For those of you who are not familiar with CrossFit, here are a few terms you may need to know:
WOD - Workout of the Day. This is the combination of exercises, prescibed weights, and time or reps allowed for each exercise. This will control the entire workout each and every single day.
RX - Doing the WOD exactly as prescribed. If one RX's the workout then they have done the weight, reps, and exercises exactly how they were prescribed.
Box - CrossFit centers are not called gyms, they are called "boxes." They literally resemble a box made of cement walls that contain bars, weights, and ropes. No TVs, no mirrors, and no cute posters.
Before starting CrossFit I did a ton of research and asked other CrossFitters what to expect. Throughout all of my research and questions there were things nobody ever told me. The following are the top 10 things I think people should know before starting.
1. You will find out how out of shape you really are.
Having been an athlete for 13 years, a runner for 8 years, and a consistent YMCA-fitness-class-goer, I always thought of myself as someone who was in shape. The first WOD I ever completed led me to think differently.
I didn't come close to RXing the WOD nor did I come close to getting the same number of rounds as the other members. As I was leaning over the bar, out of breath, thinking "I don't want to do another deadlift," I saw other members knock out their deadlifts and then sprint out the front door around the building and then come back in and do it all again. It was then that I thought to myself, "Wow, I am really out of shape and tomorrow morning I need to get up and come straight back."
Well, the next morning I did get up and come back but it wasn't easy. Every single muscle in my body ached, even muscles I didn't know I had. Every step hurt but the best step I took that day was the one back inside that box. After a few months of CrossFit, it is safe to say that I am in the best shape of my life.
2. Your friends and family will begin doing research on "Crossfit" and tell you how bad it is for you.
Before starting CrossFit, I consulted with people who have done CrossFit before and others who only knew of it. Those who had done CrossFit gave me great advice and those who had only heard of it gave me the opposite. At first people who had only heard of it told me that the coaches weren't properly trained, they made you lift more than you were capable of and injuries will happen all the time due to improper lifting skills. What I came across my first day was the opposite. The coaches tell you to only lift what you can and they teach you the basics. Our box actually has classes for beginners to teach them the lifts before they are allowed to do the WODs in an effort to avoid injuries.
In the few months that I have been doing CrossFit I have found that it is insanely good for you. It is good for your aerobic and anaerobic respiration, your muscles, your heart, your mental toughness...the list goes on.
3. You will be good at little.
Every single CrossFitter wishes they were good at everything and could RX every single workout but in reality you are worse at more things than you are good at. CrossFit includes a variety of workouts from gymnastics to weightlifting and running to bodyweight exercises so it is almost impossible for one person to be good at them all. Some people can deadlift 500 pounds but they can't run a mile to save their life, while others can do rope climbs all day long but can't do a handstand pushup (aka me).
4. It is OK to ask for clarification.
Don't waste your time and money doing the workout wrong and getting hurt. If you don't understand how you are supposed to do a specific workout or lift, then ask. That's what the coaches are there for. Don't feel like you are being annoying or holding up the WOD. Everyone was new at one point so they all know how you feel.
5. Don't be afraid to scale down.
If you need assistance or lighter weights so you are able to get through the entire WOD then use it. If you can't do a pull-up without the assistance of a resistance band, that is OK. Eventually you won't need the band and will be able to do them on your own. If you can't lift the RX weight then don't. Don't be too proud to scale down.
6. What you eat is more important than what you lift.
Nutrition is key. Nutrition affects your energy levels, recovery, and performance. And let's be honest, it affects the way you look. You can do CrossFit for months but if you are eating junk then your results will be junk. For the first couple of months I would have a granola bar for breakfast before the WODs but after doing some research I heard that oatmeal was better for you. Once I began eating oatmeal for breakfast I saw a huge difference in my performance and energy levels throughout the workouts.
When you are doing CrossFit the quality of your food is more important than anything else. Research different eating plans such as Zone and Paleo and eat like that. Eat like a caveman. All you really need to consume is lean meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds so cut out the fast food, sugar, and starches.
7. You will have more bruises, blisters, and scrapes than you can count.
I am almost positive that my shins will constantly be bruised from some of the Olympic lifts, I will always have a scar from rope burns, and each day the blisters on my hands will get worse. If you are worried about scrapes, bruises, blisters, and blood then CrossFit isn't for you. I have seen people miss the box when they do a box jump and they end up cutting their shins and I have seen the palms of people's hands tear off from too many muscle ups, so if you are afraid of a little blood or getting bruises then CrossFit is not for you.
8. You will form lasting friendships.
When I began CrossFit I only knew one person at my box and now I know almost everyone. You will form friendships and make so many different connections. If you aren't there for a few days, people will notice and they will ask you why you haven't been coming. If you get hurt during a workout, coaches will call and check up on you.
9. No two days are the same.
I can guarantee you that no two days will ever be the same. From the warm up to the WOD, each day will be different. Yes, the exercises and lifts are the same, but the order you do them in or the amount of reps or time allowed for the WOD is always different. That's what makes people come back. When people go to a gym they often start off with 30 minutes cardio and then go do a few bicep curls and lunges and then leave. They then do this every single day. CrossFit is completely different, its always changing, and the change is what people love. The change is what keeps people from getting bored.
10. You are only competing against yourself.
While some people like to have fun and see if they can beat their friend's time, in the end the competition you have inside the box is only against yourself. I have let out so many different emotions inside the box including happiness, frustration, anger, tears, joy, and the feeling of accomplishment. When you do your first pull-up or rope climb, the feeling you have is like no other. But that also goes for saying when you drop the bar for the first time because it is too heavy and you can't get out of a squat, you will be beyond frustrated with yourself. CrossFit really pushes your mental strengths and weaknesses. You can't blame someone else because you couldn't lift as much as you wanted, you have to blame yourself, and that is the hardest part.
Question of the Day
If you are a current CrossFitter, what are some of the things you learned after starting that nobody ever told you?