Change is a weird thing. We dream of living in new places, starting new habits or dropping old ones. Starting anything is hard. But a lot of what makes it hard is getting comfortable with change. As someone who goes to a CrossFit gym now, I am constantly hearing the question “can you start CrossFit out of shape?”. The answer is ABSOLUTELY. Did you read that right? I want to be clear that there was zero hesitation in my response because I truly believe CrossFit is for everyone.
Today we’re sharing some terminology, tips and other information (as seasoned, but only moderately fit CrossFitters) with you. Our hope is that by taking a look at some details of the day-to-day gym life, you will feel less intimidated to get out there and start CrossFit out of shape (or even in shape!).
Table of Contents
What to expect: Day 1
Most CrossFit gyms want you to start with a foundational class or two. These foundational classes are usually one-on-one with a coach or with a small group of other individuals new to the gym. It’s a great way to get to know the coach and possibly some other new members. During this class you can expect to get an introduction to the most common CrossFit movements that are used in workouts.
Notice that I did not say you will learn all of these movements. While CrossFit uses a ton of simple body weight movements in workouts, there are some barbell movements that can be fairly technical. Don’t go into a foundational class, struggle with a movement and feel like you are a failure. You are doing great just by showing up! The more technical movements of CrossFit take lots of practice. With lots of practice, you will slowly begin to see improvements. That feeling you get when you accomplish something you’ve been working on is one of the most addictive features about CrossFit.
Be prepared that towards the end of your foundational class, the coach may ask you to complete a small workout. Try not to get stressed about “how well” you do. The community of CrossFit knows that every person is on their own fitness journey. Every individual is there to focus and work on bettering themselves. I promise you no one is judging your speed or your time. The only person “judging” you is your coach, by making sure that your technique and form isn’t going to cause you injury.
What to expect: Your first workout
So you’ve finished a foundational class or two and today is the big day. You’re going to your first CrossFit class and you’re feeling a little nervous. Don’t be! You’re going to be great. There is no expectation of you for the workouts. However much you feel that you can put into a workout, is all that matters.
Here is a breakdown of what you can expect on a typical day for a 6am class, upon arrival:
- 5:45-5:55am: Feel free to arrive a little early. You can use this time to stretch a little, introduce yourself to people or talk to the coach about any concerns you may have.
- 6:00-6:15am: The first part of the class consists of some time to warm-up. Depending on the length of the workout and/or if there is weightlifting programmed as well, the warm-up will be longer or shorter accordingly.
- 6:15-6:20am: The coach will take some time to go over the workout and breakdown each movement. If you feel like you don’t understand a movement or the coach forgot to mention the scaled version, don’t be scared to ask! The coaches are here for you. Remember that.
- 6:20am-until 6:50am: Working out officially begins. You may start with a weightlifting portion and work through that. OR you may only have a workout programmed. If the workout has a barbell movement, you may be asked to spend some time working to a weight you feel comfortable using for the actual workout. Then, just like that, the workout will be done and you will have survived!
- 6:50-7:00am: If you have the time after a workout, I encourage you to stay and stretch. After higher impact workouts, your body will thank you for taking time to cool down and stretch it out.
How to talk the talk
Don’t feel overwhelmed if a coach or anyone at the gym starts using words or phrases you aren’t familiar with. What better way to start a conversation with someone and get to know people, then by asking a question! But if you’d like a brief explanation so you are a little more up to speed, take a look at this terminology list.
Basic CrossFit terminology
- Box: another name for a gym. In Crossfit, people like to say they go to a box, not a gym.
- WOD: the Workout Of the Day. the WOD is the planned workout for you to do that day.
- PR: personal record aka your personal best. You tend to do a lot of the same barbell movements or WODs every so often. That allows you to figure out what weight or time it typically takes you to do something. As you continue to practice and get better at those movements or WODs, you will start increasing weight or improve your time and set a PR!
- RX (or scaled): if you RX a workout, it means you did the workout as prescribed. That means you did the weight and all the movements as they were listed for the WOD. If anything differs, then you scaled the workout. Never be afraid to scale a workout. RX is for the elite athlete or used as a benchmark to work towards.
- Kipping: a kind of swinging movement that allows you perform a set of pull ups quickly.
- Toes to bar (or T2B or TTB): hanging straight down from the pull up bar, you perform a swinging motion that moves your toes up to the bar for a rep.
- Snatch: a barbell movement where you take the bar from the ground and up to an overhead position
- Clean (or clean and jerk): a barbell movement where you take the bar from the ground to a front rack position across the shoulders. A clean and jerk takes that first movement and then from the front rack position, the barbell is lifted up overhead to complete the rep.
For a more extensive list of CrossFit terms, you can read WODHOPPER’s ultimate guide.
What to bring
Technically you don’t need to bring a thing, just yourself. If you like having water nearby during workouts, feel free to bring a water bottle. But if you want to be extra prepared there are a few items you’ll see other people bring.
Knee sleeves may look a little silly but they have some great benefits. For one, they offer general support around the knee for movements like squatting. The sleeves also tend to keep the joints warm, especially in colder climates. For those working under extremely heavy weight, the knee sleeves tend to provide a sort of mental reassurance and security.
What to wear
Whatever you are comfortable working out in will be great for a CrossFit workout. If it’s extra cold where you are, you can read our post about what to wear to CrossFit in the winter. The only thing you may consider investing in (and I say investing because the shoe addiction is real with this community) is a pair of “CrossFit” shoes.
The most popular brands for CrossFit shoes are NoBull, Reebok and Nike. Each have their own special designs but they all boast a wider toe area and flatter soles. Be prepared to pick your poison, as there is a cult following around each brand!
Have a look at some of the more recent designs by brand:
NOBULL - Women's Trainer
In anything, remember that you have to start somewhere. Don’t let your self doubt tell you that you can’t do something because you aren’t this or you aren’t that. If you are asking yourself if you can start CrossFit out of shape I’m here to assure you that you can! Again, just like anything you learn to do, you have to start somewhere. So I want encourage you to start CrossFit if it is something you want to do!
I’m a guy in my sixties who goes to a local YMCA and works out alone. I need to loose weight and I’ve recently adopted a healthy, low-carb diet. I’m not interested in achieving elite fitness. I want to loose weight and be healthier and hopefully live longer. I don’t see what CrossFit has to offer me. It’s terribly expensive and doesn’t seem to have any built in time to recover from an intense workout. I think kipping pull ups are ridiculous. This should be called flopping around on a bar. I’d rather work towards doing 5 real pull ups than these. The stress on one’s shoulders must be terrible. I do step ups on a 20 inch box. Jumping on boxes seems unnecessary to me. I think I would get hurt doing this. I don’t think Olympic weight lifting for time is wise. Barbell swings over your head also puts unnecessary strain on your shoulders. I would rather exercise slowly and safely than injure myself and be unable to exercise at all. I just can’t see CrossFit’s benefits outside of meeting people. I have never needed others to motivate me to do things that I’ve wanted or needed to do.
I think all of your concerns are valid points! CrossFit, with its unique movements like kipping pull ups, is certainly not for everyone. The great thing about fitness is that there are a variety of options to move your body! At the same time, for those that are curious about trying CrossFit, a lot of the movements you described as unsafe have scaled variations. And scaling is not a bad thing! I choose to do the scaled movements because, to your point, I’d rather not fall on box. If you’re ever at a CrossFit gym and a coach encourages you to try an RX movement you are uncomfortable with, then that coach is probably not the best at coaching. Thanks for sharing your insights and opinions on the subject! It’s always nice to hear other people’s perspectives.