As a sage person in our office noted, CrossFit is the polar opposite of Fight Club. The first rule of CrossFit is ‘you always talk about CrossFit’.
And it certainly seems that the high-intensity strength and conditioning movement attracts some evangelical devotees, whose constant Facebook posts about WODs and muscle-ups make you reach for the block button.
For those who haven’t tried the hour-long functional workouts – founded in California in 2000 – the very idea of it can be a bit intimidating. Sessions focus on bodyweight exercise, high-intensity aerobic exercise and Olympic weightlifting, and can feature a range of torturous looking equipment including barbells, kettle bells, pull-up bars and gymnastic rings (gulp).
But actually, there’s nothing to fear – no, not even those ridiculously large weights. I went along to a session with Team Reebok UK, a newly formed team of top UK CrossFit athletes representing Reebok in CrossFit competitions. And, despite my reservations, I bloomin’ loved it. If a weedy little noob like me can take the plunge, you have nothing to fear.
We asked some of theTeam Reebok UK athletes how to face CrossFit head on. And win.
1. Don’t be put off by the lack of a sauna
If you’re used to a swanky gym with rows of gleaming treadmills and a hot tub, many CrossFit ‘gyms’, or boxes as they’re known, can look a bit rough and ready. Tucked away in back streets, under railway arches and in old warehouses, they can seem like the type of place 80s doormen train, full of weights and metal. But they’re actually very welcoming environments.
Everyone’s there for the same reason, to improve their fitness
“I get how entering a box can seem intimidating, “ says Jordan Wallace, owner of Reebok CrossFit Tyneside. “But once you step over the threshold, everything changes.
“CrossFit is all about acceptance. We have people at my box who are ex-professional athletes and others who hadn’t done any exercise for years, but everyone encourages each other. After all, whatever their starting point, everyone’s there for the same reason, to improve their fitness.”
2. It’s not just for bros
The world’s most famous CrossFit athlete is four-times CrossFit champion Rich Froning, and it’s easy to imagine all CrossFitters resemble this glistening ball of American muscle. They don’t.
Yes, there will be some strong, muscled people in a session, there will also be slim people, overweight people, short people, tall people – just like life eh? There’s also an even gender split, estimated to be nearly 50% male to female.
3. You don’t need to be able to do a pull up (or even a press-up)
During a CrossFit session you’ll usually have a warm up, a skills section, a high-intensity section called the workout of the day (WOD), and stretching. The WOD can sound a bit hairy as it involves things like weights work and bodyweight exercises such as ‘toes to bar’ – literally hanging from a bar and using your core strength to bring your toes up to meet it.
The coach will run through the moves and offer easier or harder variations so you get a good workout, whatever your level
Before you panic, that’s what the skills section is for. The coach will run through the moves, make sure everyone’s doing them correctly, and offer easier or harder variations so you get a good workout, whatever your level.
Don’t be tempted to compete with others before you’re ready, there’s nothing wrong with doing press ups on your knees, and everyone else will be too busy concentrating on their own workout to care. You may also find that your box offers Foundation sessions, designed to teach the basic moves to first-timers.
4. It’s not really a cult
People aren’t plugged into their headphones like they might be in a gym, so you get to build relationships
People do seem to get well into CrossFit, but apparently it’s got nothing to do with brainwashing. “CrossFit is a real community,” says Matt Thompson of Reebok CrossFit 3D in Manchester. “If you’ve tried team sports before, it’s a similar experience.
“Everyone cheers each other on to do their best. People aren’t plugged into their headphones like they might be in a gym so you get to build relationships. It’s like a very supportive club.”
5. You don’t need to learn a new language
With all this talk of WODs and boxes, it can seem like CrossFitters have their own secret language, but don’t let that put you off. If there are new people in a session a coach will explain any unusual terminology, and if they don’t – ask!
“We use a lot of acronyms, like AMRAP, which stands for ‘as many reps as possible’,” says Hilary Riordan, owner of Guerilla Fitness CrossFit Clonakilty, Ireland. “But once you’re doing a workout, they all make sense. It’s just a quicker way of saying things.”
To find out more about CrossFit visit crossfit.com