Getting Started In CrossFit
CrossFit is more than just a sport, it's a community and a way of life. This guide will be your one-stop manual for getting into CrossFit for the first time and will cover everything from snatches to WODs to poods and everything in between.
You don't have to be fit to get started
This is probably the most important thing to note. A lot of people will put off trying a new sport or hobby for fear of being too unfit. CrossFit is accessible to everyone thanks to their scaled workouts. Whether you're unfit or have a disability, there's something for everyone. Don't let your nerves or insecurities hold you back and just dive straight in.
You will sweat and cry a lot
CrossFit is a notoriously tough sport. They don't crown the CrossFit Games champions as the Fittest On Earth for nothing! You have to have the motivation and the right attitude before you start. It has to be your decision and you have to own it; if you've been coaxed into it by someone else you'll be starting with the wrong attitude and you'll find it way harder than it needs to be. Be ready to sweat a lot and cry a lot, but reap the benefits and rewards at the end of a tough WOD.
Find a local CrossFit gym, known as a 'Box'
If you really want to dive straight in and hit this sport hard, finding your local CrossFit gym will help you get there. A CrossFit gym is known as a box and there are affiliates all over the world. You can find your local box through an internet search or by checking out affiliates on the official CrossFit website. A box will have all the proper CrossFit-specific equipment that you need, as you may not get a full workout at a commercial gym. Getting professional advice by an accredited trainer will also stop you from developing bad habits and will be available to give you advice along the way.
However, you don't have to join a box to be able to practice CrossFit. They can come with expensive memberships and you'll have to do a foundation course before you can participate in the classes. A commercial gym will have most of the equipment you need, and some people even just train out of a garage. Use what you have and don't feel like you're missing out just because you're not a member of an exclusive club or gym.
Know the jargon
There's a lot of sport-specific terminology used in CrossFit which you won't have come across before. Knowing what people are talking about is important if you want to join in on discussions about performance, and so that you know what workout you should be doing! Here are the basics:
WOD - Workout Of the Day. A daily workout published on the CrossFit website which CrossFitters all over the world will tackle and post their results to the public forum. A WOD is also a general term to refer to any CrossFit workout.
Pood - This is a Russian term which is a unit of measurement equalling just over 16kg. It is generally used for kettlebell workouts.
Rx - This is the prescribed way a workout should be completed, with set weights and times/reps. If you Rx a WOD, it means you completed it exactly how it was written. Alternatively, you can 'scale' a workout which might involve reducing the weights or swapping out an exercise. The CrossFit community is one of acceptance and inclusion, so scaling a workout is never anything to be ashamed of.
MetCon - Short for Metabolic Conditioning. This is typically a workout that doesn't involve heavy lifts, and consists more of a body weight circuit style workout. There is also a very popular CrossFit shoe by Nike called the 'MetCon'.
Double Under - This is a movement in skipping whereby the rope passes under your feet twice before they hit the ground. It's a tough movement and you won't be able to do it straight away without practice.
Practise the lifts
CrossFit is unique as it involves so many different physical disciplines: gymnastics, weightlifting, running, cycling, swimming, rope climbing... you name it, CrossFit will have you doing it! CrossFit will train you as a well-rounded athlete and with the right dedication you will develop unrivalled fitness. Think triathlons are impressive? Pro CrossFitters do Ironman triathlon as a warm up!
However, this can be overwhelming to a beginner. The only way to improve is to practise! If you go into the sport expecting to be perfect at it straight away, you'll be left feeling frustrated. CrossFit adopts a lot of really technical moves that athletes will spend their whole lives perfecting. Take your time and practise the exercises that you find the toughest. Scale a workout if you need to and take it easy. Some of the more difficult moves include things like handstand push ups, double unders, rope climbs, and weightlifting moves like the clean & jerk and the snatch. Learn these moves properly from scratch before trying to incorporate them into WODs and build yourself up slowly and gradually.
Know the stars of the sport
The CrossFit Games is the annual pinnacle of the CrossFit calendar. It's the event in which the fittest athletes in the world will congregate and compete to be crowned Fittest On Earth. As with most sports, there are star players, but CrossFit is open to anyone in the qualification stages so often there are rookie competitors too.
Fraser is the athlete to watch and is the proud holder of the title of Fittest Man on Earth. He is four-time winner of the games (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019), equalling Rich Froning's record. He's competed in the games since 2014 and has proven how hungry he is for the sport and to be recognised as the fittest man on earth. He has spent years honing his technique and perfecting his lifts and it really shows.
