A CrossFit beginner guide to getting in shape, feeling amazing, and learning to love exercise again.
Bored with your usual workout routine? Looking for a gym alternative?
Ready to try something new to lose weight, get in shape, increase your energy, and feel motivated?
Heard about one of the fastest growing sports in the world, CrossFit? Have you heard how it can help transform people from overweight, bored gym rats into enthusiastic, energy-filled, fit people? Before we talk about the advantages CrossFit has over regular gyms, let's look at some misconceptions.
CrossFit FAQ, Myths, and Misconceptions
Have you heard it mentioned that CrossFit is difficult? Anything that gets big results in life is not easy. But getting started doesn’t have to be hard. CrossFit welcomes newbies and even offers programs for beginners. If you're out of shape, don't worry. That gives you goals to achieve.
We'd like to dispel the myth that CrossFit is scary. And while we're at it, let's dispel some other myths created by people that have never even taken a class.
CrossFit Is For Everyone
As CrossFit instructors, one of the first questions we get goes like this:
Do I have to be in amazing shape to do a CrossFit workout?
The answer is no. Everyone, and I mean everyone, can take part. Will you be able to complete a high-level workout with Olympic lifts? Most likely you won’t, especially if you’re a beginner or new to exercise. But don’t let that stop you. You’ll find that the CrossFit community is more welcoming than the average soulless gym community (which is non-existent, in most cases). Newbies are welcome. We love having beginners at the gym. New members are treated like family, particularly if they show enthusiasm. And that’s all that’s required. Enthusiasm will get you a long way. And the beauty of CrossFit is that there’s always something new to learn. Always a new challenge. Things will never get stale and CrossFitters help each other to achieve their goals. Trust us, you can’t lose.
CrossFit Will Not Make You Look Like A Bodybuilder
The second question often goes like this:
Will I get huge by doing CrossFit?
No. Not if you don't want to. Leaving aside the men for the moment, most ladies would prefer not to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. The sight of so many super-buff CrossFit athletes in the media (both male and female) might put women off the sport. They don't want to get "too muscular”. But here's why gaining a few pounds of muscle is good.
1. It is very hard for female athletes to build huge muscles. Large muscle-growth (bodybuilder-style) requires extreme amounts of effort. It also requires testosterone. So don’t worry about that, girls. The top-level CrossFit athletes train 3-4 hours a day and follow diets created like laboratory experiments. They live for this. The rest of us use CrossFit to help us live better, stronger, and healthy lives.
2. Building muscle is, in fact, a fantastic way of losing fat, and toning the body. Muscle is dense. And unless you want to be a bodybuilder, it won’t appear as bulky. Dense muscle gives your body great tone and shape. It also burns lots of calories at rest. You’ll burn more calories in a short, high-intensity workout and while you're at rest, than a cardio athlete will burn in a 10km run. Once the cardio bunny stops running, they stop burning.
CrossFit Is Safe
The third question we hear goes something like:
I hear CrossFit is dangerous and lots of people hurt themselves, is that true?
People injure themselves in every sport. CrossFit is one of the safest sports, statistically speaking. The media loves to hate the new kid on the block, especially one that’s exploding in popularity. Media journalists look for outlier cases of accidents to report on. There have been unfortunate accidents in CrossFit. But more people hurt themselves on treadmills in those sterile gyms every year than in CrossFit gyms.
In a study of the injury rates of CrossFit as compared to other sports, The Journal of Human Kinetics, found that “the reported incidences of injuries associated with CrossFit training programs were comparable or lower than rates of injury in Olympic weightlifting, distance running, track and field, rugby, or gymnastics”.
We'll concede that you might pick up more injuries in CrossFit than from working out at a regular gym. But you'll never get out of that fitness rut either. The principle of progressive overload tells us that, to improve, we must make our muscles and cardiovascular systems adapt to higher intensities than we’re used to. That’s why people can spend a long time in the gym or many hours out jogging, but never get results. The body adapts to routines. If you never push yourself, you’ll be forever in the ‘average body’ category.
CrossFit is Fun
Ever tried to motivate yourself in a regular gym? The headphone-wearing selfie crew and the sea of news channel TV screens don’t inspire people. Even if you’ve never lifted a weight before, the encouragement and help from coaches and other members will motivate you. And there’s no reason to be shy. CrossFit is a sport for all-rounders. If you can move around on your own two feet, you can do CrossFit. Just scale it down when attempting more complicated stuff.
