A Beginner’s Guide to CrossFit

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CrossFit is a term often thrown around in the fitness world. Some seem to know about it generally, but many may not know the specifics of what CrossFit.

This guide will help you understand what CrossFit is, what it looks like in practice, and any other burning questions you may have.

If you are interested in dipping your toe in the CrossFit world or plunging right into it, then this comprehensive guide will give you a great introduction into the realm of CrossFit.

What is CrossFit?

lady taking a photo of crossfit

CrossFit is the name given to the growingly popular exercise regime that tries to offer a comprehensive workout program.

Given the description of “the sport of fitness,” CrossFit programs have built supportive and friendly communities, where individuals push and encourage each other to exercise and become stronger consistently.

CrossFit aims to promote strength condition and physical fitness. A vast majority of CrossFit regimes offer a combination of weight lifting, aerobic activity (such as running or sprinting), and minor forms of gymnastics (like handstands).

Therefore, CrossFit has high-intensity activities followed by short rest periods.

The comprehensive and more-encompassing activities in CrossFit regiment use and improve endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, agility, coordination, balance, cardiovascular strength, and respiratory strength.

CrossFit tries to promote the fitness of the body overall, instead of one kind of fitness or one aspect of the body.

Who Should Do CrossFit?

Tied man doing crossfit

While CrossFit is not suited for everyone, many CrossFit gyms try to create programs that work for many body types.

Each program is designed for a specific purpose. However, most programs can decrease intensity or weight for the individual. Therefore, everyone can adapt the workout to fit their skills, abilities, and needs.

For example, one workout may require you to jump on a box. If you have a knee injury, another movement can be swapped in for that box jump. Additionally, if a box is too high for you, a smaller box can be substituted.

CrossFit is great for intense athletes (current or retired) who want the experience of intense workouts surrounded by others. It is also great for those looking for a community and a way to increase the overall fitness of the body.

On the other hand, CrossFit is not suitable for individuals who want specific or specialized training. If you are only looking to gain strength or increase aerobic endurance, this is not for you. Additionally, athletes who want to excel in a specific sport may not find CrossFit useful.

CrossFit regimes aim to improve overall fitness, which may not result in better performance during a sport that requires high performance from only parts of the body. Therefore, those with preexisting conditions or injuries should seriously consider whether or not CrossFit is right for their bodies.

CrossFit is also not great for those who prefer to workout alone. If you are intimidated by others, feel discouraged when working with others, or prefer to be on your own, then CrossFit is not right for you.

CrossFit is for those individuals who want to strengthen the body holistically, rather than especially. It is also a great place to meet and train with others, especially if you like or need encouragement.

Is CrossFit Dangerous?

Man with injured hand

There have been very few comparative studies that distinguish if CrossFit regimes contribute to higher rates of injury for participants.

One study from the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine found the number of injuries to CrossFitters to sit around 20 percent (Weisenthal).

Men were more likely to experience an injury than women. The most common injuries appeared with the shoulders, lower back, and the knees. This could come from the weightlifting required and the more athletic movements.

The risk of injury is significantly reduced when participants receive proper supervision. Beginners are at a higher risk of injury because they may not know the techniques when using the equipment or the correct movements through the regime.

Injury can also come from participants trying to increase their speed and ability to lift weights, rather than their form, technique, and effectiveness.

Finally, participants need to properly warm up, stretch, and prepare the body for the workout. CrossFit is fast and strenuous. Injuries can increase due to lack of warm up.

An injury is a risk during any exercise. CrossFit aims to work all parts of the body. It also works the body at a fast pace. For this with weaker body parts, such as bad knees or shoulders, parts of the CrossFit regime can exacerbate already weakened body conditions.

CrossFit is not necessarily dangerous, but, like any exercise, it can be hazardous if you do not know your own body, push your body too hard, or do not know the proper techniques when working out.

What is a CrossFit Class Like?

CrossFit Training class

CrossFit gyms always try to remain open and accessible to anyone interested in joining. Most of the time, the gym allows one to several trial classes, to see if you genuinely enjoy the CrossFit regime. Many CrossFit classes are similar in the way they operate.

Some gyms offer an introduction class. This is the class where you are given a quick tour of the gym, the equipment, the expected movements, and how the workout operates.

Many gyms offer an “On-Ramp” or “Elemental” class. These classes are not necessarily too strenuous for those who are already physically fit. Instead, these classes teach the basic movements and proper techniques needed to successful workout in a CrossFit class. The instructors in these classes demonstrate proper technique and then help you perfect your own.

Regular or standard classes are around 40-60 minutes, and they can be split into several sections that focus on different skills or physical abilities. There will always be some kind of warm up. If there is not, you should warm up yourself or ask the instructors why one isn’t included.

Each regular class is a workout of the day (WOD). The workout of the day lists the exercises you are to do in a certain amount of time and the repetitions you should try to reach. Then, there will be a cooldown and stretching to help the body start its recovery processes.

