What Is CrossFit? A Beginner's Guide
Posted on 8th April 2021 at 13:17
An introduction to CrossFit. Is this fitness phenomenon for you?
If you’re into fitness you’ve probably heard the word CrossFit bouncing around.
An intriguing term whispered behind the leg press at your local gym.
Maybe you’ve got a friend who won’t stop going on about it?
CrossFit has certainly risen in popularity over the last 10 years, going from a cult-favourite to a staple fitness brand.
Don’t know what it is or heard enough about it that you want to know more?
We’ve got the lowdown here.
And if you’re based in Hull or East Yorkshire and fancy trying one out why not check out the offerings in Hull and Beverley.
What is CrossFit?
CrossFit is a unique strength and conditioning training philosophy, a global brand and a sport.
As a fitness regimen it is the trademarked product of the company CrossFit but it’s also become a popular way of improving physique and cardiovascular fitness.
It’s big selling point is its universal scalability and emphasis on building a supportive fitness community.
Whilst the workouts can be incredibly intense and physically demanding, the load and intensity can be scaled up or down to suit everyone from hardened athletes to complete beginners.
The program of workouts stays the same across the board however and CrossFit gyms (known as Boxes) are known for their supportive and encouraging environment in which people are encouraged to cheer each other on. Coaches are also on hand to help and support those tackling the exercises.
A Box near you
Due to its popularity and growth, there is now a CrossFit box in most cities across the UK and indeed across the world. Many places have two or more.
Head to the Find A Gym map on the official CrossFit website and you will see big numbers covering most regions of the world.
Each affiliated CrossFit box will have all the necessary equipment needed to complete the workouts prescribed by CrossFit and a qualified team of staff who lead the workouts and support the members.
Not only is it popular with members of the public but it’s had a longstanding association with military and police training, particularly in the United States, as it serves as the primary means of fitness training for those organisations.
The aim of the training is to improve fitness and proficiency in each of the following areas:
- Cardiovascular and respiratory endurance
So, that’s the basics. If you were to sign up, what would a typical session at a CrossFit box look like?...
A typical CrossFit workout
The CrossFit regimen primarily revolves around a specific workout prescribed each day and made public on the official website.
It’s called the Workout of the Day or WOD, one of a number of CF specific acronyms.
People turning up to their local box for the first time should get a decent introduction to what it’s all about and a basic bodyweight workout. A typical session would then include a warmup, the WOD, which could take anywhere from 10 minutes to half an hour and a warm down and stretching to finish.
These WOD’s are a form of High Intensity Interval Training involving a combination of exercises focusing on different muscle groups.
Instructors, coaches and other members of the box will walk around whilst people are doing their workouts, offering support and keeping track of people’s progress.
A good box should encourage good form during exercises and should avoid creating an environment in which injuries are more likely to happen.
Should I join CrossFit?
So, how do you know if CrossFit is for you?
Although their central mantra is one of inclusivity and acceptance of various body types, the reality is it’s not for everyone.
The reason for that isn’t necessarily physical fitness but there are some things to think about before deciding whether or not you want to choose CrossFit over simply going to a regular gym.
CrossFit is for you if…
1. You want to get started with weight training
If you’re new to weight training and have always found the prospect of picking up a barbell at a regular gym daunting, then CrossFit is a great, supportive place to try it out.
Women particularly can be put off from trying weights at a normal gym due to the weights area being dominated by men. It can also be a judgemental environment for anyone who is totally new to the exercise.
At CrossFit you can start at a weight you’re comfortable with and get support and coaching along the way, to make sure you are maintaining proper form.
2. You’re looking for community
One of the biggest selling points for CrossFit is its emphasis on community and the natural camaraderie that develops as a result of group training sessions.
It’s certainly a level up from what you would get at any normal gym and if you’re not already part of a sports club, this could be the one.
3. You’re motivated by competition
Many people will lack the motivation to go to a normal gym regularly unless they have a personal trainer. The desire to get fit often isn’t enough to motivate us to do the work.
Competitive sport on the other hand has that extra motivation to get you going. This is another thing which sets CrossFit apart.
Boxes will have leaderboards for each daily workout which can be checked using the CF app and there will be regular competitions throughout the year measuring performance in a range of strength and conditioning disciplines.
At the peak of performance, it’s also an increasingly popular athletic sport in its own right. The UK national competition Strength in Depth takes place every year and acts as qualification for the international competition, the CrossFit games.
4. You work out most days
If you’re already a big fitness fan and regularly go to the gym then you will likely already have the motivation for CrossFit.
