We all read the non-stop Facebook posts from CrossFitters and their recent workout, PR, or ripped hands. Our feed is flooded with the habitually shared articles about how CrossFit will either kill you, or allow you to live forever. And of course, the polarizing opinions of those who adamantly hate it or obsessively love it. CrossFit these days is everywhere. Just like any program, it’s not for everyone, but is it for you? Here’s some things to consider before taking the CrossFit plunge.
Do you enjoy and appreciate your “me” time at the gym, when you can zone out into your headphones and your workout? Or do you love the social aspect of fitness, and getting to know the regulars at your gym? CrossFit by its very nature is a social circle as much as it is a fitness program. You see the same people every day. You chat with them before, during, and after the class. You're coached by the same handful of people all the time. If socializing and fitness don’t mix well for you, CrossFit may not be your thing. If you love to be involved in a fitness community, it may be what you’ve been looking for.
Do you like to chart your own path when it comes to your training? Do you like to learn on your own, write your own programs, and practice the things you want to practice? If so, CrossFit may not be for you. Coaches run the show in CrossFit. Everything from the warm up, to the movement technique drills, to the workout are led by a coach. This can either be a good thing because you don’t have to think about what you’re going to do each day, or it can be a bad thing if you want that control.
One of the reasons CrossFit has exploded the way it has is because it brings out the competitive spirit in people. By making workouts either timed or scored, along with the famed “whiteboard” where everyone’s scores are posted, CrossFit brings out the inner athlete in those who participate. If competing against those around you doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, the competitiveness in CrossFit can be tough to steer clear of. But if beating the guy next to you sounds like what you need to push you to your goals, CrossFit can provide that edge.
If your idea of working out is getting lost in thought on a long run, or zoning out on a machine at the gym, CrossFit may not do the trick for you. Though there is certainly traditional “cardio” in CrossFit such as running, rowing, and jump roping, a lot of the workouts are focused around strength training components such as barbells and kettlebells. That’s not to say this type of training isn’t a great cardiovascular workout as well. It just might not be the kind you had in mind. The flip side of that is that if lifting weights is in your wheelhouse, but you’ve been wanting to mix it up some, CrossFit could be a great fit.
Contrary to popular belief, CrossFit is not a franchise. CrossFit gym owners simply license the name for a yearly fee. How they run their gym is up to them which can make the CrossFit “experience” very different from gym to gym. Your best bet is to try several out. With a few quick searches and asking around, you’ll figure out which gyms are well known in your city. Almost all of them will offer some sort of free class during the week. Check out the free class, get a vibe for the place, ask questions, and see if it’s for you.
Along the same lines of CrossFit gyms being very inconsistent, so is the coaching. And in a setting where you’re lifting heavy weights, doing complex movements, and putting your body under a lot of stress, having great coaches is absolutely critical to staying safe and learning the movements correctly. Ask the owner how long they’ve been doing and coaching CrossFit, how experienced their coaches are, what the focus and goals of their gym are, and what their beginners program looks like. If they don’t sell you on teaching sound fundamentals, keeping people safe, and building community, it may not be a place you want to be a part of.
Once you’ve found a gym that fits what you’re looking for and has great coaching, make the most of your time as a “newbie”. The competitor in you may be telling you to lift more than you should and push harder than you’re ready for, but it’s not worth it. Take the first several months of your time in CrossFit and commit to learning sound technique and movement. Once you’ve mastered the movements, then you can begin to layer in intensity and push yourself. This will not only benefit you in the short term by keeping you healthy and injury-free, but also in the long term by giving you a really solid foundation to build from.