So, you’re thinking: here we go, another CrossFitter talking about CrossFit. Nothing new here. Except that I would like to talk about CrossFit from a beginner’s viewpoint. Anytime I mention CrossFit to my family or friends they either warn me to be careful or act shocked at how “impossible” the workouts look. But the reality is that anyone can do CrossFit, so I’d like to share some of my experience as a CrossFit beginner with you.
I want people to remember that the online world is very biased, so when you see my online pictures and 15-second lifting videos on Instagram, you are usually only seeing my best moments. My non-CrossFitter friends rave about how strong I am and how they “could never do that” when they see my online posts and I am left feeling like a fraud because I am really not that strong, or fit, or fast. But what matters is that I’m sure as hell trying to be as great as they think I already am. I am proud of my journey and my progress, but it’s not even funny how many CrossFit things I still suck at. I’ve been doing CrossFit for a year and a half now and I am still very much a beginner. So, here are a few things I’d like you to know, from one beginner to another:
Even Arnold had to start somewhere: All amazing athletes you see breaking records have once started from the bottom. I had never EVER touched a barbell before starting CrossFit. That shit is intimidating and HEAVY (35lbs) when you first start. But guess what? They have small barbells for beginners and you’ll be coached every step of the way. The reason why CrossFit is more expensive than global gyms is because you are closely supervised and taught how to properly perform each movement every time. We all start somewhere and you can progress at a pace that is comfortable to you because every workout offers scaled down options.
Competition: You are not competing with anyone but yourself, so don’t worry about looking a certain way to fit in. Forget the “I have to get in shape before joining” thought. Most boxes (CrossFit gyms) have outstanding athletes that can crush any WOD (workout of the day), but ALL gyms have beginners. ALL of them. And since the WODs are modified to your level of fitness, it doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or a pro, everyone will be suffering together trying to do the workout better than they did last time. NOTE: Not better than others, but better than themselves. Of course that changes if you are striving to be a professional athlete. But if you are just looking into getting a kickass workout, who cares whose time you beat or don’t beat? It’s all about personal progress.
Getting strong: I want to laugh every time someone warns me against becoming too strong or too bulky. I am like, “do you have any idea of the discipline and dedication athletes put in to bulk up and look lean?” Look it up. It’s not that easy to gain muscle people. Especially for women. Unless you are eating right, counting your macros, eating at specific times, putting training as a priority… you will struggle to look bulky even if that is your goal.
Progress: It’s OK to progress slowly. There are still several things I can’t do even after a year and a half. Strict pull ups, handstand walks, legless rope climbs, double unders… you name it. But that’s OK. I am still a gazillion times better than when I started and that is what counts.
Motivation: I get so bored at a regular gym because workouts are repetitive, you usually workout alone and it can be quite hard to track progress. I LOVE to have a different workout every day and have people around to motivate me and that’s what CrossFit offers. Plus, you get to see what kind of effort others are putting in and that makes you work harder.
Goals: When I started CrossFit, my goal was to lose weight and tone up. I lost 14lbs on the first two months, but have gained most of it back ever since. Some of it was muscle and some of it was fat. I don’t pay as much attention to my diet as I should, so the gym won’t work miracles if you are not willing to change your entire lifestyle. However, I am still much happier with my body than I was when I started. I had a crazy back pain from sitting all day when I started CrossFit. That was quickly replaced with daily muscle soreness, bruises and scratches. Fine by me. My goals now are more fitness related than mirror driven. I’d love a flat belly but am not willing to give up pizza, yet. What I am willing to do is push myself an extra tad to try to get those damn strict pull ups one day.
Time: I’ve never been a fan of having to workout for hours on end. With CrossFit the classes last one hour and you’re done! You’re more than welcome to put in extra work, but most days we beginners will be shattered enough from the class to try to do anything else in the gym. CrossFit make your one hour count with “constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity.”
