class and just keep at it. You will get there.
If there is one particular area where you want to see improvement, work with a coach or even just look online to develop a plan. There are many online resources for improving your handstands, pull-ups, ring dips, or whatever it may be. A little extra work will go a long way.
If you’re not improving, be honest with yourself. Have you been as consistent as you could be? Are you actually working on those weaknesses? Are you prioritizing recovery? Are you eating and sleeping well? Have you looked for extra programming or talked to your coaches? If you want it, you can get it but you have to be honest and realistic with yourself.
Mobility and Flexibility
Your box will have evil mobility and stretching devices like foam rollers, bands and balls. Use them. Work on your tight spots. It will make a world of difference your training and recovery. See a RMT or physio if you’re unsure of where to start or check out MobilityWOD for some programs and exercises.
New (and some seasoned!) athletes may have limited mobility in the ankles, hips and shoulders. A quick Google of shoulder mobility or hip mobility exercises will point you in the right direction. It doesn’t take much to improve your mobility either, 5-10 minutes a day should do the trick. I’d recommend picking up a foam roller and a few tennis or lacrosse balls for home and using them while watching TV.
Don’t Be Intimidated
I’m not sure how things will be at your box, but coming into mine can be definitely be intimidating at times. Especially if you’re new to that type of gym and style of working out. You won’t know anybody, people will be crashing and banging on the platforms, women and men doing muscle-ups, there may be 6-packs all over the place. Good lord. Haha.
Yes, it can be a little intense sometimes. But there will be other beginners, you’ll get to know people and make friends, the coaches and other members will help you out if you need it. Before you know it you’ll be part of a positive, inspiring community that will help you grow as an athlete. Because yes, you are an athlete. We all are.
Don’t Take It Too Seriously
Realistically, you’re probably not going to be the next Games competitor so don’t beat yourself up if you have a bad day or week, that happens. No worries, always keep persecutive and just move on. It’s supposed to make you happy! Spend as much or as little time with as you want too and refer back to tip #12. The most important thing is to have fun and enjoy what you’re doing, otherwise there isn’t really much point, is there?
Are you a Beginner? JUST DO IT!
I put off joining for so long (as in 5 years!!) and I only wish I’d started early. I thought it was too expensive, I was a little scared, I didn’t know if I could do it….excuses, excuses…If you’ve been humming and hawing for longer than you like, just take take the first step and do it already! Your gym should offer some sort of program for beginners that will prep you to join the regular classes. Start with that and go from there. Chances are you’re absolutely going to love it.
Looking for fitness tools and accessories? Check out my Functional Fitness Guide Guide!
A few months ago, after years of hearing many rumors about CrossFit — that it changes your life, that it’s incredibly hard, that it’s caused more than a few muscles to be ripped from bone — I finally was able to try the workout for myself. At the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games, I participated in a media event that included training with some of CrossFit’s strongest at a popular box (that’s gym in CrossFit-speak) in Los Angeles. Intimidated and/or intrigued by CrossFit yourself? Here’s what I learned after my short, intense CrossFit experience.
CrossFit seems to be the sport of ripped men and women, so I was expecting a frightening lesson in how to grunt my way through a weight-filled workout. Even though I was with a group that included other newbies, I was still a little intimidated when we first entered the box. It was sparse and utilitarian, with no soothing spa colors or mood lighting — these people were here for the business of fitness. Barbells, wooden boxes, and rowing machines were lined up neatly throughout the room, with a soundtrack of clanging weights and loud cheers added to the mix. Luckily, the owners and athletes put us at ease at once — I felt welcomed as soon as I stepped in. Even the fact that I was only one of the few in the room who had never tried CrossFit didn’t deter them. We received a quick overview about CrossFit before we started our workout; if you’ve never been to a CrossFit gym before, you’ll probably need to sign up for a fundamentals class where they teach you the philosophy of CrossFit (the textbook definition: constantly varied, functional movements, executed at high intensity) as well as the ins and outs of your new gym.
Our workout was a modified version of a classic WOD, or workout of the day, named Fight Gone Bad. There were five exercise stations (and one rest station) that we were at for one minute at a time, then we went through the stations for a second set (normally this classic WOD is repeated three to five times). Think: throwing a 10- to 20-pound ball up a wall over and over, kettlebell rows, push presses with barbells as heavy as you can manage, rowing as fast as you can on a rowing machine, and box jumps on platforms so high they caused at least one in our group to tumble. A big digital countdown clock high on the wall reset every 60 seconds. The whole experience sounds a little chaotic, but it was actually very well-controlled. We partnered up so one person could keep score of reps while the other gave it her all, then staggered ourselves at one of the six stations. My partner was an experienced CrossFitter who helped me fix my form while also encouraging me to beat my previous round’s number of reps. She didn’t even laugh at the fact that I was only using a 35-pound naked barbell — not loaded up with hundreds of pounds of weights like many of the others. By the time my 12 minutes were over, I was drenched in sweat and shaking from muscle fatigue.
That CrossFit WODs are usually less than your shortest workout at the gym are part of their appeal: it’s hard not to be swayed by the fact that you can accomplish more in a 12-minute intense CrossFit workout than a run-of-the-mill treadmill session. The huge clock on the wall is a reminder that you only have mere seconds at each station — it helped motivate me to push through one last barbell lift or box jump, even when my muscles felt like they couldn’t go on.
At the end of the workout, we all tallied our total reps and wrote our names on a whiteboard, ranked by our scores. It was humbling to see how my low number paled in comparison to the rest of the group. That blatant competitiveness serves a purpose, says Josh Everett, a veteran CrossFit athlete and ambassador for the sport. “Whatever your fitness goals are, if you want to be stronger, if you want to lose weight, if you want to do better at your sport, you get there more quickly by adding intensity to it,” he explains. “A workout is almost like a competition against somebody. If we’re working out together and we’re competing, and you’re a little bit ahead of me, then I’m going to push myself harder to catch up to you and pass you. It really drives that intensity piece.” Even though I felt the camaraderie and inclusiveness that most CrossFitters highlight as one of the main reasons why they keep coming back, those numbers on the board didn’t lie — if you’re a competitive person, reaching the top of that list (or just beating your previous WOD record) can be more motivating than making sure you’re completing each rep correctly or stopping when you know your body has had enough.
Is It Safe?
The potential for injury in a sport where you’re sometimes lifting lots of weight as fast as you can while trying to best your neighbor’s reps can’t be denied. Incidences of an overtraining condition, called rhabdomyolysis, have popped up enough for some people to dub it “the CrossFit disease,” although physicians and CrossFitters alike are quick to point out that the condition — marked by extreme muscle soreness and tea-colored urine — happens regularly in any type of extreme sport, from marathon running to Olympic weight lifting. “The biggest misconception of CrossFit is that you get a ton of injuries, which simply isn’t true,” Josh says. “Yes, you can get injured doing CrossFit, but the incidence is rather low.”
In fact, safety is one of the main tenets of the sport. “If you follow the mantra of what CrossFit teaches at their Level 1 course, which is mechanics, consistency, and then intensity — so you have good movement, you know the exercises well, you’re consistent in your training, and then you layer on the intensity — that’s the safest route you can go,” Josh says. But a recent article in ESPN about CrossFit highlights the issue of balancing intensity with mechanics: while safety is taught as a fundamental, it’s often up to the individual athlete to adhere to its teachings. Like any sport, that can mean some people are pushing themselves too hard or not knowing when to stop. Additionally, the ESPN article notes, because of the sport’s new popularity, there’s a rise in possibly underqualified people opening CrossFit gyms, since some feel the certification process isn’t incredibly difficult. That combination of personal carelessness or determination and lack of expertise may be one of the reasons why you’ve probably heard horror stories from friends who’ve pushed themselves too far and ended up with a serious injury. I felt completely safe while I hurried through my reps, but as someone who is constantly adjusting my form and trying to remember how all my body parts should align for each exercise, I could see how, left to my own newbie devices and not under the watchful eye of some of CrossFit’s best, racing the clock to top my previous score could be a recipe for injury.
