One word to describe CrossFit, it’s intense. Intense interval workouts focus on pushing an individual to reach their physical goals. CrossFit workouts are broken down into Workouts Of The Day (WOD). A WOD is a series of dynamic events from running, lifting weights, body movements, and much more.
I reached out to CrossFit Headquarters and asked what a beginner should expect when they step into a CrossFit gym. Denise Thomas, Seminar Staff Manager for CrossFit HQ, told me you should expect the following every time you walk into a CrossFit gym.
1. A welcoming check-in and smile
2. A well-organized class with a whiteboard brief that explains the flow and expectations of the workout, how to scale for injuries or limitations, and the next steps. A good whiteboard brief is short and informative, giving athletes a better understanding of tackling the workout (and the class overall).
3. A general warm-up that helps prepare the major muscles and joints for movement.
4. A skill session that allows the athlete to learn, refine, and get used to the movements used in the workout
5. A Pre-Workout Break to ask questions and modify any movements and reps.
6. The actual workout and, of course, the opportunity to cool down, reclaim homeostasis, clean up, collect scores, and check in on people (Post-Workout).
Denise said you should have “a challenging yet realistic, well-paced, fun time!” Denise also told me how vital the CrossFit coach is to a great experience. Denise said, “The coach is responsible for creating the environment. The coach is the one who enables a safe environment for all to take part and realize that they CAN, even when they don’t believe it themselves. The Coach sets the tone and makes it enjoyable but challenging.”
I discovered precisely how important the coach was when I entered a CrossFit gym for the first time.
I talked to Denise about advice she would have for a CrossFit beginner. Denise gave some great advice.
1. Show up early and talk to the coach about any issues, injuries, or concerns you may have.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when something isn’t clear. If you are at a well-run and caring gym, the coach will check in with beginners multiple times from the second they walk in the door to the second they leave and potentially after the class is over. If this doesn’t happen, as sometimes classes can get big, ask the coach for help.
3. Take your time learning techniques before trying to move fast and heavy. We pride ourselves on the quality of movement BEFORE adding intensity. Done well, focusing on the movement quality will make you fit in the long run.
4. Leave your ego and business card at the door. Everyone is equal in a CrossFit gym. Ego will be one of the biggest blockers to results. You have to get out of your own way.
5. Listen to the Coach – they know what they are talking about. CrossFit will enrich your life in ways you never expected if you do it effectively.
Denise followed up and told me, “CrossFit is in the longevity business; it’s a life-long journey to a distant horizon called health and fitness. We are NOT in the quick-fix business. Results, for us, take time to gain. In that time, you will learn to appreciate the beauty of quality over quantity and find that it also minimizes injury and burnout.”
Before I set out to write this article, I wanted to make sure I tried CrossFit myself. So I checked out CrossFit Fairfax, a local gym that a good friend recommended. We had excellent communication via email before I stepped into their CrossFit “box,” as CrossFitters call it.
I’m not going to lie; I have done numerous physical fitness tests in the military and law enforcement over the years, attended Orange Theory classes, taken yoga, etc. But I had nervous butterflies in my stomach before I stepped onto the CrossFit mats that day.
I have seen the YouTube videos and heard the stories of people getting wiped out during CrossFit. Would I be injured? Would I pull my 49-year-old back out? Am I going to be looked at as an outsider?
Nope to all those inner monologue questions. I was welcomed by the coaches and members right away. The coach gave me an overview of the Workout Of The Day (WOD) and told me what equipment to get from the racks.
I stepped into the rectangle I picked out and was ready to get to it! However, I had one solid goal: do not get hurt and walk out of there of my own accord. I did not want to blow out my back or get hurt; I have heard stories about someone’s brother’s uncle’s cousin getting hurt at someone’s unnamed CrossFit box.
My coach, Ethan, walked me through the WOD and described each exercise in depth. I almost expected a bell to ring, and we would throw ourselves into deadlifts and box jumps sans stretching. We didn’t.
Ethan walked the class through stretches and laid out the workout. Then, boom, we were off, except Ethan stuck with me, monitored my movements, and even took an iPhone video of my form to show me exactly what to work on. So, I did my movements with no added weight that day, worked on my form, and still got a solid workout!
I felt great after the workout, with no ambulance ride and no pulled muscles. I was hooked and will be back!