Your Guide to Starting CrossFit without Fear
January boasts more fitness articles published over the web than any other month of the year…for obvious reasons. And since CrossFit is the fastest growing fitness empire, countless posts have been blasted all over any and every social media outlet targeted to every single person in pursuit of better heath–men, women, young, old, fit, not-so-fit.
It almost seems that everyone you know is either a CrossFitter, or wants to be one but is too scared to try. And if you log onto Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, or Twitter, someone you know is bragging about his or her latest PR, torn hands, failed jerk, or almost-but-not-quite, new snatch attempt. In 2014 alone, 209,585 people across the world signed up to compete in the CrossFit Games Open. And in 2015 more than 272,000 signed up. Those are just the ones who signed up–not all the people who actually take CrossFit classes!
The Guinness World Record for the most participants in a racing event was set by the Run for Pasig River in Manila, Philippines on Oct. 10, 2010. The event, which included three simultaneous races, had 116,086 participants. The Kahit Isang Araw Unity Run on Jan. 22, 2012 in Manila, which had 209,000 registered runners, unofficially broke that record. –Games.CrossFit.com
So if everyone seems to be doing it, why aren’t you?
Those who want to but haven’t tried Crossfit yet seem to have three fears about the exercise program:
- Fear of Price: The price of CrossFit is much more than the average gym. Members pay anywhere between $100-$250 per month depending on the location and type of membership pass.
- Fear of People: Everyone who has never tried CrossFit is terrified of the CrossFit community because of what he/she sees on ESPN.
- Fear of Injury: Though the “You’ll get injured if you try CrossFit” stigma is starting to die down (finally), there are still many people who believe CrossFit equals injury.
This is a GREAT article that tackles the issue of price and the fear of people. If these are your two biggest fears, this piece is definitely worth a couple extra minutes of your time.
If you find a well run CrossFit gym, you should be in a class with a coach to athlete ratio of about 1:12 or less, in most cases. That coach should lead those athletes through a proper warmup and workout, not only telling the athletes what to do, but helping them understand the movements. A good coach will help athletes choose the proper weight and make sure they are performing the movements correctly. This is the exact same thing that a personal trainer would do at other gyms, except they would charge A LOT more! The average cost for an hour of personal training is around $50 and can be upwards of $100 depending on the gym. To see results, someone needs to be in the gym at least 3 times per week. That means to hire a personal trainer at another gym, you would be paying at least $600 a month! For far less than that you can receive the same style of coaching and have access to much more than just an hour a day.
The price is worth what you pay for when you consider the atmosphere, camaraderie, coaching, technique work, proper skill development, program design, and the feeling of accomplishment you don’t typically find in other classes or gyms.
By working out with other people, you become accountable. It isn’t about directly competing with the person next to you, but having others around helps motivate you to be the best that you can be. This helps to keep you coming in the gym and not fall away after the first week. CrossFit gyms want to see all of their clients come through the door so that they can help them achieve the results they desire.
And don’t be turned away by what you see on ESPN. Those who compete in the CrossFit Games are like the professionals of the sport. Would you give up a friendly game of basketball with your friends because you thought you had to play like Steph Curry? Or because you thought EVERYONE there was going to be just as good as Curry, and you couldn’t keep up? The CrossFit gym you walk into will have great athletes. It will also have average athletes. College studs. Business men and women. Moms and daughters. Dads and sons. People who’ve worked out their whole lives and looking for something to keep them active. People who’ve never worked out a day in their lives who are realizing it’s now or never. Yes–you’ll see fit people. You’ll see ALL kinds of people: big, little, muscly, thin…whatever adjectives you’d like to use.
But what about that nagging fear of injury? The fear of “I can’t do a hundred pull-ups and I know I’ll look like an idiot when I try or worse yet, HURT myself when I do try?!”
First, no one is going to ask you to do a hundred pull-ups. For a while anyway, and maybe never. You don’t ever have to do anything you don’t want to do. Second, your fears are shared. Every person begins with this fear. Most people just find someone else who is equally scared and they come in to attempt the “first wod” (workout of the day) together.
Next, every CrossFit gym has some sort of beginner’s program designed to help the new person transition into successful CrossFit…and without injury! Some programs are beginner programs, bootcamp classes, “on-ramp” training weeks, fundamentals trainings, and more! Some CrossFit gyms do not even allow its participants to start doing CrossFit until they’ve mastered certain skills and techniques and have developed the strength needed for such movements, exercises, and equipment.
If this doesn’t alleviate your fears, know that every single CrossFit workout is scalable. NO ONE expects any person to walk into the doors knowing how to do pull-ups…any version of them. No one expects you to do muscle-ups, know how to Olympic lift, or even be able to run a mile. No one expects you to puke on the floor, rip your hands, or pass out either. Those photos you see all the time on Facebook or Instagram do not happen to everyone! You can take care of your hands, wear gloves, or even stop if you think you may hurt yourself. No one requires you to ever do anything you don’t want to do. A good coach will actually keep you from or stop you from hurting yourself. And people who puke who are just pushing themselves harder than normal…no one will push you THAT hard unless you want to be pushed, or you push yourself.
(Author’s note: I’ve never seen anyone puke and have only heard of it happening maybe twice.)
So who gets hurt?
Most people who get injured doing CrossFit are newer members who push too hard, too fast, and too soon. Generally they are the uber-competitive, already strong, and unwilling to slow down in order to let the body adjust to this new type of training, are the ones who end up injured.