All in all, my first short but official WOD was an excellent introduction. While I wouldn’t say that the workout style is for me, everyone’s friendliness, skill, and encouragement was immediately apparent. I can see why people who do CrossFit never look back (and I only got a taste of what Josh and many others call CrossFit’s “church”-like community aspect). But if you’re new to CrossFit and want to see what it’s all about, it’s important you do your research first. Find an affiliate box with knowledgeable, experienced trainers, pay attention in your fundamentals class, and — most importantly — listen to your body, don’t only focus on the clock. Then, just take the advice of Camille LeBlanc Bazinet, winner of the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games. “There’s a lot of misconception ; a lot of people think that it’s not for everyone or that you can get injured,” she recently told us. “Those people mainly don’t know what it is or don’t know that they need it. Truly the only thing that I’d tell them is find a class and just go see for yourself to see how it is. Most of the time the people who are willing to take those steps end up loving it.”
Image Source: Reebok
Is CrossFit for Beginners Even Possible?
CrossFit, for beginners or seasoned exercisers, can be an intimidating fitness discipline. It takes place in a spartan gym—better known as a box—with basic equipment, including pull-up bars, tires, medicine balls, and barbells. You’d think you’d need to be a bodybuilder just to get started.
You’d be wrong on that count.
CrossFit training is suitable for almost everybody, as every one of its workouts can be scaled to challenge the fitness level of each individual. So if you’re a 40-year-old newbie, you’ll be doing a similar workout to the 25-year-old nearby, except slower and with less weight and fewer reps—that is, until you’re nearly as strong and fit as he is. Indeed, CrossFit instructor Tom Parry (shown above) devotes much of his time proving to his students that they’re capable of incredible feats.
The instructor’s résumé
Parry, who owns Chicago’s Atlas Performance, holds a master’s degree in exercise physiology and sports nutrition. He’s certified as a personal trainer and a CrossFit Level 1 coach. He also worked as a strength and conditioning coach for Fordham University’s Division I football team.
Obviously, Parry has a drive to achieve, which has made him a natural at CrossFit. As a coach, though, he has to motivate people who are less naturally driven than he is. That’s why, by sharing how he gets participants hyped up during workouts, he expects to get more people interested in CrossFit.
How a typical CrossFit WOD goes
CrossFit WODs (workouts of the day) are the building block that make up the entire conditioning system. At most boxes, members show up throughout the day to complete the assigned workout. Coaches choose from a variety of well-known workouts or make up their own. Parry, for instance, is partial to plyometric moves that build speed and agility.
1. The music is turned up to 11.
Parry believes there are few better ways to amp up a bunch of students than some well-designed musical selections. In his opinion, the perfect CrossFit song is Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle.” Though any song will work, he said, as long as it’s played loudly and it has a good bassline.
“You want music that’s just going to completely take your mind out of where you are … occupies one of your senses completely.”
2. The students make their workout a game.
CrossFit workouts are inherently competitive—an ideal situation for anyone who turned every PE class’s warm-up jog into a race. Students perform select exercises “for time,” meaning they attempt to do the moves as fast as they can and, hopefully, beat their former time.
“Anybody who’s a former athlete or just competitive person in general … to win the workout!” Parry said.
3. The coach does everything to motivate his students—even lie.
There’s no one-size-fits-all pep talk. “Everybody’s different,” Parry said. “Some people just want to go, and if you scream at them, they’ll shut down. There’s somebody like me where, if I drop the bar, I want my coach screaming in my ear to get back on that bar.”
Yelling is Parry’s preferred method of encouragement, but he knows it’s not what will get everyone through a day of CrossFit. For beginners and those who simply hate hard workouts, a little sugarcoating of the truth could be the nudge they need to finish and get closer to achieving their fitness goals.
To these students, Parry might say something like “Hey, the harder you work today, the easier it’s going to be tomorrow.”
“But that’s just something I’d say,” he emphasized. “You’d come back the next day, and I’d make you do it heavier.”
Photos by Matt Schwerin, Groupon
Learn more about crossfit:
What Is Crossfit? A Newbies’ Guide to the Program
Pull-ups are obvious. Maybe so are thrusters. But AMRAP? The minimalist workout’s out-there terminology, explained by a trainer.
The Best and the Worst Crossfit Workouts
These CrossFit workouts are intimidating, no question. But with the help of a CrossFit coach, we explain why they’re popular and how even beginners can do them.
It takes something very special to win over the British populous; we are, if nothing else, a tough crowd. So, it’s fair to show a little appreciation for CrossFit, the US-born fitness method that has successfully infiltrated every corner of the UK.
The promise of functional fitness is the lure that’s seen – despite CrossFit’s macho image – thousands of women stepping up to the, erm, rack. Seduced by the method’s muscle-building, fat-torching gains, over 27,000 British women are now CrossFit devotees.
Fancy giving it a go yourself? WH deputy editor Victoria Joy signed up to four weeks of classes at CrossFit Shapesmiths in Clapham Junction via official CrossFit sponsor Reebok and had a blast – here are her nine top tips for total CrossFit beginners.
CROSSFIT FOR BEGINNERS
1. Find a box that fits
If you’re Googling ‘Crossfit for beginners’, likelihood is, you don’t know what a box is. It’s the term that CrossFit fans (hereby referred to as CF) use to refer to their gyms/studios.
More importantly, each of the 554 CrossFit boxes in the UK are franchises; that is, owners trade under the CF name but they’re pretty much standalone businesses, which means bar the workouts CF differs from box to box. This is wonderful news, as you’re basically guaranteed to find a box local that suits you – so get a taster session at a few and try before you buy. That way you’ll be able to pin down the box where you click most with the trainers/they’ve invested in a changing room hairdryer/located literally on your way to work.
2. Prepare to actually talk to people
Contrary to rumours that CF can be cliquey, especially between trainers, competitors and long-timers, the first time I tried a class at CrossFit Shapesmiths, three people asked me my name and how I was. THREE. Unsolicited.
Those who know me well know I’m not a lover of small talk or stranger chat (whatever, I’m owning it) but the genuine kindness that Crossfit for beginners showed hit me right in the warm fuzzies. It made such a welcome change from the silent ‘head down, queue without making eye contact, work out, shower leave’ routine of other group classes in London that it put a bigger smile on my face than finally learning how to properly do a chest-to-floor burpee.
3. Expect the unexpected – and learn to love it
If you’re one of those people who only stick with what you know, or talk yourself out of workouts that sound too scary, this one’s for you. On any given day, your Crossfit box will run the same workouts across all regular sessions, which they term the WOD: workout of the day. So, whatever time your slot, you’ll be doing the same workout as everyone else who walks through the door that day.
But even better, that WOD is only announced first thing that day, so there’s no time to talk yourself out of doing it! And if you’re anything like me and want to avoid psyching yourself out beforehand, keep yourself in the dark until you arrive. Crossfit for beginners can seem daunting if not, but fear not. The trainers explain the workout in full at the beginning of every session, so there’s no real need to swot ahead anyway.
4. Don’t swear off cardio altogether
For all the focus on strength training, there’s often cardio elements in regular CF sessions. Plus, most boxes run sessions specific to cardio (they’ll be highlighted on the timetable or labelled differently; they’re called Engine WODs at Shapesmiths) so if you’re recovering from a lifting injury or just want to get sweaty and slam the cals on a Saturday morning, get to it.
