After nearly three years of CrossFit, the phrase, “I’ve learned a lot” doesn’t even begin to cover it. But there are a handful of things I’ve learned that I wish I’d known when I started. If you’re just starting out or think you might want to, hopefully these key lessons will help you. And if you’ve been a CrossFit athlete for a while, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to relate!
1. CrossFit Can Be Whatever You Want It to Be
Whether you’re looking to change up your gym routine, learn about weightlifting, or become a competitive athlete, your CrossFit experience is completely unique to you. The fact that the workouts are constantly varied makes CrossFit an ideal all-around fitness program and the community atmosphere makes it easy to stay motivated. But the intensity also makes CrossFit an ideal outlet if you’re a competitor at heart like I am. Bottom line? Whether you start CrossFit to get in shape or to qualify for the CrossFit Games, it’s a sport with room for any and every type of goal and skill set.
2. There’s Always Room to Improve…
When I started at CrossFit Love in the spring of 2011 after 13 years as a competitive swimmer and a few years as a gym rat, it became obvious that being fast was something I’d need to work on. Whether it was sprinting, exploding out of the bottom of a squat, or getting under the bar quickly on the Olympic lifts, I never worked to develop speed and explosive power in past athletic pursuits. I can’t begin to count the number of times I heard, “Katie, don’t be slow!” from my coaches and teammates in an effort to get me comfortable with moving fast.
Admittedly, I skipped a handful of workouts in the first few months that involved running and other movements I wasn’t good at. But, as I quickly learned, those movements keep showing up and the only way to get better is to tackle your weaknesses head on. There are still movements I struggle with, but seeing improvement has been an incredible experience. And that drive to be the best version of myself is part of what keeps me coming back every day.
3. …And There Are Going To Be Things It Takes Your Longer To Figure Out Than You Think It Should
The beauty of CrossFit is that no matter how good we get at a given exercise, there’s always going to be a movement or a workout we’re not as proficient in. I remember thinking, “This is ridiculous, my legs are strong enough, why are pistols so hard for me?” and “if I could jump rope when I was eight, why did it take me six months to figure out double unders?”
We’ll all have strengths and weaknesses when we start; the only way to get better is to be in an environment where you’ll have people to push you and help you. And some movements, like the snatch, which is an Olympic event in and of itself, are infinitely complex. We all have to start somewhere and it’s so, so important to take CrossFit’s “leave your ego at the door” mentality to heart. Sometimes, the biggest obstacles to your progression are your own expectations and perceived limitations.
4. You Don’t Need To Be In Shape to Start CrossFit
As a coach, and even as an athlete in conversation with friends and family, I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve heard a variation of, “I can’t start CrossFit; I’m not in shape and it looks so hard!” Anyone, and I mean anyone, can do CrossFit.
The CrossFit program is designed for universal scalability, meaning load (weight) and intensity can be modified depending on your skill level. Everything from bodyweight movements like push-ups to weighted movements like squats can be scaled. There’s no ideal age, weight, shape, or size for a beginning CrossFit athlete. At CrossFit Love, our coaches pride ourselves on their ability to work with anyone who is willing to work hard and keep an open mind. It’s a blast working out with and coaching people with a variety of backgrounds. Read up on our three levels of programming, all geared toward folks with different goals and experiences.
5. It Doesn’t Have To Be the Only Thing You Do, but It Can Be
“We encourage and expect our athletes to engage in regular sports efforts in addition to all of their strength and conditioning work.” – Greg Glassman
On a recent backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon, I had extended conversations with a new friend who wanted to try CrossFit, but wasn’t sure she’d be accepted into the community if CrossFit wasn’t the only thing she did. She didn’t think she could be an “all or nothing” CrossFit athlete based on her passion for other activities like distance running and outdoor sports. But she gave it a try, and now, she’s an active participant in the CrossFit community where she lives all while still getting outdoors and running.
When I started at CrossFit Love, I quickly discovered that CrossFit was my sport of choice, but it’s not that way for everyone. If you’re an avid participant in other fitness-related activities, CrossFit can be a great way to supplement your training, but it doesn’t have to be your only sport – unless you want it to be.
6. It’s Okay/Really Important To Be Aggressive
As an inherently non-aggressive person, it took me a long time to understand how important it is to approach the barbell or any workout without an ounce of hesitation or fear. It wasn’t normal for me to be loud, throw barbells around, make noise, or to be assertive in my movements. I was afraid to embrace the aggression I saw my teammates exhibiting. Would they think it was weird, or silly? Would being aggressive really make me a better athlete?
I quickly learned that being able to be aggressive and assertive was a direct result of confidence and the belief that I could do whatever it was I wanted to do that day. In CrossFit and in weighlifting, it’s so important to approach the bar or the workout with confidence. Trust in your training, even if you’ve just started, and approach each movement with a purpose. It really does make a difference!
7. It Has the Potential to Change Your Life
Though I started at CrossFit Love just to stay in shape, I’m grateful for how my experience there continues to change the way I see myself. Strength is commended and encouraged. Our bodies are celebrated for what they can do and not what they look like. We don’t have mirrors to analyze and critique aesthetics, and how I’m perceived is the furthest thing from my mind when I walk in the gym door. I spend at least an hour a day with people who are dedicated, motivated, inspired, inspiring, and full of energy. CrossFit Love is my home away from home, my safe place, and a place I can go where I know I’ll always feel comfortable. If you’re open, setting foot in a CrossFit gym just might change how you see yourself, too.
I could go on for days about what I wish I knew when I started and what I know now. If you’re a CrossFit enthusiast, what do you wish you knew in your first few months? If you’re considering starting out, what’s keeping you from giving it a try? Leave a comment!