Like anything, one needs to be introduced to CrossFit slowly. People who’ve never done CrossFit before can’t just pop in 5 days in a row and NOT expect to be sore, achy, and tired. In fact, most CrossFit gyms will even advise a new member not to come more than three times per week, alternating rest days between each CrossFit day. CrossFit puts the body under extreme stress. You can’t climb Everest without training for it. You can’t run a marathon without at least running a few times! Why throw yourself into a potential disaster?
That’s how people get hurt. Like a bad relationship, they move too quickly instead taking the time to really get to know one another. You’ve got to get to know not only the exercise movements and standards, but your own body as well.
Still a little scared? That’s okay–as always–we want to help. Take a month or so to save up for that trial membership, and in the meantime, let’s get your body used to some basic bodyweight CrossFit workouts.
Below is our CrossFit Confidence Course. If you’re still fearful about trying CrossFit, let us help you get into a bit better shape by using the bodyweight movement standards to give you some CrossFit-style workouts you can do in the comfort of your own home.
But first, the CrossFit Lingo Key:
We promise you don’t ever have to use the lingo in conversation. But someone else may. Or something may be written on the board and when new, it’s sometimes intimidating to ask questions. These are pretty universal across all CrossFit Boxes (note it’s a “box” not a gym.)
Beginner’s Advice and Pre-CrossFit Confidence Course
Do what you can and modify what you can’t. If you can’t do push-ups on your toes, no big deal! Eventually you will, but today isn’t that day. Everything in CrossFit is scalable. Use your knees until you build up your strength. If you can run 400 meters, walk some and run some. If you can’t squat low, don’t squat low. Squat to a chair and stand back up. Hold onto a rail when lunging. Sub an exercise for one you can’t do yet. It doesn’t matter–just move. Build your confidence.
*Romwod is an online mobility program designed for lifters/exercisers in order to help keep them flexible, mobile, and injury free. Get a FREE 14-Day trial with this link: https://romwod.com/members/aff/go/strongfigure
While you’re exercising, start familiarizing yourself with some of the CrossFit basics.
Check out this video produced by CrossFit. There are nine basic CrossFit movements. Study them. Watch them over and over. When you’re ready to start CrossFit, none of these movements will seem as scary and when you are introduced to each, you’ll already have a basic understanding of the movement pattern. The coach you work with will help you with your form and technique. Don’t forget–we’re all different and have unique body structure. What’s easy for some may be tough for you, and vice versa! Don’t worry–your coach will work with you until you’re comfortable to proceed on your own…and some gyms
Crossfit’s 9 Movement Standards:
IF YOU CAN:
If you have access to a gym or certain equipment, practice elements such as
- Kettlebell Swings
- Monkey Hangs on Pull-up bars
- Wall Balls
Put together a workout such as: 3 RFT of 10 Kettlebell Swings, 15 Wall Balls, and a 400 meter row.
If you have access to a gym or equipment, try to work on your back strength 1-2 days a week.
- Hang from a pull-up bar and shrug your shoulders to activate your lats.
- Use the lat-pull down machine, the seated row, the T-Bar row, heck–row some dumbbells or kettlebells, or even a barbell.
- Upright rows, bent over rows, even the Concept 2 Row machine will help build your back strength. A strong back will be key for CrossFit strength and injury prevention.
So do what you can with what you have, when you can!
You lift, Bro?
All your basic powerlifting barbell movements are found somewhere in CrossFit — bench press, deadlift, squat, overhead presses. If you are familiar with these lifts, GREAT! If not, that’s ok! Many people who have NEVER touched a barbell come into CrossFit to learn these lifts.Your coach will teach you and you’ll probably have to start with a fundamentals course that will introduct you to these lifts.
OLYMPIC Lifts are also taught in CrossFit: Clean, Jerk, and Snatch. Many gyms have separate “OLY” classes that teach the fundamentals of these three lifts and help athletes gain better confidence and technique with these movements. These are the most complex movements in all of weightlifting and NO COACH will ever ask you to perform these until you are comfortable with the lifts. Most new members use medicine balls (big, heavy, softer balls) until ready to touch a barbell.
When you join a CrossFit gym, most gyms will have some sort of nutritional guidance, or at least help available to you. Some gyms may push 21 or 28-day challenges to boost fat loss. Some athletes may follow a Paleo-style diet, the Zone diet, Macro-Counting, or a Ketogenic diet. Some athletes just try to eat smart, some are Carb Backloaders, some Carb-Nighters, and some have a beer after every WOD. There’s nothing wrong with the plan that works for them or the plan that works for you.
But what works best for you? You may not know until you experiment with several nutritional methods. Just make sure you get the literature you need and follow a program that you believe in–not just something another athlete is doing and you’re determined to “look like him/her.”
Don’t forget that we’ve tried all the plans. If you want more information on the various nutritional programs, check out our FAQ page where we list our most popular nutrition posts. Can’t find what you’re looking for there? We have a coaching page where we work one-on-one with individuals. We love talking food and helping our readers figure out what to do to achieve greatestness!
For one-on-one coaching or advice, contact me. If you like these workouts and want to continue with these while saving up for that membership, make sure to subscribe to our Instagram and/or Facebook where we post a conditioning workout (almost) every day of the week.
Questions on the movements, CrossFit, coaching, nutrition, anything health related? Contact us. We just want to help.
Happy New Year to you we hope we can help you reach many of your 2016 health and fitness goals!
Feature image: Team Strongfigure Ambassador and Athlete: Kristen Graham @kgrahamsfb