5. Don’t underestimate technique
If you’re trying Crossfit for beginners, prepare to become intimately acquainted with a broom handle. Why? Because, despite myths around high injury rates and pushing bodies beyond their limits, CF is actually obsessive about correct form and injury prevention. Take deadlifts and back squats: you might think you’ve got them down like a pro, but any time they’re part of a WOD, your trainer will take the entire group (tanked gym bros included) through basic form and if you’re not getting it, you’ll be encouraged to perform the workout with a wooden broom handle before progressing to a weighted bar. I’ve never felt more safe under the watchful eyes of a trainer – and it means when you do start upping your weights, you know you’re nailing each rep.
6. Don’t rinse your rent on kit
CrossFit for beginners is simple if you take one note: Lots of brands might have jumped on the CrossFit bandwagon to sell branded clothes and kit, but you don’t need all of it. Be selective about what you invest in. The correct shoes are most important, as you could be taking on weightlifting moves, jogging and squat jumps in any workout, so treat yourself to a pair of trainers designed for conditioning workouts like the Reebok Nano 8. Anything else is down to personal preference.
7. Get the dates in your diary
More and more people – women, especially – are falling for CF, which means good boxes are oversubscribed and peak classes book out quickly. Check your box rules, but usually you’ll need to schedule a phone alert around five days before your slot to get in there quick. Go, go go!
8. Don’t think you have to be fit right now
Don’t confuse the CrossFit you see on Instagram and Netflix documentaries with the regular classes, Yes, you’ll come across some seriously fit people, who can make busting out a bunch of pull-ups look effortless, but the majority of CFers are all at completely different fitness levels. And the trainers are more interesting in getting their clients more fit, rather than teaching perfect athletes day after day.
9. Leave your ego at home
Because everyone else does. It might just be Shapesmiths (though I’ve heard positive similar feedback from frequenters of other boxes) but I very quickly realised that it was one of the least pretentious, friendliest fitness studios I’d ever set foot in. And that type of thing is priceless if you ask me. Crossfit for beginners never looked easier.
Victoria Joy is Deputy Editor at Women’s Health magazine. Follow me on Instagram: @spreadingthejoy
Now you’ve got your own guide to Crossfit for beginners, try this workout for stomach fat or find out how to cure delayed onset muscle soreness (aka DOMS).
War Of The WODS: How Hard Could CrossFit Be?
Last August, I was presented with the opportunity to compete in the annual Nevada Police & Fire Games, held each summer in Las Vegas. The competition brings in more than 2,000 competitors and offers more than 30 events. I love to compete and hadn’t been to Vegas in a while, so I jumped at the opportunity. But what was I to compete in? I love throwing myself at big challenges so this was an important choice.
I looked over the list of about 30 events, covering everything from volleyball to bass fishing. Right away, I eliminated all the team sports, because I’m a one-man wolf pack. There were several shooting events, but I don’t want to deal with the hassle of bringing a firearm on a plane. I like boxing, except for the whole getting punched in the face thing. If I wanted that, I could get it during my workday. I could probably put up a decent time in the 5K road race, but this was Vegas in August, and honestly, I hate running. Poker? Not a sport. Darts? Drinking game. Bowling? Lame.
“I was presented with the opportunity to compete in the annual Nevada Police & Fire Games, held each summer in Las Vegas.”
My event had to be a strength event. The powerlifting and bench press competitions seemed up my alley, since I’ve competed many times in the bench press. However, my shoulder is now junk and it wouldn’t stand up to the heavy weights I’d need to train with to prepare, so those were both out. I’ve got a lot of experience in submission grappling, but again, the shoulder. I envision my entire arm being ripped off my body, thrown though the air, and sliding across the mat. That would be embarrassing.
The list was quickly dwindling, but then my eyes locked on a word: CrossFit! I’ve never done it before, but I know it’s about performing a bunch of exercises, one after another, until you get tired. And easily half of the people I see doing CrossFit are girls. How hard could it be?
CrossFit Here I Come!
The director of the CrossFit event sent out an email stating the competition would consist of 3 WODs (CrossFit talk for “workout of the day”), but he wouldn’t divulge which exercises would be involved until a few days prior to the event. I wasn’t really concerned, because I’d been through plenty of grueling SWAT workouts, and in 2012 I competed in six obstacle races including a Tough Mudder and a Spartan Race. The way I saw it, there was no need for me to change any of my training leading up to this event.
Just prior to me leaving for Vegas, the WODs were revealed. It seemed like a pretty long list of exercises, but I recognized most of them. I knew that burpees would be included. I could only imagine what “thrusters” and “rack jerks” were, but when I Googled them, they were nowhere near as dirty as I envisioned. I noticed wall climbs on the list, too. I think wall climbing is a blast, and even if you fall, the guy holding the rope just lets you down nice and slow. Everything was shaping up for a fun day at the CrossFit “box,” with me happily getting my sweat on.
“The first WOD was called a ‘barbell ladder’.”
On the day of the competition, I arrived at Sin City CrossFit at 8 a.m. It was already 107 degrees, but it was a dry heat. I looked over the competitors. Most of them were impressively muscular, covered in ink, and they looked like they could kick my ass. The guys were equally scary.
The first WOD was called a “barbell ladder.” It consisted of a barbell clean, front squat, push jerk, back squat, and rack jerk. Each time you could complete the process in less than 60 seconds, you could move up to a heavier barbell. Thankfully I had guidance though this event or I may have snatched when I should have jerked. In any event, after the fifth barbell my shoulder threw in the towel. I thought it was a wise decision to stop, considering I still had a long day ahead of me.
The second WOD began with a 1,000-meter sprint, out on the road in the blazing sun. By the time I got back to the box, even my fingernails were sweating. We then performed as many barbell thrusters as we could fit into one minute. Then Mr. Microphone would yell “Burpees!” and we would all drop down, do a burpee, jump over the barbell, do another stupid burpee … and another … and another. We then continued doing thrusters for another minute.
This whole process went on for a full 20 minutes. I found myself pondering the inventor of the burpee, Dr. Royal H. Burpee. I was pretty sure he was a “Royal” A-hole with no friends. But I broke out of my reverie at about minute 18 when I saw this poor bastard sprawled out on the mat to my left. He was lying in a puddle of sweat, and his eyes were rolled back in his head. It seemed pretty clear to me he was either dead or pretty close to it. I mentally messaged him, “Hold on two more minutes buddy, and we can walk into the light together.” Nevertheless, I refused to quit before time ran out, and somehow I survived to see WOD number 3.
WODs to the Wall
Prior to the final event, we all had a little pre-WOD snack called a “70-calorie row.” This was performed while on one of those rowing machines where you use your whole body to repeatedly pull a handle, like you’re trying to start a lawnmower that’s out of gas. I figured I could burn through 70 calories in a few seconds. Four minutes later, I was gasping for air like a goldfish on the kitchen counter. It seemed ridiculous to me that it took all that work just to burn the equivalent of one nacho cheese rice cake.
Finally the third WOD was before me, and the end of this torture was in sight. Here’s how it looked:
- 120 jumps with a jump rope
- 50 barbell push-presses
- 40 step-overs, up and over a 2-foot-tall box
- 30 sumo deadlift high-pulls
- 5 wall-climbs
- 10 power cleans
Unfortunately, the wall climbs weren’t the type I had hoped for. As it turned out, I was supposed to start by lying on my stomach with my feet against the wall. Then I had to use my hands to back up, while my toes simultaneously walked up the wall, until I was in a completely vertical handstand with my chest touching the wall. If you think that sounds like a real ball-buster, you are correct!
