You’ve probably heard good and bad things about CrossFit. And I definitely won’t ignore the bad — we will discuss them. But as a skinny, weak girl that does CrossFit, I know that almost anyone can do it.
When my husband first started doing CrossFit 7 or 8 years ago I was like, go for it, I’m good with yoga. After months and months of doing it he finally convinced me to take the 4-hour long fundamentals class from which I was extremely sore and still not convinced about it. Again, I was fine with my random yoga attendance.
After my husband left for the Air Force something in me just changed — I wanted to do CrossFit because I really wanted to change my body. The owner of the gym was a girl, I already knew her and several people there, so I felt comfortable enough to start going even without my husband. I was by far the weakest girl at the gym, but I loved it. I was religiously going to CrossFit three times a week and also going to yoga a few times a week to “stretch the CrossFit out.” And honestly, that’s probably the best shape I’ve been in in my adult life. I feel like the consistent yoga with CrossFit kept me limber while getting strong. During that period I never got hurt doing CrossFit or yoga.
After several months of workout bliss we moved to DC and I didn’t continue with CrossFit because it was just so expensive in DC and we were trying to save money.
We’ve lived in DC for over five years now and I’ve tried a ton of different types of classes and gone through cycles of working out a lot, and then not working out at all. Pilates, spin, barre, yoga, running, solidcore — I’ve tried almost everything. Some workouts I really like (solidcore, yoga, barre, pilates), some I don’t (spin, running).
My husband has continued to do CrossFit and weigh lifting and now also teaches CrossFit on the side. From where we used to live in DC it wasn’t easy for me to get to his CrossFit gym, so I just did the workouts that were convenient for me to get to (mostly in Georgetown).
Now that we moved very close to his CrossFit gym I’m there all the time when I’m in town. The convenience is too hard to ignore, plus I really want to change my body and I think CrossFit is one of the fastest ways to do it (in addition to your diet).
Ever since we moved into our new place (tour my home office and bedroom), I’ve been doing CrossFit again and I’m loving it for many of the reasons I’ll tell you below. But I do want to address the skeptics really quick. And first of all, I’m not an expert, I have no degrees in nutrition or kinesiology so keep that in mind.
One thing to know is that every CrossFit gym is completely different. The coaches are different, the owners are different, the programming and workouts are different. Just like spin studios, barre classes, and white water rafting trips — they are all different.
Similar to how you might have a favorite yoga teacher or studio, you will have a favorite CrossFit box (gym) and a favorite instructor. Most people will try out different studios/boxes and instructors before they find one they like. Similarly, before something like a white water rafting trip, you would probably research what level of difficulty you want to do, what the guides do, etc., and plan accordingly. CrossFit is no different. You might not like the vibe at one box but love it at another — so make sure you give it a fair shake before you write it off.
You might hear a lot of talk about how people always get injured at CrossFit gyms, how the coaches aren’t well trained, how everyone is obsessed with the Paleo diet, that everyone there is super strong, and on and on. Some things are partially true, some aren’t, and some might be true for a box here or there, but not for the majority of them.
Addressing the negative:
ALL SIZES & FITNESS LEVELS WELCOME // The majority of CrossFit gyms have people of all sizes and athletic skill. I would know, I am literally one of the smallest, weakest girls at our gym. And it doesn’t bother me one bit. There may be a few boxes here and there that cater to advanced athletes, but I’d say that’s few and far between. No matter your body type, size, and skill level — you can do it and the instructors will teach you how by scaling the workouts for you.
INSTRUCTORS // Yes, at some boxes some of the coaches might not have as much training as they should and maybe shouldn’t be coaches. Easy solution — ask about their coaching credentials. Is the head coach someone who has been in the industry a long time? How long have they been coaching? What types of training do all the instructors go through? Ask questions and find out so you can make an informed decision when choosing a gym.
The head coach (and one of the owners) at my box has ranked very high in CrossFit regionals multiple years in a row, has 8 different certifications, and has made fitness and nutrition his entire life. He is very qualified to run a gym, write the programming, teach classes, and manage other instructors. This is something you should try to find out about a box before you sign up.
