First off, if you’re thinking about checking into CrossFit, congratulations! CrossFit is extremely different from and exponentially more effective than joining a commercial gym. On an exploratory trip to your local “box,” you won’t find any ellipticals, weight machines, or Jazzercise classes…but you probably already knew that.
If you’ve done any research at all, you know that a CrossFit a training program works to build strength and conditioning through highly variable and challenging workouts. But it’s more than that: CrossFit is a thing unto itself. It’s a philosophy, a lifestyle, and a community.
So what can you expect when you start a CrossFit program? Obviously, you’re hoping to get healthier, lose weight, perhaps build strength and endurance, and overall improve your life. Stick with the program, and that will happen.
But BEFORE you actually start, there are a few things you should know…and we’re not talking about the stuff that shows up in the brochure. CrossFit is not a “the customer is always right” sort of place: you play by their rules, and there are certain things you should expect. For example:
- You’re not going to be good at this.
It would be nice if you could just walk in and be an expert at everything from Day One. It’s be nice…but it would also be sort of pointless: you’re not here because you’re perfect, you’re here because you want to get better. And to be honest, it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever get really good at everything. CrossFit is made up of components from an entire spectrum of fitness techniques: gymnastics, weightlifting, running, climbing, and more. It’s unrealistic to think that one person will be great at them all.
- You only THINK you’re in good shape.
This is for those of you who snickered at Item 1. You think I’m exaggerating. You think you’re in good shape because you run or bike every day. Guess what? You’re wrong. Oh, you may be in better physical condition than the average couch potato, but when you do the same exercises all the time, your body gets cocky, adapting to give you only what you need to do what you did yesterday. CrossFit, on the other hand, is designed to keep your body guessing: the workouts are so varied that you never know which muscle group you’ll be using. The plus side is, it’s never boring
- It’s competitive, but not in the way you think.
CrossFit seems to draw people who are competitive by nature, but at the end of the day, the only genuine competition you have inside the box is against yourself. When you accomplish something you couldn’t before and/or didn’t think possible, you’ll hit a euphoric state that makes “runners’ high” seem downright pitiful. But the reverse feeling is also there for those times when you can’t do something you feel you should be able to. CrossFit really pushes your mental strengths and weaknesses as much as your physical ones.
- Exercise takes second place to nutrition.
For all its emphasis on maximizing what you can get out of your body, CrossFit is also very much about regulating what goes INTO your body. Believe it or not, when you’re doing CrossFit, the quality of your food is more important than anything else. You can follow some specific plan such as Zone and Paleo, but all you really need to do is cut out the fast food, sugar, and starches while focusing on lean meat, vegetables, and nuts/seeds. Nutrition affects your energy levels, recovery, and performance: you can do CrossFit for months but if everything you’re putting into your body is crap, well, your results will reflect that.
- Everyone around you will freak out.
Ask anyone in CrossFit, and they’ll likely have a similar story. You tell your friends and family you’re interested in CrossFit, and suddenly, everyone is an expert. They’ll tell you that the coaches aren’t properly trained, there are no certification requirements, they make you lift more than you were capable of and injuries will happen all the time. And let’s be realistic: accidents do happen. It can be dangerous…but could say that about literally any sport or exercise–even cheerleading. You’re always going to have people that push themselves too far, too hard, too fast, and too often. But these issues have more to do with individual people than with the CrossFit system itself.
As much as we (obviously) love CrossFit, and as much as we tout its benefits, the fact is, it’s not some magic silver bullet: you’ll get out of it what you put into it–just like any other training program. The only way to know if it is for you is to try it for yourself