At this point in the competition both my shoulders were completely spent. I barely managed to complete one wall climb, and the event time was running out. Those power cleans were looking pretty doubtful, and I wasn’t feeling all too bad about skipping them when the final buzzer sounded, signaling the end of the day.
The spectators cheered and clapped, but very few competitors had any energy left for celebration. I was a beaten man, and I felt disappointed in my performance. In case you’re still wondering, no, I didn’t win. CrossFit won.
In the ensuing days, I experienced the worst delayed onset muscle soreness of my lifetime—and I say this as a connoisseur of DOMS. My entire upper body was so sore I felt physically ill, and I couldn’t raise either hand above my head.
The pain finally dissipated after a full week. Had I been a hardcore CrossFitter who trained with these movements on a regular basis, I’m sure the soreness would have been far less, but I doubt any competitor felt “fine” the following day. And while I liked the challenge and camaraderie of the long day, I don’t have any plans to join my local box just yet.
So as penance, I’ll say it: Yeah, CrossFit is tough. CrossFitters are tough. And no, you probably can’t do what they do, at least not right out of the box, so to speak. Entering that competition wasn’t the brightest idea I’ve ever had, but luckily, bad ideas make for good stories.
Hate it or love it, people have strong opinions about CrossFit.
Devotees tout it as the best way to transform your body, while critics say there’s no surer way to end up injured. Regardless, there’s no denying that CrossFit has become a major fitness movement: there are more than 13,000 CrossFit gyms, known as boxes, around the world.
With all the claims about CrossFit, it can be hard for curious newbies to know what to expect for their first visit to a box. We spoke to a few experts to determine exactly what you should know before starting CrossFit to separate the bluster (from both sides) and the real truth.
CrossFit borrows movements from a variety of sports including, gymnastics, weightlifting, powerlifting, and rowing. It was created by former gymnast Greg Glassman to maximize the amount of work performed in the shortest amount of time, according to the official CrossFit website, which serves as the activity’s governing and branding entity.
Hinterhaus ProductionsGetty Images
The goal of CrossFit is to boost your fitness and help you move better, whether it’s during a hockey game or hoisting heavy bags at the grocery store. This is achieved by performing a bunch of functional movements at high intensity, says Ian Creighton, General Manager and Coach at BRICK New York.
What Do You Do in a CrossFit Class?
Typically, each class is broken up into three parts: the warmup, skill or strength component, then the workout of the day, or WOD.
The warmup is tailored to the skill or strength component, so you’re prepped for what comes next. Skilled workouts are designed to improve your ability to do certain exercises, like the jumprope double-under, while Strength workouts aim to make you well, stronger.
Jakob HelbigGetty Images
The final part of the class is the WOD, which asks you to perform a specific set of exercises in a given amount of time or rep scheme. WODs are usually total body workouts that range from 8 to 16 minutes, but can be as short as three, Creighton explains.
“A three-minute workout sounds silly, but when you put the intensity at 95 percent, you’re going to be recovering for an hour after that,” he says.
Many gyms create their own WODs, but CrossFit does have a slew of benchmark workouts named after women; Fran is one popular one, which consists of thrusters and pullups. There are also Hero WODs named after fallen service men and women.
What You Should Keep in Mind Before Starting CrossFit
When you start going to a well-established box, it might not be uncommon to see others performing feats like cleaning 300 pounds. You might be tempted to attempt to do the same. Don’t.
“People come in and they’re competitive,” says Creighton. “They want to do what everyone else is doing. That’s the wrong way to approach CrossFit.”
Mathew Forzaglia, a personal trainer and CrossFit coach in New York City, agrees with Creighton, saying you should start by lifting with an empty barbell until you understand the movements.
“You can’t jump to the final result without doing the first step,” he explains.
Managing your expectations of what you will and won’t get out of CrossFit is especially important. Since the workout isn’t specialized, don’t expect to become a master Olympic lifter. Instead, you’ll likely improve your overall fitness level, says Forzaglia.
“To be good at CrossFit, you must be good at a bunch of things,” he says.
Is CrossFit Actually Dangerous?
As with any form of exercise, this cult favorite comes with risk. However, reports about the dangers of CrossFit may be overhyped, according to a December 2018 study.
Published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers at Kennesaw State University concluded that CrossFit is fairly safe compared to other types of training. After analyzing 3,000 survey responses of CrossFit participants, they found that people who are new to CrossFit or train less than three days a week are more likely to get injured. This is likely because these groups are unfamiliar with the movements.
“This study indicates that injuries among CrossFit participants may not be as high as previously suggested in some media reports,” study co-author Yuri Feito said in a statement. “CrossFit training has been scrutinized because of a supposed high incidence of injuries, but our data does not seem to support that it might be any more ‘extreme’ or dangerous than other exercise training programs.”
A 2014 study published in Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine Research found that people with hands-on coaches who help them through the movements have fewer injuries, which is why Creighton stresses finding a gym that priorities safety.
“You need coaching where the coaches are focused first and foremost on safety and movement quality,” he says. “That’s the most important thing.”
Rhabdomyolysis, a condition that causes muscle tissue to break down and release kidney-damaging waste into the bloodstream, has been linked to CrossFit. However, pushing yourself too hard in any workout can cause the problem.
How Do You Find a Good CrossFit Gym?
Gyms usually offer free introductory classes, which you should hit up to feel the place out. Then, ask other members about their experiences and whether they’ve been injured, advises Creighton. You should also pay particular attention to the coach’s leadership skills.
Hero ImagesGetty Images
“If there’s no structure to the class and it’s disorderly, then that’s a safety problem,” he says. “That’s a red flag.”
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, either. “If someone makes you do something, ask them why,” Forzaglia recommends. You want to be sure your coach has a solid understanding of the movements and isn’t just arbitrarily doling out tips. Another warning sign: if coaches pay more attention to their phones than their class. Thruster videos might be cool to watch on Instagram, but getting hurt because of an instructor’s negligence is definitely not.
What Do You Need for CrossFit?
Boxes will have almost all the heavy duty equipment you need, like plyometric boxes, weights, and barbells, but Creighton recommends investing in one key item: a quality jump rope.
RPM Speed Rope 3.0
Although gyms typically have jump ropes available, Creighton says they’re not durable or meant to be shared by many people. People often shorten long ropes by tying them, which can hinder the integrity of the equipment. RPM is a high-quality jump rope that many of Creighton’s clients prefer, and is a good choice if you want to nail those double-unders.
Creighton also recommends that you wear a flat cross-training shoe that’s suited for the variety of movements you’ll encounter. Just keep your road shoes out of the box. You might run short distances for your WOD, but the cushioned, high-drop design of most runners is terrible for the explosive lifts you’ll be performing.
Is CrossFit Right For You?
So, how do you know whether it’s worth adding CrossFit to your routine? That depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.
“CrossFit is a great generalized workout for the masses,” says Forzaglia. “When it comes to a specific, focused goal, I think CrossFit isn’t the answer.”
If want bigger biceps or to lose 10 pounds for your wedding, Forzaglia says it’s best to work with a personal trainer who can help figure out a plan to do just that.
Although strength training newbies are often drawn to the small, communal atmosphere at CrossFit gyms, Men’s Health Fitness Director Ebeneezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., says the activity is probably best for those who are already comfortable with lifting.
“They’ll ask you to clean and squat and snatch in CrossFit, so if you can’t adequately do those things, how much can you get out of it?,” Samuel says. He recommends going to introductory classes until you’re more familiar with the movements.
But the only way to know if you’ll enjoy CrossFit is to try it out for yourself. “Go in there and have an open mind,” says Forzaglia. “It’s just another workout.”