PALEO DIET OBSESSION // While a lot of people who do CrossFit are also very thoughtful about their diet, and probably do eat more meat and veggies than the average person it is just not true that all CrossFitters are obsessed with the Paleo diet. Most of them are just normal people who love carbs and sweets and alcohol like the rest of us. I do think that if you take your fitness seriously you are probably more inclined to take your diet seriously, and therefore dedicated CrossFitters probably do eat healthier (and more protein) than most. This is probably true with anyone that consistently works out, that they are more thoughtful about their diet.
EVERYONE AT CROSSFIT GETS INJURED // You can definitely get injured, just like you can picking up a heavy box or losing your footing on the stairs, it’s just something you have to be smart about, and your coaches should be encouraging you to scale the workouts to a weight that works for you so you don’t get hurt. I know my husband is always telling overzealous CrossFitters to take weight off their bars. Your coach should always err on the side of caution, especially for new people! You can lift whatever you want in class — you will never be forced to do a certain weight, and it’s always smart to go lighter and work up to heavy. The whole point is that it is scaled to what you can do.
You can easily hurt yourself if on your first day/week/month you try to lift super heavy or do something crazy. So it’s part common sense of not trying to do too much, and part coaching. Especially if you are new to CrossFit or lifting weights in general, your coach should be watching you like a hawk and correcting your form constantly. And ALWAYS feel free to ask them to watch your form and ask questions over and over until you understand. You should always learn the right form with little to no weight and then start with light weight until you have the form of a lift down pat.
And let’s talk about rhabdo (rhabdomyolysis). You can get it and it is serious (causes are: extreme muscle strain which is why some CrossFitters can get it, a crush injury like falling or auto accident, alcohol and illegal drug use, long-lasting muscle compression, and more). One of my good friends got it because she (admittedly) pushed herself way too far in one of CrossFit’s most intense workouts. She learned her lesson big time (she’s fine now) and knows not to push it that far anymore without properly building up to the movements. But it’s something you just have to be smart about. To get rhabdo you have to go to the extreme, so obviously I always recommend building up to things over a period of months. Even if it’s something as simple as box jumps — don’t feel bad using a lower box or doing scaled pull-ups — that’s what I have to do! You have to start somewhere and trying to do too much too fast and getting injured will just set you back!
CROSSFIT IS EXPENSIVE // Well, yes, in many big expensive cities, it can be expensive — just like barre, pilates, spin, etc. However, if you think of it in terms of having a personal trainer/weight-lifting coach (because it is very similar) — the cost is actually lower than single classes at many other workout studios if you go often. And honestly, if you’re going to spend money on something, spending it on working out, building muscle, and being a healthier person is never a bad thing.
CROSSFIT WILL MAKE ME BULKY // I hate it when people say this (usually girls). Because you will only get bulky if that is your body type and if you are trying to get bulky. It’s not easy to put on bulky muscles. And P.S. muscles are cool and sexy.
Now that we’ve talked through some of the negative things you might have heard about CrossFit, here are all the reasons why I think you should give it a try:
1 // STRONG COMMUNITY
Most CrossFit gyms have a strong community feeling. If you attend frequently you start to get to know the people and oftentimes these people become friends. This community is something CrossFit is known for. Most people are super nice. Don’t be intimidated — just introduce yourself!
2 // VARIETY OF WORKOUTS
The workouts are always different. Or they should be anyway. In a regular CrossFit class you probably won’t see the same workout within three months. I love this because if there’s a certain movement that is hard or that you don’t like, you aren’t going to have to do it everyday (ahem, burpees). Also, I think it’s always good to be surprising your body with differently movements.
3 // IT’S LIKE HAVING A PERSONAL TRAINER
All you have to do is show up — the workout is researched, written, tested and scheduled for you. Then the instructor will be in class demonstrating the movements and walking around answering questions and making sure everyone has good form — before and during the workout.
4 // ALL WORKOUTS CAN BE SCALED TO YOU
But I can’t do a pull-up!? Me neither. Every movement can be scaled or another movement can be done in place of the one you can’t do. This is a daily occurrence for me. I probably have to scale something every workout. The majority of people have to, and it’s totally fine. Just ask your instructor, they will (or should) know a scaled or replacement movement and show you how to do it.