The key is to be safe. Always stay within your limits! It’s no surprise that guys injure themselves more than girls in CrossFit (and most other sports). Men's competitive instincts in sport lead them to go beyond their level. A good coach will prevent injury by guiding beginners and less experienced athletes.
Why do CrossFit?
The benefits of CrossFit are too many to list here. So here are just a few of the most important ones:
1. Get in the Best Shape of Your Life
CrossFit is a sport for everyone. It includes elements of cardio, weight training, gymnastics, flexibility, and power. It’s suitable for all ages. And older populations benefit from the higher-intensity, shorter-interval workouts. Changing your routine will get better and faster results than repeating the same tired old gym program. CrossFit workouts test your ability to adapt. The new challenges keep things fresh and keep the muscles guessing. This results in a fitter and stronger body for those that want it.
2. Banish Gym Boredom
Unlike the average gym, CrossFit boxes (the place where we train) are exciting places where you can make friends, have fun, and share experiences. Gyms, especially the chain variety, work like McDonald’s franchises and offer cheap deals based on the volume of customers they can sign up. CrossFit gyms offer group classes with trained coaches every time you go. Your coach is there to help you improve and most coaches will provide help the entire time you spend at the box. No two workouts are the same. You'll never experience Groundhog Day at a CrossFit Box.
3. Learn New Things
It’s never too late to learn new tricks. Take inspiration from Clarke Holland, a 65-year-old CrossFit Games athlete who walked into his first gym at the ripe old age of 58. It’s a CrossFit success story that should encourage anyone to start.
Learn gymnastics moves like handstand walks and muscle ups. They might look risky but in fact, they strengthen the shoulder and upper back muscles. Follow a plan that lets you progress without risk, and soon you'll be doing things you never thought you could. Walking on your hands is very difficult, but it also makes you feel like a child again. And that's why it's fun.
Olympic weight lifting takes mental strength and concentration. It’s a great way to keep the mind ticking over and extract yourself from your everyday problems. You could even consider it a kind of meditation. You don’t have to lift very heavy weight to feel the exhilaration of Olympic lifting. Scaled (less difficult) versions are available to everyone so there’s a natural progression for each movement. It might take years.
But it’s the journey, not the destination that counts, right?
4. Look Amazing
If you put your mind to it, you can achieve the body you always wanted. Short, intense workouts with both strength and cardio elements are ideal fat burners and muscle toners. Maybe you don’t want to look like athletes at the Games and that’s fine. But you’ll be training enough to get shapely shoulders, a flat stomach, and powerful, toned legs. Regular gym workouts suffer from the problem of over-training certain body parts. Guys end up with massive chests that overpower their backs, weak non-superficial abs, and puny legs. CrossFit hits the body every way and doesn’t let you get too comfortable. You’ll use muscles you never knew you had.
5. Feel Amazing
We all want to have more energy, right? We all want to feel great and enthused after a workout. Running 10km every couple of days will soon get stale. Performing legs, back, and chest split in the gym every week soon gets boring. Your energy levels will plummet once your workout routine becomes, well, routine. The last thing you want to do is make excuses for not exercising. And thrashing yourself in the gym for hours won’t do your health any good.
CrossFit, by contrast, is constantly varied. Workouts are short but intense. You won’t feel exhausted for the rest of the day and you won’t feel bored while you’re doing it. It’s no wonder that CrossFitters are known to be very enthusiastic about their sport. Once you get a few small wins under your belt, you’ll have a new enthusiasm for working out.
Get Better at Sport and Life with CrossFit
Improved balance, stronger shoulders and upper back, improved flexibility, and rock-solid legs are just some of the benefits of CrossFit that can help you with sport and daily life. Many professional athletes are getting into the sport, thanks to its crossover benefits. The same goes for non-athletes.
Interested in starting? Find a CrossFit gym near where you live and ask how you can get involved. Visit the local box to watch a class. If you’re in Wanaka or the Queenstown Lakes area, drop by and see us at CrossFit Wanaka. We’re easy to find on Gordon Rd. We’re looking forward to meeting you.
The CrossFit Wanaka Team
Photos of back squat and CrossFit Wanaka Coaches by First Light Guiding.