Most people start CrossFit because they’re looking to get stronger, or lose weight, or “be in the best shape of their life.” Some people are already in great shape and are drawn to CrossFit as a new, measurable way to further challenge themselves and maybe showcase their athleticism daily in a group setting.
Here’s for those who are new to CrossFit or thinking of giving it a try:
1. It’s going to take a while to figure out what the heck you’re doing. Like, maybe a whole year.
CrossFit describes itself as constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity, which sounds straightforward but in reality is quite confusing and complicated. One of the reasons people love it is that you get to do so many different things, but the flip side is that there’s so much to learn. Unless you have a serious lifting or an athletic background, you’ll probably spend your first few months slightly confused, constantly doing new things, and trying to just go through the motions. Which is fine because…
2. For that first year or so, all you need to do to get better is go through the motions. (Just make sure you have a good coach.)
Look around any CrossFit gym and you’ll probably see people doing extra stuff before the workout, whether it’s endurance training on the rowing machine, strength accessory work, or even a full-on advanced squat cycle. While those things might be great for experienced CrossFitters (or maybe not), you don’t need to be doing any of it. A good CrossFit gym will program workouts in a smart way that will get you stronger and fitter pretty quickly, without overdoing it. A good coach will take time every day to explain whatever you don’t understand and correct your form when you need it.
3. You’ll need to take more rest days than you want to.
The thing about getting stronger is that two really important things need to happen in order for it to work: First, you force your muscles to work hard (by lifting weights, doing bodyweight resistance training, etc.) so that your muscle fibers tear. Second, your muscles repair themselves and in the process get gradually stronger while you rest. Yep, you actually get stronger while you rest.
4. Strength training workouts are very hard, even if you’re not breaking a sweat.
Sometimes, a CrossFit workout of the day can look something like this: five short sets of heavy back squats, followed by Olympic lifting technique drills with a very light barbell. That’s it. It’s totally possible that you’ll spend an hour doing those things without ever breaking a sweat.
While plenty of CrossFit workouts will absolutely leave you feeling that way, some won’t. Some days, the point of the workout is just to lift heavy stuff and get stronger or to work on technique for more complicated barbell movements so that you can eventually add more weight and get stronger. If you’re coming from a mostly cardio background, this is really hard to get used to, and you might feel like you’re “not working out as hard” as you used to. But remember, the way to get stronger is to lift heavy stuff and then rest.
5. Don’t go Paleo.
So many people who did CrossFit followed the Paleo diet, which involves eating lots of lean protein, veggies, and healthy fats, a little bit of fruit, and a little starch. All grains and dairy products are off-limits. While Paleo’s emphasis on whole, unprocessed foods is good, it has been consistently ranked one of the worst overall diets to follow in recent years. Also, cutting out all grains and added sugars often means that people eat fewer carbs, and carbs are especially important when you’re exercising regularly, as pretty much everyone who does CrossFit is likely to do.
6. Make sure you’re eating enough. You probably aren’t.
You’ve probably heard this from others, and it’s true for me too: The best, healthiest, most revelatory thing when starting CrossFit is that you will stop to seeing exercise as a way to burn calories or lose weight and started seeing it as a way to get stronger and feel better. The part you might not realize is that all of this doesn’t happen overnight. It will take some time.
An important note on the whole “you get stronger by lifting a lot and resting enough” thing: In order for it to work, you also need to eat enough. And, frankly, “enough” is probably more than you think. Two thousand calories a day is the number that usually gets tossed around, but everyone is so different, and if you’re looking to get stronger—or lose weight, although we really urge you to first stop and really think about why you want to do that and if it’s actually necessary or worth it or a healthy goal for you specifically to have—you should take the time to figure out how much you should eat every day in order to do it. The USDA recommends to track your macros, you may use tuingle app as an easy tool to monitor your daily calories intake and output.
If you want to get stronger, or faster, or better at CrossFit (which you will when you start, trust us), you need to start eating properly.
7. You’re going to start hanging out with people from your gym, even if you’re someone who doesn’t usually talk to anyone at the gym.
People joke that CrossFit is a cult, which it certainly is not. But, the community aspect of it is really strong. Generally, people work out at the same time most days, which means you end up seeing the same 20 or so people several times a week. And because everyone is doing the same workout, there’s always something to talk about. Even if you go into it with a “no new friends” mindset, we bet you’ll end up going to at least one happy hour or party or post-workout brunch. This isn’t weird; it’s a very normal and natural way to meet people, and you should just go with it.
8. Getting better at CrossFit is fun, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter all that much.
Listen, if you start CrossFit, there’s a pretty high likelihood that you’re going to be one of those people who get very into it. It’s just like that. Maybe it’s because everything is so quantifiable (the time it takes you to do certain workouts, the amount of weight you lift) and so there’s instant gratification in improvement. Maybe it’s because CrossFit gyms tend to have really strong communities, so you’ll find yourself spending more time around other people who do CrossFit, which means you’ll talk about it often and it’ll start to feel like something that is a very important part of your life. These things are fine and probably inevitable, but if you fall too far into it, it can feel like getting better at CrossFit is the most important part of your life.
Wanting to get better is great, and getting stronger is really cool and healthy and worthwhile. With CrossFit, though, it’s especially easy to get carried away. Make sure you don’t turn into someone who’s constantly thinking about the next workout. Or turning down invitations to do fun, non fitnessy things so that you can exercise more. Or, really, changing your lifestyle in any major way for the sake of getting better at something that does not and should not define you as a person. How well you do in the CrossFit is something that might start to feel very important the longer you do CrossFit. Make sure to keep reminding yourself, probably daily, that CrossFit is just exercise and that it should be fun and make you feel good, not totally dominate your life.