Many members confess to the competitive nature and fresh program of workouts being addictive. As such there is an expectation that most members will go along most nights of the week, with a couple of recommended rest days of course.
5. You’re happy to put your body to work
There’s no doubt about it, CrossFit is hard work.
If you want a proper workout, then this is for you. If you just want to train cardio and maybe try out a few weights machines then you don’t need CrossFit.
If you turn up at a box, prepare to be challenged and come away exhausted but fulfilled. Because of the timed nature of the workouts, those who are super competitive will want to push their bodies to the limit.
6. You want coaching whilst you train
As we’ve already mentioned, a big part of CrossFit, is the coaching provided by the staff. This level of support and training is something you wouldn’t get unless you paid for a personal trainer. This way you can actually guarantee that you are getting obvious physical returns for the money you spend on going to the gym.
Image: Rogue Fitness
CrossFit isn’t for you if…
1. You want to specialise in a specific area
CrossFit aims to reach as close to peak performance across a range of fitness disciplines and prides itself on having workouts that incorporate many different exercises.
As such, it’s not for those who are wanting to focus specifically on one area such as training legs or solely doing weightlifting.
Taking that route is fine of course but you’re not going to find what you’re looking for here.
Equally if you’re training for a specific sport, CrossFit may not fit in with the regimens focused on improving your performance in that sport. Whether you’re a footballer or a cyclist there will be certain parts of the body you will want to train more than others.
2. You want a budget workout option
This could be number one as for a lot of people it may end up being the deciding factor.
The fact is, CrossFit isn’t cheap and although prices vary slightly, from box to box and city to city, it can be prohibitively expensive compared to a regular gym.
We’re talking £70+ per month in the UK, compared to the £20/30 or so you might spend at a regular gym.
Many would argue this is more than justified. You’re paying for the invaluable coaching time provided by the staff after all. You’re also guaranteed decent quality equipment and that welcoming community spirit is definitely worth something too!
Nonetheless, for some people it will be hard to justify.
If you’re still interested in the idea of CrossFit and want to take part in the WOD’s, you can still do that at your regular gym or even at home. The workouts are posted for free every day online. The difference of course will be that you won’t have the coaching or support.
3. You want to go solo
This should be obvious by now from what we’ve said about community but to reiterate, if you’re looking for a meditative solo workout, you won’t find it here.
Some people use the gym as part of their morning routine to gather their thoughts and sharpen their mind. You’re unlikely to get that sort of space and alone time if you go to a CrossFit box.
4. You’re only a casual gym goer
Safe to say if you only usually go to the gym once or even twice a week, then CrossFit probably isn’t worth the money and you probably won’t get as much out of it.
5. You don’t want a significant change in lifestyle
Ok, so CrossFit isn’t a cult, no matter what some might say, but the combination of special names, a tight knit community and the addictive nature of the competition, could make it seem a little like that at times.
From the outside and to anyone that knows a CrossFit fan it can seem like its members have an almost religious devotion to it.
If you aren’t ready to welcome a big lifestyle change and become a part of the worldwide CrossFit community, maybe you’ll want to stay away from the madness.
Still, its worldwide success would probably suggest it must be pretty good and worth a try!
Don’t let all that stop you from trying
Having said all that, it’s worth mentioning that most boxes will let you try out a session for free before you join. If you’re considering it, it’s definitely worth giving it a whirl to see if it’s for you.
Even if you originally only plan to go a couple of times a week you may find that you actually love it and it fits nicely into your routine.
How To Join CrossFit
Picking a gym is as much about the coaching staff and the community as it is about equipment or anything else. Because of this you may want to try out a few of the boxes in your area, if there is more than one, before you settle on the one you want to go to.
Ask questions like ‘how welcoming and supportive are they?’, ‘what’s the atmosphere like?’ and ‘are the coaches actively helping?’
You can also see on each affiliated box’s website, what qualifications the staff which will help you determine how good the quality of the training will be. There are a number of accredited CrossFit and standard training qualifications that will indicate different levels of competency.
See what’s in your area, do a free session, get a feel for it and join up if it’s for you.
If you’re based in Hull like us, there are a few boxes in this area. CrossFit Hull and Humber have two sites, one in Anlaby and one in Sutton Fields. There is also another CrossFit box near Beverley. Be sure to check those sites out and get in touch with the teams there for a free trial session.
For those wanting to get on the coaching side, we don’t do a specific CrossFit qualification but we do offer a number of other personal training qualifications that will certainly help you on your way to being a trainer in any gym but particularly a CrossFit one.
Get in touch and we’d be happy to help with any questions you may have.
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