CrossFit For Beginners: What You Need to Know?

I remember when one of my colleagues was trying to lose weight. I witnessed her progress in the office. It took about six months until she was walking around with a 6-pack. I mean like come on. What mom of 2 children, in her 40’s can do that? 

As it turned out, she was doing CrossFit and she swore by it.

I was so inspired that I had to try CrossFit out for myself. And I was hooked from day one. Today, I am a mom of two teenagers and a CrossFit coach. 

CrossFit has changed my life and made me a better version of myself. If you are thinking of doing CrossFit, you’re on the right track! Before you get started, I will let you in on what you need to know to have the most rewarding experience with CrossFit. 

What is CrossFit?

CrossFit is “a lifestyle characterized by safe, effective exercise and sound nutrition”.  The CrossFit fundamentals are about preparing you for everyday movements. We call these functional movements because we use them in our daily lives. These include movements like squatting, jumping, throwing things when you play outside with your kids, or picking things up from the ground.

CrossFit workouts are intense and constantly varied.  This means you will be doing a different workout every time.  It mixes weightlifting, gymnastics drills, running, and rowing in as many combinations as possible.  

The workouts take place in “boxes”, or otherwise known as gyms.  

Who Can Do CrossFit?

CrossFit is for anyone and everyone. We have college rugby players who work out alongside 50-year old moms and dads. 

CrossFit classes take place in a group setting. Every workout is designed for various fitness and skill levels. The workouts give you the opportunity to work on your health, improve your movement and mobility, lose weight and achieve better performance in general.

CrossFit movements are broad, general, and inclusive.  The movements in the workouts will make you proficient in ten general physical areas of your life: cardio endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, agility, balance, coordination, and accuracy.  

If you enjoy variety and get bored easily by doing the same workouts every time, then CrossFit might be your jam. No two workouts will ever be the same.  CrossFit is a program that works for everyone and every workout can be adapted for people at any age.

What Are The Benefits of CrossFit?

Let’s have a look at some of the many benefits of CrossFit:

Improves your strength, balance, and flexibility

One of the biggest benefits of CrossFit is the way it prepares you for everyday life.  The movements during a workout are movements that appear in everyday life.  You must be able to do an air squat to get out of a chair. Learning to do a kettlebell farmer carry will enable you to carry your groceries.  If you need to pick something heavy off the floor, No problem, the deadlift will give you the strength to do it.

You can lose weight

The combination of diet and lifestyle is a key component of fitness and long-term health in CrossFit. Alongside sound nutrition principles, CrossFit can help you lose weight and improve your health. 

It improves your endurance

CrossFit workouts are high intensity training. Research has shown that high intensity training can help to increase the amount of oxygen that flows through your body.

You develop tenacity and determination

The CrossFit community is known for their mental toughness. They stand by one another until the last person finishes their workout. 

Pushing yourself daily can trickle down to other parts of your life. That was one of the first changes I noticed in my own life. I had the confidence to tackle things I would have otherwise not been able to do. It makes me proud of who I am and for the first time in my life, I could walk with my head held high.

How Do CrossFit Classes Work?

CrossFit is an affiliate. Every CrossFit owner runs their box or gym based on their own individual programming and style. 

All workouts are adjustable according to your skill level. This is a key component of the coaching culture. Attempting heavier and more skilled movements when you are not ready or do not have the strength for it could cause injury.

A CrossFit class lasts about an hour. Every class consists of a warm-up, skill, or lifting and a Workout of the Day (WOD). The WOD is also referred to as a metcon – metabolic conditioning. Anything longer than 15 minutes is an endurance WOD.

Benchmark workouts are named after women. Hero workouts are in honour of fallen servicemen. These are standard workouts that can be used to track your progress over time. 

Meet the Girls (Benchmark CrossFit Workouts)

Perhaps no other WOD has the power over us like any of the benchmark girls of CrossFit. Whether you are new to the game or a seasoned athlete, “The Girls” will probably and most definitely wreck you. Subconsciously, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

CrossFit founder Greg Glassman said it best:

“Anything that leaves you flat on your back and incapacitated only to lure you back for more at a later date certainly deserves naming.

Our six original benchmark workouts are named Angie, Barbara, Chelsea, Diane, Fran and Elizabeth. Six amazing ladies whose charms are sure to leave you breathless, panting, and wanting more!”

