10 Things A CrossFit Newbie Should Know

CrossFit can be as dangerous, safe, fun, or healthy as you intend.

(Source: Bev Childress)

So you’re thinking about starting CrossFit? Or at least your friend keeps telling you all about it. But you’re pretty skeptical. After all, “it’s dangerous” and “everyone gets adrenal fatigue.” Don’t they?

Whatever your thoughts, beliefs, or fears are about CrossFit, I’m here to put you at ease that CrossFit is exactly what you make of it. It can be as dangerous, safe, fun, or healthy as you intend. Call me biased, but CrossFit, and my own experience with it, has shaped me for the better. It has taught me more about what my body is capable of and what working out really is. It has also helped me heal my own relationship with my body and fitness, something I struggled with for years.

I originally discovered CrossFit back in 2007 at CrossFit Central in Austin while still heavily immersed in my own eating disorder. At the time, I was in an unhealthy place with my body and fitness to really give a new way of doing things a chance.

Connect with Yourself

To me, CrossFit workouts—10-20 minutes of “AMRAPs” and metcons—were my warm ups for my hour long stints on StairMasters, 3-6 mile trail runs, and marathon training sessions doing whatever workout routine I could find in Oxygen Magazine.

Fast forward to 2011, nearly five years later, and CrossFit came back into my own life by way of happenstance.

I was living in Miami at the time, in eating disorder treatment of all things, when I was re-introduced to CrossFit. I had a new outlook on myself, fitness, eating, all of it. I was hungry to do something new, something different, something that was not my old soul-sucking workouts.

I began CrossFitting at a local gym in Miami, Peak 360 CrossFit. Long story short, my world (and mindset) was rocked. No longer was chronic cardio and running like a hamster on a wheel appealing. I began to learn what it meant to be strong from the inside out, and to give my body a balance of work and rest. Despite all the media hype that CrossFit makes you forget about your body (in the name of the WOD), I actually became more connected with my body through the journey.

Find What Moves You

Fast-forward another six years. I am still going strong, and helping others do the same in my nutrition, therapy, and functional medicine practice. I love integrating the principles of functional fitness in the work I do with clients—particularly the lesson that you are capable of more than you think. Just like a good hard run at ‘Fran’ any day will teach you when you’re ready to put the bar down.

CrossFit will always hold a place in my heart, and what I learned in that gym has taught me how to honor my body, listen to my body, and have fun with movement in more ways than one.

The moral of the story? Find what moves you. Be it CrossFit, yoga, or even running.

When you truly do what you love to do, exercise becomes less of a chore. Instead, it becomes a way of life that can make you a better, more productive, healthy person when you take it in stride.

1. Everyone Has Been “There”

First things first: you are not the only one to start from square one with CrossFit. Everyone started from zero. You’ll be in good company with people who get it and want to help show you the way. Also, if you’re confused or unsure about something, just ask. Don’t be afraid to ask the coach for clarification if you don’t understand something.

2. You Don’t Have to Be Fit to Start

Sometimes people think they need to get in shape prior to joining a box, so they hit the treadmill, elliptical, or an at-home P90X workout before signing up. The beauty of CrossFit is all workouts are scalable across all levels, so no matter where you’re at with your fitness, you will be able to participate and get a workout that gives you a good sweat.

3. You Won’t Get Bulky

The girls you see on TV work really, really, really hard for that muscle. CrossFit does not automatically equal bulky, just like running doesn’t automatically equal “long and lean.” The mix of high-intensity interval training with moderate intensity workouts and longer ‘endurance-based’ days, give your body a nice variety to boost your metabolism.

4. Get the Right Gear

Running shoes have higher heels and more cushion, making it more difficult to stabilize yourself during varied movements like squats, deadlifts, cleans, etc. Try a pair of shoes with less cushion, like Nike Metcons or Reebok Nanos.

You also want clothes that breathe well. I love the Swiftly tanks by Lululemon, or something made with a luxtreme (sweat wicking) material, as opposed to cotton for tops and pants.

5. It’s All About Community

If you like making friends, you’re in luck. Enduring “tough stuff” together is where the bonds of CrossFit are made. If you’re looking for a way to meet new people, you’re in for a treat.

6. No Two Boxes Are the Same

Unlike some gyms and fitness classes, like 24 Hour Fitness, Soul Cycle, and Orange Theory, where you get a similar product no matter where you drop in, no two CrossFit boxes are alike. No two coaching models, programming methods, or community vibes, are alike. If you have the option, check out several different gyms before you decide.

7. Don’t Fear Food Rules

Think you have to go low carb to play? Do you fear the thought of bacon? Prior to starting CrossFit, I pictured CrossFitters as a bunch of bacon and jerky-eating, no-carb, headband-wearing, knee high ugly-sock people who had a long list of food rules to follow.

The CrossFit “diet” is not as caveman as people make it out to be. Instead, “Eat real food, and live your life” has seemingly become the mantra over the years. What you eat does matter for performance. Make sure you eat enough. Include lots of colorful veggies, fruits, proteins, healthy fats, some starches, plus a lot of water.

8. Squat All the Way Down

Every squat should break parallel. If you stop before parallel, you’re just working your hip flexors. “Ass to grass.” Every time. If you can’t squat all the way down, no worries. Your coach will help you. Mobility work is in your future, and there are modifications for everything.

9. You Don’t Have to Have an Intense Workout Every Day

In fact, for your health’s sake, it’s not encouraged to have an intense workout every day. “Red-lining” regularly will only lead you to one place: HPA-Axis dysfunction (adrenal fatigue) and feeling broken, or worn down. The majority of my own workouts nowadays consist of weight training plus a WOD, but at a moderate intensity, just enough to get some blood flowing and endorphins going.

10. Get to Know the Lingo

“The Girls” are CrossFit benchmark workouts (Fran, Elizabeth, Kelly, Eva, Cindy, etc.) Google these terms to learn what these workouts are when you see them. “WOD” refers to Workout of the Day. “AMRAP” stands for “as many rounds as possible,” and “Rx’d” means you completed a workout as prescribed. “Mobility” refers to flexibility moves for recovering from your sessions. Again, if you don’t know, just ask.

Make changes a priority:

Changing Your Life Is Not a 45-Day Challenge

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