Structure: Most every CrossFit class is structured the same way. The exercising program changes daily, but the class structure is usually the same. You have a warm up, a skill and a WOD and they are all taught by a coach. In some gyms you won’t even have to warm up by yourself, so there is no need to be intimidated. It’s a beginner’s dream, because the coaches will teach you everything you need to know.
Limitations: It’s OK to have a past. Most of us have past injuries, soreness, pains and limitations to work around. As a beginner, our biggest fear is to get hurt doing something wrong, but as long as you pick a gym with responsible and knowledgeable coaches, you will be fine. Most exercises are modifiable, so just tell your coach if you have any sort of limitation and they’ll help you work around it. Can’t do a strict push up? Do it on your knees. Can’t do a pull up? Use ring rows or a stretchy band. Can’t run? row… and so on. There are no excuses.
Knowledge: Don’t worry about learning the names of every movement right away. There is SO much to be learned if you have never lifted weights before. It took me at least six months to get with the program and realize I should start writing things down. Don’t make that mistake. Start writing things down from day one. The name of movements, how much weight you used, what your benchmark times were and what the acronyms mean until you memorize them. That’s the best way to not only learn what exercise is each, but also keep track of your progress. I really wish I had started doing that sooner. We often work with percentages of our one-rep max, so it’s important to know what your max weight is for each movement to ensure you’ll be getting a good workout. If you have no idea what your numbers are you can either be going too light and not making your workout count, or too heavy and needing to rest too much or risking getting hurt.
Have fun: Don’t be shy to join a box. People are so nice and supportive; perhaps because they know the pain you are in since they are doing the same WOD as you. The workouts will be tough, but so much fun! Loud music, proper coaching and friendly cheers are all a part of it! If I could pick one word to describe CrossFit, it would be camaraderie, because people are truly cheering for your success there. You’ll definitely make new friends and start being one of those annoying CrossFitters talking in “code” about your PRs, WODS, AMRAPs DUs, HSPU and EMOMs.
Aim big: just because you are a beginner it doesn’t mean you can’t push your limits. Pushing limits is what’s going to drive your progress. Your coach will be able to help you recognize your limits, but, again, writing those numbers down will help you, and your coach, a lot. As soon as you feel comfortable with a specific movement, you should be fine to experiment with heavier weights as long as you learn how to properly “fail” a movement if you realize that you went too heavy. Heck, that is the fun part for god’s sake! Go hard and throw some weights around. It sure is a healthier alternative than indulging in chocolate to alleviate the stress.
Look cute: Or look crazy, look boring, look weak, look fat, look strong… nobody cares! It’s hard to look cute when you are sweating from head to toe, have sticky hair and a bruised body. During class most of us are too busy worrying about finishing the damn WOD to care if you are shirtless, have ripped leggings, crazy hair or a mismatched outfit. But if looking cute is your preference, you can count on me to compliment your pink lifters and glitter lifting belt. Seriously, some girls at the gym really manage to look so cute in their high pony tail, Lulu gear and high socks. Plus, shopping for some new clothes is always a motivation to workout, so why not get extra motivated.
The beginner: I could justify saying I am a beginner with the fact that I am, more often than not, amongst the last people finishing any given WOD or the fact that I am always coughing my lungs out and trying to make sure I can catch my breath after a WOD. But suffering during a WOD is the case for all people taking their workout seriously, so I’ll justify it with the fact that I still feel like a beginner because I still have so much to learn. I use CrossFit as a stress reliever, a way to keep fit, and as time to put me as a priority while having fun with my friends. So, I don’t put in the extra work necessary to make me excel above others. But, again, that isn’t my goal. I am fine being a beginner as long as I know I am giving my best and not giving up.
This post is officially long, so I’ll stop babbling and just leave you with this subtle call to action: DO IT! If you’ve been wanting to try CrossFit, just get up and do it. Your first class is FREE at most gyms, so you have nothing lose. And if you happen to be in Orlando, FL then come work out with us at Steel Furnace CrossFit! I’d love to workout with you and show you my beginner’s super powers. Hope to see you soon!