Ready to get started? Here are four beginner-friendly benchmark WODs to give you an idea of a typical workout.
Complete as many rounds as you can in 20 minutes:
- 5 Pull-ups
- 10 Push-ups
- 15 Squats
Five rounds for time:
- 20 Pull-ups
- 30 Push-ups
- 40 Sit-ups
- 50 Squats
Three rounds of 21-15- and 9 reps, for time:
- 95-pound Thruster
- 150 Wallballs using a 20 pound ball (recommended)
Beginner’s CrossFit Gear
RPM Speed Rope 3.0 (Pewter) RPM amazon.com
Want to nail those tricky double-unders? Invest in a good, lightweight jump rope like the RPM Speed Rope.
NOBULL Men’s Training Shoes and Styles (10, Grey Heather) NOBULL amazon.com
You need a shoe that does it all, whether running, climbing, or lifting, like these Nobull Trainers. They also come in a high top style for extra support, which you may need during rope climbs.
Gibson Rainbow Palm Grips – Black – Large Gibson Athletic amazon.com $9.99
Invest in a pair of palm grips to prevent callouses from barbell work.
Herschel Supply Co. Strand Duffle Bag, Black, One Size Herschel Supply Co. amazon.com $61.50
This handy Herschel tote will help you carry everything with ease, plus it’s stylish enough for the office.
The Wod Handbook (2nd Edition) amazon.com $25.00
Brush up on the most popular CrossFit workouts in this easy-to-read illustrated book.
Bear Grips Shin Guard Sleeves Bear Grips amazon.com $24.95
Chances are you’ll get banged up at least once in CrossFit. But these shin guards will protect you from the pain of box jumps, rope climbs and dead lifts.
Melissa Matthews Health Writer Melissa Matthews is the Health Writer at Men’s Health, covering the latest in food, nutrition, and health.
CrossFit Q&A: Your Guide To Starting CrossFit
Just mentioning the word CrossFit can cause excitement, serious Jimmy rustling, and even straight-up anger. Despite the peripheral hate, the growing popularity of the sport and the number of people trying it for the first time mean that CrossFit must be doing something right.
Much of CrossFit’s growing fan base are motivated to continue the sport because of athletes like Heather Welsh and Marcus Hendren. Not only do these high-ranking athletes squat, press, and clean heavy weight, they look damn good doing it. It’s easy to be inspired by their commitment to greatness and their super-hot physiques.
Whether you’re eager to try your first class or just slightly Cross-curious, more information will help your first foray into the CrossFit world. As it turns out, there’s a lot more to it than putting on long socks and doing weird pull-ups. If you’re thinking about heading to your local box (CrossFit gym) and kipping for the first time, here are answers to some questions you might have.
Created by Coach Greg Glassman, CrossFit is a fitness system meant to help people develop an “increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains.” This means that CrossFit isn’t necessarily designed to get you better at one skill or fitness attribute; instead, it’s engineered to help you develop multiple skills and strengths at varying levels of intensity and time. You probably won’t become the strongest person on the planet with CrossFit, but you will become stronger, faster, and able to do more work across various disciplines.
If you try a class, you’ll do a workout of the day (WOD), which will more than likely include a met-con (metabolic conditioning session). In a met-con, you’ll try to get as many rounds or reps as you can in a given amount of time. The movements, rounds, reps, and other details always vary, so you never know what to expect. One day you could run 400s and do pull-ups, and the next day you could be doing kettlebell swings, burpees, and box jumps.
But CrossFit goes beyond that. Good boxes will invest time to coach you how to do technical compound lifts and Olympic lifts, skills like double-unders and kipping pull-ups, and even running and rowing techniques.
Another great thing about CrossFit workouts is that they don’t require a special gym or coach. Marcus Hendren, for example, started his CrossFit journey with the ultra-tough workout “Lumberjack 20.” “I was looking for another outlet to compete,” says the ex-collegiate football player. “I’d always loved working out and heard about CrossFit, so I decided to give it a try.”
“In a CrossFit box, you don’t have to worry about dropping your heavy deadlift, getting yelled at for grunting, or being kicked out for being too awesome.”
What does a CrossFit box offer that a commercial gym doesn’t?
Instead of a maze of exercise machines and dumbbell racks, you’ll find a smaller array of barbells, bumper plates, lifting platforms, climbing ropes, rings, medicine balls, kettlebells, and a whole lot of pull-up bars at your local box. You’ll also get more personal training and a freedom to lift how you want. In a CrossFit box, you don’t have to worry about dropping your heavy deadlift, getting yelled at for grunting, or being kicked out for being too awesome.
Will CrossFit help me achieve my fitness goals?
That depends upon your goals. If you would like to be fitter, stronger, more athletic, and more mobile, then CrossFit can help. However, the whole point of doing CrossFit is to become a “Jack of all trades,” so if you want to specialize in something, then CrossFit programming may not be what you need.
This is particularly true if you’re a bodybuilder or a strength athlete. CrossFit isn’t going to make you huge, unless you dedicate extra time to improving your strength or size. I will say, though, that athletes like Heather Welsh, Rich Froning, Dan Bailey, Marcus Hendren, and Annie Thorisdottir definitely prove that you can get strong and jacked doing CrossFit.
Will I be able to actually do the workouts?
One of the best things about CrossFit is that it’s almost infinitely scalable. If you can’t do the workout as prescribed, then you do what you can. So, if you can’t do bodyweight pull-ups, you can do ring rows, or use bands, or you can do jump pull-ups. The same goes for almost every movement. If you’re uncomfortable deadlifting 135 pounds, deadlift less. If you don’t want to do box jumps on a 36-inch box, use 20 inches. Moreover, nobody is going to force you to do something you’re completely unprepared to do. You’ll go over how to do movements and lifts before you’re ever asked to.
However, CrossFit is also good at challenging you to do more than you think you can. The line between wussing out and honestly failing because you’re so fatigued you can’t even lift your finger might seem pretty thin. A tough CrossFit WOD can teach you the difference.
CrossFit is also a really great tool to determine your weaknesses. Heather Welsh, 2012 CrossFit Games competitor, said in a recent Barbell Shrugged interview that her college volleyball experiences didn’t prepare her for the challenging endurance workouts. “I hired a coach and he built my engine so I could handle the workouts. I ran, and I ran, and I ran, and then I ran some more,” she says.
What should I expect during my first few weeks?
You can expect to be challenged. Many people go into CrossFit with expectations that turn out to be untrue. You’ll do movements you’ve never heard of and new variations of challenging lifts. You’ll exert more energy than you’re accustomed to and you may feel a little lost. That’s OK: there’s a learning curve. Don’t fear starting at the beginning. Learn the mechanics and try new things. You’ll improve quicker than you think.
Are the coaches good?
As in all fitness facilities, some coaches are good, and others aren’t. The problem with hiring a coach or a personal trainer is that you can only rely on their “certification.” If you’re unsure about what that certification even entails, then you’re just making a judgment based on the trust you have in that establishment. I suggest you try classes with different coaches and see which ones you like best. Don’t hesitate to ask about their backgrounds and specializations.
Will I hurt myself?
You could, but you could also hurt yourself mountain biking, doing karate, or base jumping. All physical activity comes with some risk. If you follow directions, practice movement patterns, and scale down when necessary, you should be fine.
Is it worth all the investment?
CrossFit gyms are often more expensive than commercial gym because while commercial gyms sell hundreds of memberships and hope only a third of their members show up, CrossFit boxes sign up fewer people and hope everyone shows up. If you really enjoy CrossFit, go to class most days of the week. Get the most out of your money.
I encourage everyone to try a CrossFit class and then try doing a similar workout in a commercial gym. If you don’t see or feel a difference, then there’s your answer.
