Stepping into a Crossfit gym for the first time can be a bit intimidating and overwhelming. You might see a bunch of half-naked hard bodies showing off their abs, ripping out kipping pull-ups and then walking on their hands to the water cooler (no really). You might ask yourself, “What the hell am I doing here?” Don’t worry, we don’t bite! It can be a lot to take in at first glance, especially if you’ve had limited exposure to Crossfit prior to stepping into a box. The following are 10 things to keep in mind as you begin your Crossfit journey.

1.) We have all been there!
When you come to your first Workout of the Day (WOD) understand that the guy that just walked on his hands to across the Box (what we call our gym) was just like you when he first came in!  Those of us who have been doing CrossFit for some time know exactly how you are feeling.  In our first workouts we were humbled, intimidated, nervous and maybe even nauseous at the end of it all.

Go at your own pace. Let the intensity find you. You need a solid foundation of strength and flexibility in order to progress into more demanding workouts. Start light, get your form down, and don’t worry about the mother of three who is deadlifting 250 as you struggle with the bar. Chase your own capacity before chasing the person next to you. Which brings me to my next point…

2.) Don’t be to proud to Scale

We can’t stress this enough!  You don’t have to do everything RX’d (prescribed).  You will ALWAYS be making a good choice to scale the weight and focus on form first.  The weight will come, we promise!  It is very difficult to break down bad form and build it back up than to start with good form and slowly gain in load and intensity.  The CrossFit programming demands that you start by learning the movements.  Once you have them down we want to see you executing them consistently….and then we add the intensity.  Regardless, you have to know your own body and its limits.

3.) Eat like an athlete

Nutrition is the key to every aspect of your life. It affects your performance, energy levels, and your ability to add lean muscle.  It influences your recovery, and your overall defense against disease.  You need to use food as fuel for your body.  You need to nourish that body so it can support the physical demands you are putting on it.  An athlete doesn’t eat junk all day, drink beer all night.  Athletes eat the food that will allow their bodies to perform at the highest possible levels.  CrossFit promotes the Paleo Diet and Zone Diets.  The simplest way to define it for our newbie is to focus on eating “clean”.  The concepts are simple:

MORE:  Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, nuts and seeds, lean protein, some starch, healthy fat and fish oil and pure water.

LESS:  Processed food, and sugar.

When you’re first starting out, the quality of your food is far more important than the quantity. If you’re eating as clean as possible, you don’t need to worry about the quantity as much anyway.

4.) You won’t “get it” the first time, second time or third time. 

Don’t get frustrated!!  Many of the movements in CrossFit are technical.  They require lots of practice.  Arguably you NEVER stop learning how to continually perfect movements such as the Snatch and Clean.  If you get mad at yourself for not correctly executing the Olympic Lifts or technical movements like a kip or muscle up on the first try you will be one very frustrated athlete.

The beauty of these movements in many ways is that they are NOT easy!  When you finally tackle a good lift with some load on the bar it will be a feeling you never forget.  When you first learn how to do a Kipping Pull Up or a Muscle up you will feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.  Everyone else will be proud of you too because we know the hard work it takes to get there.

Finally, if you don’t fully understand something, ask. If you still don’t get it, ask again. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you don’t fully grasp the concept, or you think others in the class will get frustrated with you for taking up too much time. We were all newbies at one point. We’ve all been there. Learning the mechanics of certain movements like the kip, squat, deadlift, or any of the Olympic lifts takes lots of practice and critique from a trained eye. If you need help, just ask.

5.) Crossfit Isn’t Everything
Crossfit is a strength and conditioning program that focuses on building general physical preparedness (GPP). It is quickly evolving into a sport of its own, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be your sport or your lifeblood. The CrossFit protocol is to help you be good at anything you want to do.  CrossFit’s programming is enhanced when you play other sports and take on new challenges like a road race, triathlon, adventure race etc.  You should see CrossFit as a means to help you enjoy all that life has to offer…not to BE your life.  You don’t have to be first on the leaderboard to see the results and effects that this programming will bring to your life.  Trust us!

6.) It Doesn’t Get Easier, It Just Sucks Less

The longer you immerse yourself in the suck, the less it sucks. You get stronger, build a greater aerobic capacity, and become mentally tough. All of these aspects, combined with experience, allow you to know when to push yourself and when to back off, so that you can attack each workout to the best of your ability.

7.) You Won’t PR Every Day

If you’re having a bad day and the intensity just isn’t there, you can still get a lot out of your time in the gym through hard work.  I have members coming to me a lot feeling defeated when they don’t perform up to par in a workout.  You can’t “bring it” every day, every workout.  Some seasoned CrossFit athletes say they only have 2 GREAT workouts a month!  Don’t skip a planned session just because you don’t think you’re going to kill it and leave everything out on the table. Not feeling too strong that day? That’s fine!!!  Get the most out of that workout that you can.  Perhaps slow down and work on form, scale the weights and/or rounds or time domain back. Be a cheerleader for the person next to you that IS having a great day.  The power of other members cheering you on is magical.  It will come back to you when you are having the workout of your life and we are all cheering YOU on.

8.) Have Fun

Let’s face it; some of the workouts are not fun. Frankly, some of them just plain suck. Murph anyone?? But when it’s over, you feel a sense of accomplishment.  Don’t beat yourself up because you didn’t get as many reps as the person next to you. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Smile. Laugh. Introduce yourself to people you don’t know. If you’re not having fun, why are you here? Do you enjoy your overall time spent at the gym? Do you enjoy the people, the community, the knowledge and support that it provides? Your competitive nature will mature and build here, but it’s good to be humble.

The things you’ll learn in a Crossfit gym are fun: gymnastics, Olympic lifts, even making sweat angles (David)!!  You know you can’t do this kind of stuff in your old gym.  Hopefully you will notice that your attitude is different here too.  You are going to be part of a team, and our purpose as such is to build a culture that strives to get each person better and fitter at any capacity.  This kind of supportive atmosphere and the camaraderie between members is the magic that will push you to show up and do your best.

9.) You Are All Firebreathers

The term “Firebreather” comes from Crossfit legend and bad ass Greg Amundson, and he defines it as such:

[blockquote float=”left” align=”left”]Firebreather –Fie-r-bre’-th-er: (n) 1. One who faces the triumphs and tribulations of great physical opposition with an indomitable spirit. 2. An optimistic energy associated with the heart of an athlete.[/blockquote]

You don’t have to be an “elite” Crossfitter to embody the essence of a true Firebreather. It’s not your Fran time, it’s the spirit you bring to Fran that makes you a Firebreather. Don’t forget that.

10.) Respect Rest and Recovery

Too many newbies (and even those of us who have been doing this a while) get caught up in overtraining. The importance of rest and recovery can be overstated!  Your body must have rest to effectively build lean muscle.  Working out too much is COUNTERPRODUCTIVE!!  You will work hard in every workout, don’t let that hard work go to waste by over training.   Give your body the rest it needs to make itself stronger.  If you’re killing yourself every time you step foot in the gym, week after week, month after month, year after year, you’re going to eventually break down.

Proper nutrition, hydration and sleep all play their part in recovery, but you also need to listen to your body. If you continuously beat yourself down, you’re going to get hurt, injured or worse. Stay on top of your mobility work. If you haven’t done so yet, pay a daily visit to Kelly Starrett’s MobilityWOD. The information there is invaluable.

So, what now? Get ready to start on a life changing adventure.  There will be humbling moments, highs and lows, new achievements and failures.  You’re about to start eating like a cavemen did and your vocabulary will soon include words like burpee, thruster, and snatch. Welcome to Crossfit 516!