A CrossFit class (actually, just the gym itself) can be a scary place for anyone walking in for the first time. Even for those who spent their entire childhood on the sports field, or years in the gym following the latest fitness trends and possibly even mastering a few.
Let’s be honest, it’s hard to not feel rattled when you see someone climb up a 15-foot rope like you imagined only Tarzan could, or someone else repping out 100 double-unders, without any break or fault, as if they have springs built into their shoes (I certainly wouldn’t mind a pair of those!). And let’s not forget to mention the machine of a human who makes the assault bike look like an easy Sunday afternoon through the park.
I myself have been lifting for years, and played several sports such as soccer, tennis, and cricket throughout school, so I am certainly no stranger to exercise or physical activity; however, even with such an ‘athletic’ background, stepping into a CrossFit gym made me realize that there is still A LOT I cannot do. BUT that did not mean I would never learn, nor did it exclude me from participating in the classes. From the first moment you step in, you need to remember that we are all at different places in our fitness journeys. It’s something I tell my clients all the time, and now I’m having to remind myself as well. It also reminded me that people such as Tarzan climbing the rope and Terminator on the bike might have started in the very same place as I now found myself to be. So I decided that instead of being discouraged, I would be motivated. But also very patient, because good things take time, and CrossFit things may take even longer.
So here I am, to share a few nuggets of advice, based on my own experiences thus far, coming from one beginner to another, which will hopefully put your mind (and ego) at ease, and motivate you to not only get started, but also to keep going!
1. It might take you a while to actually figure out what on Earth is going on!
In the beginning, and probably for some time after, there’s going to be at least one thing in every class, an exercise or terminology—that will leave you totally lost or confused. WOD, AMRAP, EMOM, Clean, Jerk, Snatch, and Hang Snatch (which is different from a regular Snatch). The list seems endless. But many people love CrossFit for this exact reason: it provides so much variety; however, it also makes the learning process a bit more complicated. BUT THAT IS OKAY. Embrace this process and get excited about broadening your skill and knowledge set.
2. Don’t be so hard on yourself, and stop worrying about what everyone else is thinking, or rather, what YOU think they are thinking.
In all honesty and with all due respect, ‘CrossFitters’ are generally way more focused on trying to survive the WOD themselves (WOD being ‘Workout Of the Day – just FYI), or reach a new 1RM (‘1 Rep Max’) to even noticing your flustered face in the class, or the fact that you’re rowing on the rings instead of the prescribed pull-ups because they’re still a bit too tough, or stepping onto the box rather than jumping, because that’s just downright scary. In actuality, modifying exercises, or ‘scaling’ (as we say in CrossFit), will help you gain the necessary strength, technique, and confidence to progress and improve. So just focus on doing the best that YOU can at YOUR current level.
3. The best way (and only way really) to get any better, is to simply PRACTICE, but having a good coach helps a lot too.
Practice consistently and with a great deal of patience. To assist you even further, the workouts used in CrossFit classes (granted you have the right coach) should be programmed to actually help you progress rather quickly without having to do any kind of additional training to play ‘catch-up’. A good coach will also take the time to explain anything you might not understand, and correct your form when necessary. On this note, I encourage you to ask as many questions as you can, no matter how silly you think they may be! Up until now, I still questioned things with my much more experienced CrossFit colleagues on a daily basis. Just last week, I had to ask what the difference is between a ‘Push Press’ and a ‘Push Jerk’. I then came across yet another ‘Press’ (go figure), a ‘Sot Press’, which required further investigation. But now I am all the wiser, and the practice can begin.
4. Workouts focused on Strength Training are actually a lot harder than you might think, even if you don’t break a sweat. And if you don’t believe me, just wait until the following day.
Whilst some CrossFit workouts will leave you absolutely gassed and drenched in sweat (which, funnily enough, is what gets most of us hooked), some workouts will require you to slow things down and focus more on improving technique and increasing weight. Both, however, are equally important parts of the CrossFit equation. Especially if your goal is to get fitter AND stronger. For those who are used to more high intensity, cardiovascular styles of training (such as myself), this can be hard to get used to. You might reach the end of a workout or class feeling like you didn’t really do much at all, other than waste your time. But remember, the effectiveness of a workout should never be determined by how wet your clothes are or how many calories you burn when the timer runs up.
5. Prepare to feel things you’ve never felt before, and to be sore in places you didn’t even know existed—it’s as though starting CrossFit changes your entire anatomy.
From trying to hold in every sneeze or laugh because your core hurts so bad to taking twice the amount of time to climb the stairs. This new style of training, along with all its weird and wonderful exercises, will certainly be a shock to the system, and so your body will naturally need time to adapt. It is all a normal part of the process, and quite ironically, you might get to a point one day where you will actually miss some of that first-time DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness)! I still get a strange sense of satisfaction when I wake up with painful traps in the morning after a day of practicing Cleans.
6. Realizing that you are capable of doing so much more than you ever imagined.
I remember the first time I was finally able to load up the 35-pound barbell with the BIG plates, which I then Cleaned, snatched, and Squatted with, whilst still overhead! This was a monumental moment, and rightly so, because it meant PROGRESS. Be sure to give yourself credit for every progression, no matter how insignificant it may seem. Take a video, tell a friend, celebrate ALL the victories, and never hold yourself back. Too often, we are our own biggest limitations and critics, simply because we’re scared of failure. But so what if you fail at something? With practice, you will get better. CrossFit has taught me to shift my mindset—to aim for progression first and not perfection immediately. And another thing: be proud of those calluses on your hands (ladies, this includes you as well!). They are, in my opinion, little ‘badges of honor’, which represent all the time, effort, and dedication you have put in so far, so learn to appreciate them.
With all that said, if there is anything to truly take away from the article above, it’s this: CrossFit does not discriminate based on a person’s age, gender, or fitness level. Everyone is different, and CrossFit understands that. Workouts can always be scaled and adapted to match what YOU are capable of, which will improve and expand over time! So never be discouraged by what you cannot do, you just cannot do it ‘yet’, but one day you can (if that is your goal). What’s more, the CrossFit community itself is just as understanding. The person swinging a 28-kg kettlebell will have nothing to say about the 16-kg in your hands, unless, of course, they’re offering some sort of encouragement or advice to help you along.
There are so many reasons to start CrossFit, and even more reasons to stay. Whether that’s for the strength you gain, the confidence you build, or the friends you make through a community like no other, from one beginner to another, it’s really not as bad as you think. In fact, it’s better!
If reading this has convinced you to take the first step towards one of the most exciting fitness journeys you will ever encounter, reach out now! Click here and start your CrossFit journey!
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