Do I have to eat paleo?
No! There aren’t any rules about what you can and cannot eat if you train CrossFit. In general, CrossFit coaches and box owners suggest a paleo model because it’s healthier than the high-carb, salty, processed Standard American Diet. You may notice, however, that what you eat affects your performance during class. If you’re running on Cheetos and Diet Coke, your workout won’t feel too good.
Marcus Hendren was raised on a farm and got into the habit of eating whatever he wanted. Since he’s started CrossFit, he’s cleaned up his nutrition plan to be more competitive. “It wasn’t until I left the farm that my diet really changed. Before I left I had a typical farmers diet: lots of meat, potatoes, breads, and desserts,” he said in an interview. “Now I’m much more conscious about what I eat.”
What’s with the long socks and special shoes?
Just like in any other sport, CrossFit equipment is specialized. Long socks help if you’re doing multiple rope ascents, lots of box jumps, or deadlifts, but they’re not a necessity. Some people like to wear Olympic lifting shoes, Reebok Nanos, or sport their box’s T-shirt, but technically you don’t need anything but sneakers and a pair of shorts to do CrossFit. If you really like CrossFit and plan to make it a habit, then it may not be a bad idea to grab some equipment.
Is it a cult?
Yoga, strongman, bodybuilding, and most other sports create diehard fans and followers bound by admiration of a particular ideal. CrossFit is no different. It has participants and spectators at various levels.
CrossFit is also very inclusive, or at least it should be. If you don’t immediately feel welcome at your CrossFit box, you’re in the wrong place. Furthermore, there’s no rule that says you have to train to become the next Rich Froning—go to just challenge yourself, or be challenged, or to try something new. You shouldn’t feel pressure about becoming a card-carrying “WODkilla.”
Why does CrossFit generate so much controversy?
I’m not sure why the dislike can become vitriolic. Don’t get me wrong, CrossFit definitely has flaws: Some CrossFitters tend to take themselves way too seriously, some of the programming is silly, and the business model seems to be more concerned with the quantity of coaches than the quality. But really, who cares what another person does for his or her fitness? Get fit and do what you love!
I’m out of shape – should I start CrossFit?
Many people are trying to get “in shape” first, before attempting to join a CrossFit class. There are many reasons for that:
- some are based on a fear to look out of shape amongst peers
- or fear of being bullied/ridiculed
- wrong diet
The list of reasons not to start is limitless.
We know them – most of us also had the same issues and blockers!
Some of us even started working out in the gym on their own. Or took private classes first – before signing up to their first CrossFit class. ( Ironically private classes are much more challenging than group classes! )
This is not a healthy approach!
Reason 1 : The hardest part about getting in shape is motivation
Building and keeping a longterm motivation are really really high barriers. That’s what CrossFit is there for! Great CrossFit athletes don’t need outside motivation – they can motivate themselves. But it’s really hard for beginners to stay motivated.
When you’re out of shape, then your body wants to stay this way. It will fight desperately with ( and against ) you, to stay the way it is. And you have a lot of other things on your plate already as well. You’re trying to change your nutritional intake, cutting down the bad stuff that you’re used to – and then you want to go to the gym and do weights on your own? Keeping track of stances, and what all the different tools are there for? That’s a big load on your brain.
It’s not a surprise that people fail at getting in shape.
It’s literally a fight against your brain on multiple fronts – and a living nightmare.
Motivation is truly the hardest thing to get, and that’s where CrossFit comes in :
All you have to do everyday is : walk in.
The coach will take care of telling you what to do, and how to do it. And the group you work out with, will help you with the motivation.
Reason 2 : But people will look at me funny / make fun of my bad shape
The first thing you’ll notice when starting your CF class, is that everybody is focused on themselves. There’s no time to look left and right.
There’s usually only 2 people checking up on you while you exercise :
- The Coach
You might get into group exercises, where you share a bar. And that’s where you’ll support each other. But that’s about it.
You know what we hear the most in a box when people talk about others? What great improvements they’ve achieved. We’re not there to push others down; we’re in a CF box to better ourselves – and to help others to push themselves further.
Reason 3 : But the exercises look so hard, I’m not sure I’ll be able to do them
That’s the great part about CrossFit : There’s the strict exercises, and the scaled ones.
Usually when your coach announces the work out of the day, he’ll give for every step alternatives. The basic workout is for advanced CrossFitters. And for people who are not at that level yet, he’ll announce alternatives for the same muscle regions.
That’s what CrossFitters call “scale” :
Every beginner in CrossFit hears the word scale. When I started I never knew what the coach meant by this word. However, is this the best thing about CrossFit. Scaling options are the reason why everyone, in whatever shape they might be, can do CrossFit.
Scaling basically means that you change the intensity of the workout to your fitness level. There is a scaling option for every single exercise. For example, you can always use a lighter weight in a weightlifting session or use elastic bands to help you with pull ups, muscle ups, squats and more, do fewer reps or just anything to help you finish the workout with your skill level.
Even crossfitters that have been doing the sport for a longer time have to scale occasionally. Perhaps due to injury, or they don’t have enough strength in them that day to keep that weight for a whole wod. Some of the benchmark wods have heavy loads that not everyone can handle.
BoxRox “What is scaling in CrossFit“
So what now?
So if you feel you’re out of shape, here’s what you have to do :
- Step 1 : Put on your work-out clothes
- Step 2 : Grab a towel
- Step 3 : Fill up your water bottle
- Step 4 : Walk into your first CrossFit class
That’s it! The coach will do the rest for you.
How about something more intense?
Then sign up for our CrossFit and Fitness retreat on the beautiful island of Ko Samui. Fly over and train with us for a week, or more; and transform your body into a fitness machine. In the breaks enjoy the beautiful beaches of Koh Samui, Thailand. Explore the surrounding islands, the local cuisine and the great nightlife.
An amazing place to make a body transformation, as we have a huge ex-pat community present. So people will speak your language, and your favourite foods are also available here!
Extra credits: Thanks for the idea for this article goes to the Reddit CrossFit wiki.
The following post is by Danielle, an athlete and member of The Arsenal. She shared this with me recently, and I thought you all would enjoy it as much as I did. – BJ
I have been doing CrossFit for almost 4 months now. The first 3 months I loved going but I wasn’t consistent. I would look at the WOD online and decide it was too hard or that something else was more important. I wasn’t eating clean like I should have been. The past month I have been going 5-6 days a week and eating cleaner than ever before. I can tell a huge difference in my performance, my energy and the numbers I am putting up on the board.
For those of you who are not familiar with CrossFit, here are a few terms you may need to know:
WOD – Workout of the Day. This is the combination of exercises, prescibed weights, and time or reps allowed for each exercise. This will control the entire workout each and every single day.
RX – Doing the WOD exactly as prescribed. If one RX’s the workout then they have done the weight, reps, and exercises exactly how they were prescribed.
Box – CrossFit centers are not called gyms, they are called “boxes.” They literally resemble a box made of cement walls that contain bars, weights, and ropes. No TVs, no mirrors, and no cute posters.
Before starting CrossFit I did a ton of research and asked other CrossFitters what to expect. Throughout all of my research and questions there were things nobody ever told me. The following are the top 10 things I think people should know before starting.
1. You will find out how out of shape you really are.
Having been an athlete for 13 years, a runner for 8 years, and a consistent YMCA-fitness-class-goer, I always thought of myself as someone who was in shape. The first WOD I ever completed led me to think differently.
I didn’t come close to RXing the WOD nor did I come close to getting the same number of rounds as the other members. As I was leaning over the bar, out of breath, thinking “I don’t want to do another deadlift,” I saw other members knock out their deadlifts and then sprint out the front door around the building and then come back in and do it all again. It was then that I thought to myself, “Wow, I am really out of shape and tomorrow morning I need to get up and come straight back.”