The instructor should help you throughout the workout, especially if you do not understand a term or if you are unsure as to how to use a piece of equipment or a machine.

How Do You Find a CrossFit Gym?

Choose a CrossFit gym

When you are thinking about joining or finding a CrossFit gym, there are several factors to consider. If you live in a smaller town, you may not have many options. However, if you find you have several options, honestly weigh the pros and cons of each CrossFit gym.

The very first thing to look for is whether or not a gym is an official CrossFit affiliate. You can figure this out by asking the gym, looking at the gym’s website, or looking on the official Crossfit.com website. The affiliate list has a map or a dropdown menu to help you find an affiliated gym nearest to you.

Then, take a look at the trainers’ credentials within the gym. There are several different levels of CrossFit certifications. A CrossFit Level 4 Coach is the highest certification that a CrossFit leader can receive. The third level (Level 3 Trainer) signifies that the CrossFit leader passed an examination, as well as the lower levels.

You can also think about what else the coach or trainer may offer. Are they accessible? Do they provide needed advice and instruct proper technique? Moreover, what does their program entail?

It is essential that you find a coach that has the credentials, knowledge, and personality needed to be successful for you.

You should also think about the community within that gym, especially if you are going into CrossFit for the community and comradery.

Perhaps the community at one gym is very competitive, which you may or may not prefer. Another gym may have more men or women in their community. Find a CrossFit community that makes you feel comfortable while supporting your fitness ambitions.

When you visit the gym in person, look for the facility’s cleanliness, and provided equipment. A gym will have wear and tear, but the gym itself and its facilities should not be dirty or unsanitary.

There should not be leftover chalk, residue, or blood from previous users. There should also be enough equipment to go around. Is the equipment organized and used in a way to maximize workouts for everyone?

Most gyms will allow you to try a class for free. Take advantage of this. Truly going to the location, using the equipment, and seeing the instructors in action will help you compare gyms and make a decision that works for you.

Can You Do CrossFit at Home?

CrossFit at home

CrossFit can be done at home, but doing a CrossFit regime at home can increase the chance of injury and removes the sense of support and community from the activity.

Many different CrossFit workouts can be found across the internet. CrossFit within a gym utilizes equipment, but some CrossFit regimes can be done without equipment. On the other hand, individuals can get creative and use the tools they find around their home to make equipment.

Keep in mind that doing CrossFit at home is not supervised, so a trainer is not correcting technique. This means chances of injury are increased.

Doing it at home also removes part of the support system and community that could support your fitness endeavors and keeps you accountable.

Doing CrossFit at home is a good option for those who already do CrossFit and cannot make it to the gym. It is also great for those who are too self-conscious to go to a gym. Those who do CrossFit at home should be careful.

Pros and Cons of Doing CrossFit?

There are several pros and cons to CrossFit. The pros and cons aren’t necessarily numerical. Instead, like most exercise regimes, individuals should match the pros and cons of their lifestyle and needs.

Pros

  • Community: CrossFit has grown significantly over the years. Most towns have at least one CrossFit gym. Since the regime is challenging and strenuous, participants quickly build comradery from simply working through the experience.
  • Overall Fitness: CrossFit requires participants to perform skills, activities, and repetitions that work the entire body. The goal is the fitness of the body overall. This means you are working the body to perform any physical task required of you.
  • Variety: CrossFit is excellent because it offers a variety of different movement and activities in the regime. Some individuals may get bored quickly, but CrossFit programs combat this boredom. The regimes will keep you on your toes and require a diverse set of activities.
  • Self-image: Working out in any form will lead to higher self-esteem and improved self-image. The CrossFit community can especially improve self-image through encouragement and support.

Cons

  • No personalization/specialization: CrossFit does not account for individuals training for one specific kind of fitness or one particular kind of activity. Moreover, it does not account for many different body types. Workouts are done in groups, so trainers cannot make a program that tries explicitly to optimize one person’s body.
  • Entry is hard: Getting started in CrossFit can be difficult. The workouts can be scaled down, but even scaling down the workout can be difficult for new participants. It may also be useless, especially if strength training is first required even to be able to perform a required task.
  • It can be intimidating at first: Walking into a CrossFit class as a beginner is intimidating. Everyone seems to be using wordings; you may not know or understand. Seasoned CrossFitters seem to be performing flawlessly. However, as you continue to practice, you will learn the language too and build your own body.
  • Injury: As with all exercising, there is the potential for injury. As previously stated, CrossFit requires a broad range of motion and flexibility in the body. Those with previous injuries may become hurt. Additionally, individuals may push the body too hard and acquire an injury (especially to the shoulders, back, and knees).
  • Expense: Going to a CrossFit gym can be expensive. Gyms can be as expensive as $325 a month, depending on the geographic area and the privileges given through membership. The typical cost is $150 a month.

