I get it. It seems so intense from the outside. Maybe you’ve seen the Crossfit Games on ESPN, or the Reebok ads where everyone looks all sweaty and ripped. Maybe that mom in your playgroup that’s always in Lululemon pants never stops talking about the WODs she did to “bounce back” and it seems intimidating. But you decided to give it a shot and you’re about to walk in.
Good for you!! Trying something new is, all on it’s own, a huge achievement! How many times as adults do we say: I’ve never done that before, how about I try that today! Not many, right? Just the act of taking the risk to push yourself in a new way is half the battle!
Here’s what you’re going to find: a community of people that are in this together, likely a lot of noise and not a lot of soft spaces, sweaty (possibly shirtless) people who want you to succeed, and an energy of expectation.
When athletes (because we are all athletes; yes, you too) enter a Crossfit box they’re anticipating the energy and the camaraderie of their workout, so there’s usually some conversation, maybe looking at “the board” where the workout is posted with good natured complaints or celebration, and some movement about the room as people begin to move and stretch and warm up.
Because of the community aspect of Crossfit, the box often becomes like a big living room where friends and family gather. It can be intimidating to walk into someone else’s house and stand in their living room, I totally get that! But just like any good house party- the answer is to talk to someone and make yourself at home.
At some point the Coach will call the class to gather. Usually they’ll introduce the workout or warm up and ask if anyone is new. Hey that’s you! You’re new! Speak up and say hi- you’ll be amazed at how excited the class will be to have you there. They’re stoked to have a new member of their club!
This is also when you get to own your power. There is real power in being new, real power in being open and honest. One of my mantras (and believe me, it is hard won, it did not come easy) is “Don’t Try to be Cooler Than You Are.” To me that means, give yourself permission to be exactly who you are without trying to solve the problem of fitting in.
Never touched a kettlebell? No pull-ups since the High School Physical Fitness test? Haven’t jumproped since you were 7? Congratulations! Today is your day! Let your coach know. It keeps you safe and lets them know right away to keep an eye on you- that’s their job and they’re happy to do it. There is no need to act as if you’ve done this all before, and, similarly, no reason to give away your power if you have done it before. Crossfit is come-as-you-are. That’s why it works.
Just like any community, Crossfit has lingo. If you don’t know what something means or the explanation went by too fast, it’s okay to ask- all of us heard AMRAP the first time and cocked our head like a puppy trying to figure it out (As Many Rounds/Reps As Possible).
A lot of that lingo will be related to styles of workouts or timing systems. Because Crossfit workouts are designed to be measurable (so you can easily track your progress) there are some formats for workouts or timing systems that you’ll see frequently- these things tend to get nicknames and abbreviations- don’t worry, no one expects you to know EMOM (Every Minute On the Minute) the first time you see it.
A lot of classic workouts have names too, some boxes even name every workout, so you’ll hear people talking about Fran or Grace or Badger or Murph sometimes. It’s totally okay to not have a score or a story to add to the conversation. (Want to start a chat with a crossfitter? Just ask about their favorite Fran or Murph story- eventually everyone has one!)
Okay- it’s finally time for the workout. There is a clock involved, you’ve warmed up some familiar and some unfamiliar movements, you’ve got equipment either around you or at the ready around the room and the Coach calls out 3-2-1 Go!
Remember- that clock is your friend, not your enemy. It is there, counting up or counting down the time, to help you know where you stand- not to judge you! You showed up. You already won! That clock is just there to help you measure what your effort looked like today so you have something to measure against in the future- that’s all. For a lot of us it’s been a long time since we stepped up to an athletic challenge to be judged and it can feel intimidating. Make friends with the clock. Do your best, and know that time passes- whether you’re at home telling yourself you’ll try tomorrow, or here sweating it out trying today.
An important note about Scaling.
Scaling is another word for modifying a workout. We call it scaling because the idea is to keep the scale of the challenge equal to each person in the room. That’s why many different people can be doing different things but getting the same effect in their body.
For example- one person might be sitting on the floor pulling a giant rubber band, while another person is leaning away from a set of gymnastics rings and pulling them to their chest, while another person is standing in a giant rubber band doing pull-ups and yet another person is seemingly effortlessly pulling their chest all the way to touch the bar in free- hanging pull ups. Every one of those people is doing a pull up. They look different, but the effect in their bodies is the same. They are each being challenged at the level that pushes them.
No one expects you to be anyone other than exactly who you are, where you are. Give yourself credit for all of the challenges of your life that brought you to this moment and step up to this challenge as you are. That’s how lasting change happens.
The workout is over. Congratulations! You did it!!
The Coach will now probably ask for your score. That might be a time, a number of reps or rounds, it might be the amount of weight you moved that day, or something else. Don’t be shy. Call out that score with pride. You showed up today. You showed up for yourself. You have so much to be proud of.
And now you got your first day out of the way! It wasn’t so scary after all was it? From over here, I applaud you- if you were in my class, chances are I’d give you a big sweaty hug. Let’s do it again, shall we?
Got any questions about Crossfit workouts? Stories about your first day? Did you try something new today? Tell us about it in the comments!