Well, the next morning I did get up and come back but it wasn’t easy. Every single muscle in my body ached, even muscles I didn’t know I had. Every step hurt but the best step I took that day was the one back inside that box. After a few months of CrossFit, it is safe to say that I am in the best shape of my life.
2. Your friends and family will begin doing research on “Crossfit” and tell you how bad it is for you.
Before starting CrossFit, I consulted with people who have done CrossFit before and others who only knew of it. Those who had done CrossFit gave me great advice and those who had only heard of it gave me the opposite. At first people who had only heard of it told me that the coaches weren’t properly trained, they made you lift more than you were capable of and injuries will happen all the time due to improper lifting skills. What I came across my first day was the opposite. The coaches tell you to only lift what you can and they teach you the basics. Our box actually has classes for beginners to teach them the lifts before they are allowed to do the WODs in an effort to avoid injuries.
In the few months that I have been doing CrossFit I have found that it is insanely good for you. It is good for your aerobic and anaerobic respiration, your muscles, your heart, your mental toughness…the list goes on.
3. You will be good at little.
Every single CrossFitter wishes they were good at everything and could RX every single workout but in reality you are worse at more things than you are good at. CrossFit includes a variety of workouts from gymnastics to weightlifting and running to bodyweight exercises so it is almost impossible for one person to be good at them all. Some people can deadlift 500 pounds but they can’t run a mile to save their life, while others can do rope climbs all day long but can’t do a handstand pushup (aka me).
4. It is OK to ask for clarification.
Don’t waste your time and money doing the workout wrong and getting hurt. If you don’t understand how you are supposed to do a specific workout or lift, then ask. That’s what the coaches are there for. Don’t feel like you are being annoying or holding up the WOD. Everyone was new at one point so they all know how you feel.
5. Don’t be afraid to scale down.
If you need assistance or lighter weights so you are able to get through the entire WOD then use it. If you can’t do a pull-up without the assistance of a resistance band, that is OK. Eventually you won’t need the band and will be able to do them on your own. If you can’t lift the RX weight then don’t. Don’t be too proud to scale down.
6. What you eat is more important than what you lift.
Nutrition is key. Nutrition affects your energy levels, recovery, and performance. And let’s be honest, it affects the way you look. You can do CrossFit for months but if you are eating junk then your results will be junk. For the first couple of months I would have a granola bar for breakfast before the WODs but after doing some research I heard that oatmeal was better for you. Once I began eating oatmeal for breakfast I saw a huge difference in my performance and energy levels throughout the workouts.
When you are doing CrossFit the quality of your food is more important than anything else. Research different eating plans such as Zone and Paleo and eat like that. Eat like a caveman. All you really need to consume is lean meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds so cut out the fast food, sugar, and starches.
7. You will have more bruises, blisters, and scrapes than you can count.
I am almost positive that my shins will constantly be bruised from some of the Olympic lifts, I will always have a scar from rope burns, and each day the blisters on my hands will get worse. If you are worried about scrapes, bruises, blisters, and blood then CrossFit isn’t for you. I have seen people miss the box when they do a box jump and they end up cutting their shins and I have seen the palms of people’s hands tear off from too many muscle ups, so if you are afraid of a little blood or getting bruises then CrossFit is not for you.
8. You will form lasting friendships.
When I began CrossFit I only knew one person at my box and now I know almost everyone. You will form friendships and make so many different connections. If you aren’t there for a few days, people will notice and they will ask you why you haven’t been coming. If you get hurt during a workout, coaches will call and check up on you.
9. No two days are the same.
I can guarantee you that no two days will ever be the same. From the warm up to the WOD, each day will be different. Yes, the exercises and lifts are the same, but the order you do them in or the amount of reps or time allowed for the WOD is always different. That’s what makes people come back. When people go to a gym they often start off with 30 minutes cardio and then go do a few bicep curls and lunges and then leave. They then do this every single day. CrossFit is completely different, its always changing, and the change is what people love. The change is what keeps people from getting bored.
10. You are only competing against yourself.
While some people like to have fun and see if they can beat their friend’s time, in the end the competition you have inside the box is only against yourself. I have let out so many different emotions inside the box including happiness, frustration, anger, tears, joy, and the feeling of accomplishment. When you do your first pull-up or rope climb, the feeling you have is like no other. But that also goes for saying when you drop the bar for the first time because it is too heavy and you can’t get out of a squat, you will be beyond frustrated with yourself. CrossFit really pushes your mental strengths and weaknesses. You can’t blame someone else because you couldn’t lift as much as you wanted, you have to blame yourself, and that is the hardest part.
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How CrossFit gets beginners in the best shape of their lives
CrossFit is tough.
There’s no two ways about it – the training is physically and mentally challenging in the extreme.
It’s no wonder the CrossFit Games can lay claim to producing the ‘Fittest Man on the Planet’ out of hundreds of thousands of competitors.
But one thing about CrossFit is it gets incredible results. Fast.
You only have to look at the mind-blowing transformation of these recovering drug addicts and alcoholics after six weeks of CrossFit training to see how powerful it can be.
But we wanted to find out what makes this type of training such a potent tool to get fitter, faster and stronger – particularly for beginners or people who have never trained before.
We chatted to Lee Steggles, who is head coach and owner of CrossFit Shapesmiths at Clapham Junction Station, London, about why training CrossFit brings such impressive ‘beginners’ gains’.
Lee has been training up new members on everything from running, rowing, callisthenics and kettlebells to powerlifting, gymnastics, strongman and Olympic weightlifting.
He explains how CrossFit’s constantly varied, high-intensity workouts build strength, muscle and burn fat – as well as get people fitter than they’ve ever been.
This is how it works so effectively…
Why is CrossFit so different to other fitness protocols?
When you go to other gyms you’re mostly left to your own devices. The beauty of CrossFit is every session is led by a qualified coach.
So for someone new to CrossFit, they should just try it – because just trying to explain it is so hard.
The USP of CrossFit is its group training format that develops you athletically to become better at everything, with a coach’s eye on your as you train.
Your average JOE would do well to come in and just focus on getting into a good attendance routine.
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Some of our members met Fran today. Others were reacquainted with an old friend. Thrusters & Pull-ups. 21. 15. 9. Another benchmark workout in the bag. Can’t wait to see the improvements when it gets retested. #Fran #crossfit #crossfitgym #cfshapesmiths #community #clapham #claphamjunction #30secondstofitness
What’s the real formula behind CrossFit that keeps getting people stronger, fitter and faster?
As a coach, when you do your level one course the mantra is – mechanics, consistency and then the magic ingredient which is intensity.
So mechanics is moving really well in the correct sequence. So when you’re squatting, making sure the hips go back a bit first before you sink into the squat.
If you’ve got the movement right and the mechanics are good – you’re maintaining lumbar curve, you’ve got a lovely back angle and you’re upright, then we move on.
If you can do that consistently – getting it looking the same every time – then you can add the special ingredient which is intensity, which is what actually gets a lot of the results CrossFit is famous for.
We scale things. There is a really good quote from the CrossFit Journal about scaling. It talks about preserving the stimulus – whether that’s the time frame or the actual movement that you’re doing.
It says: ‘The long term goal of scaling is creating the ability to perform workouts as prescribed – or as the top athletes in the world would do.
‘A properly scaled workout safely maximises relative intensity – so that’s load, speed and the range of motion – to continue to develop increased work capacity despite limitations.’
So it’s continuing to increase work capacity despite someone’s limitations.
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Mid muscle-up – thanks for the 📸 @joshuabond_!