Figuring Out if CrossFit is For You

CrossFit is a high-intensity workout that improves the physical fitness of the body overall. It is a great activity that builds comradery and friendship. Simultaneously, it pushes the body to become stronger.

Getting into CrossFit can be a challenge, but most who stick with the regime find the workouts and the results to be worth the effort. However, CrossFit isn’t for everyone. It can be grueling, and it can be taxing on the body, especially if you have any preexisting conditions or injuries.

Looking into CrossFit is easy, especially with the internet. Gyms make it easy to test out classes and talk with instructors. This is a low-risk way of seeing if CrossFit is right for you.

The most critical element to consider is your needs, your goals, and what you need to do to get your body where you want it to be. CrossFit is not a specialized exercise regime so it may not be for everyone.

Take some time to visit gyms near you. Test a class even! Then, you can figure out if CrossFit works with your life and your body.

FAQs

Will CrossFit make me lose weight?

CrossFit is not specifically aimed to help participants lose weight. It is aimed at overall fitness. CrossFit workouts do burn more calories at higher intensities. However, CrossFit workouts also aim to build strength.

CrossFit participants can expect to put on some muscle, which may replace fat. Remember that CrossFit isn’t specialized. This means it is not intended to work the body in one specific way or for a particular purpose.

How much does it cost to do CrossFit?

The cost is dependent upon your area, the privileges given to you as a member, and the credentials of the instructor. Gyms can be as low as $10 per month, or they can be as high as $325 a month.

Keep in mind that you are paying not only for the equipment but also the experience and guidance of the instructor. You want to spend a reasonable amount, but you may not want to skimp on the quality of instructor for the sake of money.

Is CrossFit a group activity?

Mostly. CrossFit is known for its community and group-building. Just like any class, several other participants are doing the same workout as you.

There are CrossFit workouts you can do from home, but this takes away the comradery and support.

How long do CrossFit workouts last?

CrossFit workouts typically last anywhere between 40 minutes to 60 minutes.

What should you eat before CrossFit?

It’s a good idea to eat a meal that is rich in carbohydrates, moderate in protein, and low in fat. For instance, a portion of grilled chicken on a bed of rice with some veggies would be perfect.

A meal should be eaten about 2-4 hours before your workout.

If you need a snack, oatmeal is a good option, as well as eggs and protein bars. You could also try a pre-workout supplement, especially one that has protein.

What does WOD mean?

This is the acronym standing for “workout of the day.” This is the workout that is scheduled to be done by the participants within the day’s exercise regime.

Is there a specific diet I should eat to do CrossFit?

There is no specific diet required to do CrossFit. Some instructors may be nutritionists and suggest specific diets or foods. Many CrossFitters suggest and use the paleo diet.

What if I cannot do the workouts in regular classes?

That is fine. Workouts help guide you, but you can always scale down the intensity of the amount of weight you are lifting. You never want to push your body beyond its capabilities. Yu always want to build your body from its current status.

If you cannot lift much, that is fine. Lift what you can at first and then begin to challenge yourself by adding just a little more weight. The same can be said about other activities done during CrossFit classes.

Do I need my own equipment?

Most gyms have their own equipment that you can use. Your fee usually pays for both the instructor and the equipment required to do the workout of the day. If you become dedicated to CrossFit, you can begin to buy and use your own equipment. This is not necessary, though.

How big are the classes?

The classes are relatively small and are usually around 10-15 people. You may think this is small, especially if you’ve taken yoga or aerobic classes.

The classes are small because everyone has to move around freely, and everyone needs a comfortable amount of space to use all the equipment in the gym.

Should I warm up or do stretches before class?

Most classes will include a warm-up section in the workout program. This is the time given to you to stretch and warm your muscles.

However, if you have extra time beforehand, it is not a bad idea to give yourself that time to stretch. If you are especially prone to injury, or if you know you work out better when thoroughly stretched, take that extra time to do more stretching.

Do you have to be a certain age to do CrossFit?

No. You need to be aware of your own body and what you can handle, especially with any pre-existing conditions. Some gyms offer programs targeted to older individuals or beginners. You can try these classes.

Even if there isn’t a class targeted to you, you can always go to the standard classes and work at your own pace. You should not compete with those who are seasoned in CrossFit. Your only goal is to improve yourself, not to be better than those around you.

What is scaling?

This term means that you are adjusting the intensity levels of your workout, or you may be reducing the number of weights being lifted to suit your body and skills better. Scaling means you reduce the weights to meet your level of skill.

Once you scale down, you begin working your way up to higher levels of intensity or weight.

Where can I find a CrossFit gym?

You can start by looking at gyms in your area and seeing if they offer a CrossFit program. You can also look for gyms designed explicitly for CrossFit.

Another great source is Crossfit.com. At this website, you can look for gyms that specifically have CrossFit affiliations. This means they are licensed and supported by the CrossFit, Inc.

References

 

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