I never thought I’d be excited to squat, deadlift and anxiously check social media for the daily WOD. But I am so glad that I mustered up the courage to pick up a barbell – it was a necessary part of my health journey.
I’m not going to go into all of the details of my CrossFit story (if you’d like to read it, you can read the post here) but the short version: I missed being a part of a team; wanted to meet people/make friends; I was weak but was scared of getting “bulky”; saw lots of girls doing CrossFit and they weren’t “bulky”; found a gym near where I was working; went to said gym; thought it was okay; got convinced to do the CrossFit Open; felt awesome; thought it was more than okay; thought it was pretty great; think it’s really great.
Okay, so what the heck is CrossFit?!
CrossFit is a type of fitness. It uses a series of constantly varied functional movements (from body weight movements to Olympic lifts) performed at relatively high intensity. CrossFit is often done in a class format, which results in a close-knit community as these workouts are performed with others. [Source]
I love CrossFit for two main reasons: the community (it’s pretty fun to workout with so many wonderful people) and that it shifted my mentality to focus on what my body can do (rather than obsess over what it looks like).
It’s certainly not always butterflies and rainbows (there are definitely things to adjust to), but more often than not it is AWESOME.
I’m definitely no expert but based on my experience, here are my 12 tips (couldn’t leave it at just 10!) to start CrossFit:
1. Just do it.
Yes I know it seems intimidating. People are yelling, dropping stuff, walking around in sports bras… I get it. It doesn’t exactly seem welcoming – but if you find the right place (see tip #2), it is welcoming. If you need to enlist a friend, do that. If you need to give yourself a pep talk as you are walking into the gym, do that. Just give it a go. What’s the worst that can happen?
2. Find the right CrossFit environment for YOU: gym, people, coaches.
This is super important. Every gym (box) is different – different people, different coaches, different programming, different pricing, different location, different vibe. I went to one gym for about a year before changing to the gym I am currently at. My first gym was great but my needs changed so I tried a few places before settling in at where I am at currently.
People get really attached to their box, and I get that, but it is okay to find a new place and find a new community if that is what serves you. I am super happy now but if things change in my life, I might need to change again.
Also, finding coaches that you trust and are knowledgable is super important. Make sure you know their credentials and feel comfortable with the cues they are giving you.
3. Get familiar with the terminology:
WOD, snatch, jerk, Annie… what the heck? There are so many seemingly random terms and CrossFit lingo that it’s a good idea to get a bit familiar with them so you aren’t super lost and confused. Don’t worry, it’s not a test and I still get confused but it’s good to have an idea. And I have a blog post explaining all of these terms!
From the blog archives:
4. Don’t expect immediate greatness.
Even if you are “in shape”, it will be hard. Even if you are “strong”, it will be hard. Anything new is going to be different and CrossFit is definitely different. Don’t expect that you are going to be amazing.
5. Don’t cheat yourself.
You rely on yourself to count your repetitions and movements so don’t cheat yourself to finish faster! No-one likes that. It’s annoying. But as cliche as it sounds: you are cheating yourself.
6. You are not going to be good at everything.
Fact. There are so many movements and different aspects to CrossFit. I’m good at cardio workouts but sucky at strength ones. You might be awesome at some gymnastic movements but cannot row to save your life. That’s what makes it fun, challenging and even a bit frustrating. Embrace it.
7. Know your limits and modify: you don’t have to go “Rx”.
Can you barely breathe? Is your arm about to fall off? Are your legs in not-a-normal-amount-of-pain? Stop. You are not being weak or lazy – you are being smart. Workouts are “prescribed” with certain weights and movements but that does NOT mean you have to do them. There are always modifications. There is a difference between giving it your all and being stupid. Give it your all. Don’t be stupid.
8. It’s okay to be last.
Further to tip #7, it is okay to be last. I’m last a lot. Sure sometimes it bugs me (I’m quite competitive) but if I “left it all on the floor” I am happy with myself. Working out should feel good and you should feel proud about what you are doing. Everyone will still be cheering you on as you work to complete the workout. Sometimes you’ll be the one finishing first… and then you’ll be cheering on everyone still working.
9. You can do things other than CrossFit.
I love CrossFit. But I also love to run, go to yoga, go for walks, do a random class here and there. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing or one or the other. I think having a varied fitness routine is not only good for your body but also good for your mind.
So do all of the things you love.
10. You don’t have to “eat Paleo”.
It’s no secret that CrossFit and paleo is a thing. This bugged me so much at first (I was basically a vegetarian back then) and I thought it was sooo preachy. Do your thing. You don’t need to eat chicken and cashews at 5am before a WOD. I never thought I would but after my own learning, I figured out that it does work for me.
All you need to do is fuel your body with food in a way that works for you physically and intellectually. I know many vegan CrossFit-ers who are healthy, strong and happy and many who chow down on gluten-filled sandwiches after a WOD.
Obviously I am partial to eating the most nutrient-dense and real food, but you gotta do what works for you.
11. If you take time off (that’s okay) you might “lose” some strength, movements, etc.
Oh yes. I stopped going to CrossFit when my marathon training schedule was getting pretty intense. But that’s also around the time I got my first pull-up. Then I stopped doing any working out all together and now I am back to the band with my pull-ups. It kinda sucks but it is what it is.
With most movements, it’s not like riding a bike. You do need to stay somewhat consistent to maintain strength and skill. But taking breaks are necessary and when you come back, you will get it back. It will just take practice, time and determination.
12. Ignore the haters.
I am well aware that CrossFit gets a lot of hate: it’s dangerous, it’s a cult, it’s not a “real” sport, it’s this, it’s that.
If you have good coaching (see tip #2) and are smart (see tips #6 and #7) it’s more than safe. If a supportive community is a cult, well that’s a weird definition. If ex-professional and high-level athletes have turned to CrossFit, I think it’s a sport.
If it makes you feel great, do it. Simple as that. I didn’t start CrossFit-ing to hop on the bandwagon or be a part of a fad. I started CrossFit because I wanted to get mentally and physically stronger. I feel lucky to say that I have. Whether it is CrossFit that does that for you, or something else, it doesn’t matter. Find it and rock it.