Why does it make you stronger?
Complete beginners coming into CrossFit are going to get stronger – it’s something that some people call ‘beginners’ gains’. So the process is that people don’t have the correct movement patterns to do a strict press or a squat.
We teach them that and they will get stronger because they’ve got good technique.
The next reason is because their neural pathways have been improved so that their nerves are innovating their muscles and telling them to help lift a heavy object correctly.
Then you go onto building more muscle, as long as your diet is in check. Once you put those together you start to ‘lean out’. You start to lose body fat, you get some hypertrophy too in line with the demands places on your musculoskeletal system.
On the other side if you’re bodybuilding you’re going to have a very base level of endurance because you have to do lots of sets and reps.
Bodybuilding is not a bad thing when it comes to CrossFit. In the off season a lot of competitors will do the unilateral stuff. It does give them quite a good base.
For those guys they get the neural benefits of moving well, of challenging their body to coordinate. We talk about kinesthetic awareness or proprioception – what it basically means is that can you understand where your body is in space.
An example is if you show a video of someone snatching, then ask them to try it, they will be all over the place.
But if you break it down and you scale the movement down and break it down into positions, over time they just get it.
That’s what develops that neural awareness and kinesthetic awareness that means that people get stronger a lot quicker because they’ve got the right technique.
Then they continue to get stronger because they’re adding some more useful muscle mass.
It is true to some degree that the more muscle mass you have the more potential you have for shifting weight. However, the focus on creating new neural pathways and improving technique should be the focus.
Learning new techniques is fun and it’s mentally stimulating.
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We loved yesterday’s WOD Nate but tonight it’s Fran. 3,2,1 go…. 🏋🏼🏋🏼🏋🏼 #crossfit #claphamjunction #cfshapesmiths Video courtesy of YouTube superstar @carrichey. Follow the full story at his YouTube channel: Teamrichy
It doesn’t matter how advanced you get, you can always keep learning.
There are over 60 or 70 or even more variations to learn. We’re asking people to master the basics and once you’ve nailed them down then it opens up that whole world to the myriad of exercises that you can do. Then that opens up the variation in CrossFit.
CrossFit is constantly varied exercise – not random. That constant variation challenges you mentally and physically and to overcome it and get new skills.
That’s the beauty of it.
What’s the science behind constant variation?
We’re trying to develop a general physical preparedness (GPP) in people. We want people to be good at lifting, we want them to be good at powerlifting, good at monostructural stuff (rower, assault bike) we want people to be able to do gymnastics – we want a broad skill set.
Our workouts are all geared up to work toward our gym taking part in the CrossFit Open, a worldwide, online competition which brings together over 300, 000 CrossFitters worldwide.
Our workouts typically vary from 3-10 seconds when it comes to lifting, from 7-20 minute mark for our metabolic conditioning and sometimes have rest intervals built in to preserve quality of movement and power output of an individual.
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Sunny Deadlifts. #nofilter #CFShapesmiths #deadlift
This helps us practice skills, get a lot fitter to take on the challenge of the CrossFit Open. That’s what we’re trying to prepare for.
Then we can do micro-cycles off the back of that to peak them for slightly different competitions that people want to do like Tribal Clash in Devon or Strength in Depth in Bath.
Tribal Clash is actually quite unique. It’s not a classic CrossFit compeition – it will test your all round fitness – you’ve got to swim, you’ve got to climb, pick up stones, crawl, run. So a good test of our GPP program is how well people can cope with a test like this.
How does it get you fitter then?
Put simply, CrossFit increases your ability to do work. This is how we define (roughly) ‘fitness’. Your force production improves, your endurance improves, your strength improves because you’re being forced to move in a variety of different ways and get better and more skilful at each. moderately heavy weights under cardiovascular duress. You’re breathing and breathing but you can still work.
That’s where the mental toughness side of things comes through for us at Shapesmiths.
We have a cyclist here and within six week his average speed as improved by 1.5km per hour. Over an hour he can now cycle an extra 1,500m. When you have been cycling seriously for 10-plus years this type of improvement relative to the time frame is pretty darn good.
He is more coordinated, but the big thing is also the mental toughness side of it.
One thing we like to do is add context to people’s workout sessions – so why are we doing it? What’s the purpose of the session? What energy system are we trying to hit? What’s our focus?
So it’s all about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. So all of a sudden they’re understanding that they’re developing explosive power, or they’re going long on a workout, that it matters they’re focusing on setting a new record or that they don’t have to complete the workout but that they just don’t stop.
When you do that you build fitness that lasts a lifetime. Whenever you move house, move gyms or move to a different country it doesn’t matter because you’ve got this philosophy in the back of your head which says no matter where I am all that matters is focusing on the purpose of the workout and doing the basics really well.
I understand why I’m doing the workout and then I do the workout. Gone are the days when you just go and pick a workout off the internet and just do it.
Now, thankfully, it’s popular to talk about energy systems.
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How does CrossFit give you aesthetic benefits?
Like I said beginners’ gains – it doesn’t really matter. If you go from doing nothing and eating the same sh*t but going on to train four or five times a week, you’re going to lose some weight.
But then you can start looking at how you can fuel your training. And if you’re looking at body composition, it’s even more important to fuel your body so you don’t become catabolic and start breaking down muscle. Once you start to fuel your body you actually build muscle and lean out.
The hard work is in the kitchen. It’s easy to turn up to the gym, have a swell time and do the workouts – the hard bit is meal prep and cooking your food and doing the right things. This is where some people in busy lifestyles may need help from a meal prep company.
Shapesmiths training gets you in such good shape because when you’re ready the coach can add the magic ingredient which is intensity. That’s what gets you in such good shape.
That means you will push and get to the places you need to where you can get the results. It’s just flat out determination.
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Dialling back the weight to focus on technique 🏋🏻
What is it about CrossFit that helps people lose so much body fat?
I think that it centres around the focus on nutrition from the word go in conjunction with everything else we have talked about.
The constantly varied exercises, structured in a way to help you become very good at everything. The community of like-minded individuals which keep people coming back, which houses people going through similar struggles.
The positive environment essentially forges new mind-sets and bodies.
More and more training protocols are including CrossFit type workouts in there. Why do you think that is?
Yes. But even CrossFit isn’t reinventing the fitness wheel. It’s just doing the basics really well. It’s putting together exercises that might complement each other. Or alternatively putting together a series of exercises designed to fatigue the legs like deadlifts followed by a 400m run.
One of the reasons it was taken up by the military is because those are some of the demands in the arena. You have to carry your buddy after running up a hill and lift a consignment and carry it so far and back again.
It gets you really robust and fit.
For beginners CrossFit is like nothing they’ve ever done before. Why is this such a powerful thing for getting in shape?
The biggest thing in CrossFit is community. Building the community is so important within the CrossFit world. For a newbie to come in and to think ‘wow I know people’s names in the gym’.
It’s can be a little cliché and it’s an overused word sometimes, but in this instance it’s so true. It’s what keeps people training hard and coming back.
CrossFit is a tough thing to do. There’s a lot to learn and a lot to remember – it can be overwhelming, and it hurts. To get results, it hurts – there’s no magic pill to swallow.
Despite the muscle soreness, the community means people want to come back. They want to see their new friends, they want to train more, they know who is going on a certain day, they push each other, they egg each other on to an extra kilo here or any extra rep there.
They’ve also got role models in the gym because everyone training together.
We have had an athlete train with us who competes at the Invictus Games– people were doing their last interval and Ibi was still going strong – and you could see people looking and thinking he’s an amputee, he’s still going, he’s not making any excuses so I shouldn’t make any excuses.
It keeps people into the groove of turning up regularly which is really important.
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