Like many folks, CrossFit was something I wrote off. I had a lot of ideas about it being too hard, too dangerous, not for everyone, not comprehensive enough, too skill-based - I could go on.
But now, after a year as a CrossFit athlete (disclaimer: I'm not a CrossFit coach), I want to share my perspective. No... I need to.
When I started writing this post I titled it, "Why I tried CrossFit." Then I added - "and you should too."
Here are my 5 reasons why I think you should have an open mind and give CrossFit a try - at least once!
1. CrossFit isn't for everyone, but it can be for you.
CrossFit was created to help people become cross-fit - meaning: fit across multiple disciplines from strength to olympic lifting to cardio to gymnastic skills.
The programming reflects this. There will be days when you train for strength and days you train skill-work, all to become a well-rounded athlete. There are definitely movements I won't do and don't do, but there are also movements everyone should be doing, like heavy deadlifts and squats.
I believe there is something for everyone and that everyone has a natural strength - things they are innately good at and enjoy learning and doing. Maybe you love to lift heavy. Or maybe you're a natural technician and can make adjustments to your lifting or skills quickly. Maybe you are stuck in a rut and you need a challenge, a skill to learn and become better at.
The best part is that every single movement in CrossFit is scaleable. That means: there's a version of every movement for everyone.
Can't do a pull-up? Here's a band to assist you. Can't figure out the band? Here are rings to do ring rows. Same movement pattern, just a different method.
In CrossFit, you can start anywhere and grow, whether you're a beginner or an elite athlete.
2. The community will astound you.
If you want to feel 100% supported by a small group of athletes and 1:1 coaching, you need to try this sport.
CrossFit has something rare: a deep sense of community. Onlookers and naysayers may call it "a cult," and they are entitled to their opinion, but I will tell you this:
If you try a class, you will be welcomed, and you will feel like you belong.
There's a culture inside CrossFit that's challenging and supportive at the same time. You'll go head-to-head and push each other hard - but then give each other high-fives and smile in a pile of sweat on the floor when it's all over.
Try a class - or better yet, a week of classes - and you will see and feel community like you've never seen before.
Okay, so maybe you're rolling your eyes right now and imagining me drinking purple Kool-aid. That's cool. If you love the way you workout and don't want to try CrossFit, rock on. I get it. For you, trying CrossFit may confirm that you are a lone weight room ranger - or it may open your eyes to a totally different experience that you might just enjoy.
3. Getting in the box takes you out of the box.
I started CrossFit because I wanted to step up my game. I wanted a new challenge, new skills, and to get back into lifting heavy again with the programming already set for me. I wanted to just show up and train.
If you're the bodybuilder type who loves to lift with a trainer or solo, that's cool. But trying out CrossFit will challenge you in ways you never expected. Give it a shot and try something outside your comfort zone, different than how you normally train.
If you loved the workout and loved the chance for new challenges, then give it a go! Bodybuilding isn't going anywhere - and who says you can't do both?!
4. You will find great (and not-so-great) coaches.
Trying out a CrossFit gym doesn't mean you have to join it. Like any gym or training facility, there are good ones and bad ones.
There are also good coaches and terrible ones. ((Truth bomb alert))
You need to stay safe when you're doing these complex and sometimes dangerous lifts. This is why everyone needs a great coach.
First, they should do an evaluation and prescribe movements for you that will be challenging, but still doable. Look for a coach that scales the exercises to you at your current strength and skill level. A good coach is hands-on and ensures safety first.
Then, when you're competent in a move, executing it safely and correctly, your coach will start helping you progress.
What to look out for and avoid? A coach who hands you a monster kettlebell and tells you to do American KB swings over your head in your first class. RUN.
If, after your first workout, you are so smashed you literally can't move for a week - RUN.
If you're given too much too soon, and pushed too hard, the chances are pretty high: you had a crappy coach. (You can be mad at me if you want and disagree with me, but I'll go to the mat on safety and technique any day.)
Trying out a box and a coach before you buy helps you weed out the turds. Unfortunately, they are out there and they are probably in every gym - CrossFit or otherwise.
5. CrossFit can fit with other types of training.
You don't have to JUST do CrossFit. In fact, this is the reason I love CrossFit the most! It cross-trains me to teach Les Mills classes, AND I can adjust my CF workouts around my teaching schedule.
If I teach a cardio class at the gym, I'll stick to the weight training options in CrossFit and opt out of Metabolic Conditioning (METCON's).
If I teach a BODYPUMP® class, I'll do the metabolic training in CrossFit.
Adding CrossFit with other disciplines and styles of training can be a great way to improve your fitness. If you're a fitness pro like me, it can help you be more of a role model athlete when you teach and train others.
Now, if you're teaching 20 group fitness classes a week (side bar: let's have a chat about that -- but that's a totally different conversation) and work full-time and can't add more training in your life, it may not be for you. But if you're a fitness pro, it may be worth taking a look at and you may want to consider scaling back other forms of exercise temporarily to take on a new challenge.
It's really easy for us - as trainers and instructors - to plateau and put other people's goals ahead of our own. Just like our clients and class members, we need to change to reach our goals, too.
Try Everything Once
CrossFit isn't for everyone. Neither is group fitness. Neither is Star Wars (but it should be).
I feel this way about ALL types of exercise and my advice is this: JUST TRY IT. At least once. Try boxing. Try cycling - inside and outside. Try hot yoga. Try the boutique gym that just opened up. Try it all and see what's out there. See what feels good and what lights you up.
Then, DO YOU. I believe 100% with my whole heart and whole soul in Les Mills®-- in the effectiveness of the workouts, the coaching, the music, the incredible and qualified instructors-- everything.
But I also believe you can move in lots of different ways - and for me that includes CrossFit.
Find what you love. Move your body. Try something new. I didn't write this to convert everyone to become CrossFit athletes, but I think everyone should try it at least once.
Everyone needs to find the style of movement that wakes you up inside and say, "THIS. THIS IS FOR ME."
Whatever that is for you - find it. Do it. And keep doing it.