5 // ALL BODIES & ATHLETIC LEVELS CAN DO IT
I promise, I’ve seen them all. Like I mentioned — everything can be scaled no matter how weak you think you are. If the instructor doesn’t mention how to scale something, just ask and they will give you a similar movement to try in place of the movement you can’t (or shouldn’t) do. I do this all the time.
6 // YOU CAN DO ANYTHING FOR 20 MINUTES
Even though the entire workout is about an hour, the WOD (workout of the day) is usually anywhere from 7-25 minutes. Usually there are 2 or 3 parts to the workout which makes the class an hour — a warmup, a WOD, and our gym also works on strength usually doing a specific movement in a slow manner. Different gyms do things different ways, but don’t be scared off by a crazy WOD because they are usually pretty short. And the way many of them are designed is that you are only doing something for a short amount of time, or a short amount of reps. So you might have a WOD that is three different movements, 3 rounds of 15-12-9 for time. So for example, 15 box jumps, 15 burpees, 15 pushups, 12 box jumps, 12 burpees, 12 pushups…you see what I mean. You just continue doing the entire workout until you are done (i.e. for time). The numbers are usually low which mentally makes it easier — you can do anything 15 times right? If not, break the movement into 3 rounds of 5 then move on to the next action. There are some WODs where the reps are high but it’s not super common.
7 // YOU WILL SEE RESULTS
If you take it seriously and go regularly, you absolutely will see results. Everyone is different and it depends on so many things — your genes, your diet, previous workout experience, etc. So it’s impossible to say how soon you will see results.
8 // ALL OVER THE WORLD
If you travel, you are in luck because CrossFit gyms are all over the world. When we were in Spain in May there was one in almost every city we visited! My husband almost always checks out the CrossFit gyms and attends a class when we travel. You usually have to pay a drop-in fee of $15-$25 but it usually includes one of the gyms t-shirts too. Collecting CrossFit t-shirts from around the world is fun!
9 // MUSCLES ARE GOOD FOR YOU
Not only is building muscles good for your overall health (I don’t want to become a frail old lady that needs help doing everything!) but strength training increases bone density, helps with your balance and sleep, and is helpful in preventing tons of diseases and disorders like arthritis, among other health benefits, and not to mention burning fat!
Strength training exercises, such as weightlifting, are important because they help counteract muscle loss associated with aging. And since muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue does, muscle mass is a key factor in weight loss. — Mayo Clinic
10 // YOU ARE ONLY COMPETING WITH YOURSELF
Trust me, everyone is working so hard in the class they aren’t watching how good or bad you are doing. Nor do they care. Everyone is so focused on their own workout and their own body, you are the last thing on their mind (except the instructor who is watching your form). When seasoned CrossFitters finish a workout early, they will usually cheer on anyone who is still doing the workout. Or they are exhausted on the floor catching their breath — again, not focused on where you are at in your workout. So if you are worried about being last and people watching you, trust me, it doesn’t matter and it’s not really a thing. I’m almost always last anyway and I don’t care one bit because I’m just focused on getting the workout done!
There you have it — 10 reasons to give CrossFit a try. Maybe after a few times you’ll still hate it (I still hate spin) or maybe you will fall in love with it and become obsessed and change your body!
Just so you know where I’m at with it, I’ve only been back at it since February (and am definitely one of the weakest, if not the weakest girl at my gym), and during the past few months I’ve been out of town a lot and not keeping it up while out of town. But while I’m home in DC I’m very good about going (helps that my box is like 20 steps away from where I live). I need to do better about working out when I travel.
One thing I want to do more of is stretching and yoga. Stretching isn’t usually a part of the hour-long workout, and I think it should be, or you need to make it a point to do it on your own after class. I also think I’ll be hitting up yoga at least once a week. CrossFit makes me feel a little tight, and I think stretching is really important. Back when I was doing CrossFit and yoga each 3x a week I felt amazing!
Have you tried CrossFit before? What did you think?