Until Fraser won his fourth consecutive games in 2019, Froning held the record for winning the games the most amount of times, having claimed the title four years in a row from 2011 to 2014. He has won over $1 million in prize money from his wins and is sponsored by global sports brands like Reebok, Rogue Fitness, and Oakley. He is renowned in the sport and partly retired after his 2014 win. He now competes in the team events with his team Mayhem Freedom who are reigning team champions.
While Greg Glassman is the founder of CrossFit, Dave Castro is the face most people recognise as he hosts the games each year and it was at his family ranch in 2009 that the first ever CrossFit Games took place. His personality gets him mixed reviews and some even claim he has 'ruined' the sport. Nevertheless, he is one of the most important figures in CrossFit and it's him you will see on the floor announcing the next WOD in the Games and mixing with all the athletes.
Davidsdottir is one of three Icelandic powerhouses who dominate the female side of the sport. She has won the games twice, 2015 and 2016, after a mental setback in 2014. She was originally a track athlete and gymnast and her sporting background has clearly stood her in good stead for CrossFit glory.
Despite never actually winning the games, Sara is a leading figure in the sport of CrossFit. Sponsored by Nike, she is another of the Icelandic dynamos and has a very likeable personality making her the perfect CrossFit athlete to watch. She unfortunately suffered a bad injury during the 2018 games which caused her to withdraw and she continued to struggle in 2019. Only time will tell if she will be able to recover enough to challenge Tia-Clair Toomey's title.
Toomey is an Australian weightlifter who represented her country in the 2016 Olympics only a few weeks after appearing at the CrossFit games. With her background in lifting, she is a strong competitor and now has three consecutive CrossFit Games wins to her name – 2017, 2018, and 2019. She is now the one to beat and is sure to train as hard as possible to hold on to her title.
Follow the WODs
Each day, a new WOD is released on the CrossFit website. CrossFitters from around the globe are invited to have a go, Rx'd or scaled, and post their results in the forum. Some WODs are for time, some for reps, some for rounds. The beauty of CrossFit is how varied the workouts are and you never know what you're going to get. You have to be ready for anything, from a heavy lifting session to a gruelling run, which is why it conditions your fitness so well. Have a go at any of the WODs that are published and compare your results to others so you can see where you stand.
The biggest WODs in the CrossFit arsenal are the Hero Workouts. Each workout is named after a member of the armed forces who died in combat and they are always notoriously tough workouts. Some of the most renowned are Murph, DT, and Fran, with true enthusiasts marking their territory by asking newbies "What's your Fran time?" All this means is how long did it take you to complete this particular workout. All of the Hero Workouts can be found on the CrossFit website and traditionally one is always completed on Memorial Day in the US.
The CrossFit Games
The CrossFit Games are the pinnacle of the CrossFit year. Held every August in Madison, Wisconsin, USA, the games showcase the best of the best and pit the top athletes from around the world against one another to claim the title of Fittest On Earth.
The CrossFit Games have various unique aspects which set them apart from other annual sporting events (such as the Tour de France for cycling or Wimbledon for tennis). First, the events for the games are only announced that day and none of the athletes know what to expect. This keeps the element of surprise and means that athletes have to train everything and stay well-rounded rather than knowing what events are going to be included and only training for them. It also means that the events are more fair as some athletes are better at heavy lifting, some better at cardio, and some better at gymnastics.
Another unique aspect of CrossFit (which we love) is that in many events the men and women compete together. In some cases, the women beat the men, proving that women are equal to men in physical capability. Events like the Tour de France which do not even have a female version could take note. For example, in the 2019 CrossFit Games, individual event 9 was a swim-paddle consisting of a 1,000m swim followed by a 1,000m paddle. Ten men and ten women took part and the overall winner was a woman, Tia-Clair Toomey, who beat all 10 of the fittest men on earth in this particular event.
So you want to try CrossFit
CrossFit can get a bad rap by some people, usually bodybuilders who have never tried a CrossFit WOD and don't understand what it's all about and just follow what other people say. CrossFit is an awesome sport as it is totally inclusive and everyone encourages one another to succeed. It is open to anyone and you could even be the next champion if you work hard enough.
So, get started! Study the WODs, learn the lingo, watch the Games, and get involved. You will be amazed at how fun it is and how incredibly fit you will get in a short amount of time. Have fun!