How to get started? 

If you are thinking about signing up for your first CrossFit class, here are a few things you might want to consider:

Look for good coaching

If there are different gyms in your area, you want to check for good quality coaching.

The gym should have an introduction class which takes you through all the movements you will be doing. A good coach will also explain how you need to scale any movements that are too difficult for you or how to adjust any weight that is too heavy for you.

Let them know you are coming

Give the gym a call and let them know you are coming. Calling ahead will ensure there is a coach available to meet you.

Be completely honest about your current fitness level. It will help the coach tailor your workout to  make sure you have a great experience. 

Do not compare yourself to other athletes

It is normal to compare yourself to the CrossFit athletes in the class and feel overwhelmed. But remember that every single person in the CrossFit gym was a beginner at some point. They were exactly where you are now.  The way they got where they are today is by showing up every day and putting in the work.  You can do it too.  Every CrossFit coach was also a beginner at some point. 

The first few weeks are the hardest

During the first few weeks, you are not going to have any friends yet at the box. Showing up for the same class every week will help you get to know people. 

Your body is going to be sore and you might even question your decision to start CrossFit. Everybody started where you are now. These feelings of hesitation and doubt will soon be replaced by excitement and new friendships.

What gear do you need?

Here are some of the essential items a CrossFitter might carry in their bag. Only buy gear once you have decided to join a local box and made a commitment to continue with CrossFit. 

CrossFit Shoes

CrossFit shoes are designed for cross-training. They have a stable flat sole and reinforced heel so that your foot stays stable during all the movements. You want to get good quality cross-training shoes to keep your ankles and feet safe.

Normal running shoes are very cushioned. They are not ideal for lifting weights. They can make you feel unsteady especially during weightlifting movements. 

Jumping Rope

The box would provide ropes you can borrow during class. But I would recommend that you buy your own. This will allow you to adjust the rope to your own body type and height. Most CrossFit boxes sell ropes at the box.

Hand Protection

Hand protection will protect your hands from chafing. I have done a full review of some of the best hand protection grips.  Ask members of the gym and your coach for some advice. Your skill level will also determine what the best hand protection will be for you at the time.

Knee Sleeves

Knee Sleeves provide some cushioning if you need to do lunges and extra support when you do squats. They are also useful especially if you have some chronic knee niggles.

Common Mistakes and Tips

Despite members’ best intentions and goals, these are some of the most common mistakes I see athletes make when they start CrossFit.

Do not skip workouts

Do not skip workouts that you do not like.  I see many members skip a class because it contains running.  If you hate a specific movement and you skip a workout that contains that movement, you are limiting yourself and your progress. Keep showing up.  Doing something you don’t like or are not good at is the best way to practice your weaknesses. 

Personal Bests (PBs)

In the first few months to a year, chances are you will PB every lift. But, after a year, you tend to hit a PB plateau, which is completely normal.  Recognize that you are now more fit, and the PBs will not come as often as before. 

Gear

You do not need any gear to do a specific workout. Gear does provide support and is helpful. But do not become so dependent on your gear that you  don’t want to do a movement if you forget your bag at home.

Jump Rope

This is the first item I recommend to a new CrossFitter. You will never get the same rope length in every class if you have to take a rope that’s available in the gym. Rope differences in every class impacts your performance and your motivation. The frustration of struggling with jump rope during a workout can discourage you.

Leader boarding and Ego

Being consumed by what other classmates achieve or post on social media is not healthy. You need to control what you can control. This is your own journey. Focus on your own performance. Leave your ego at the door and create your own experience. It doesn’t matter who beats you at a workout. What matters is that you have shown up, and you are putting in the work.

Takeaway

CrossFit is an effective program for losing weight. It will help you improve your flexibility, build strength, and aerobic fitness. 

Even if you are a seasoned Triathlete, CrossFit will for sure challenge you. Don’t be disheartened if the soccer mom lifts heavier than you. Your time will come.

CrossFit movements are not something you can master within 1-2 classes, especially if you are new to exercising. Some movements are technical and will take months of practice.

CrossFit focuses on the community. Enjoy the community. Enjoy the friends you will be making, but most of all, enjoy the personal journey. You will love it.

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