I love working out. I'll admit it. I've gone from a former obese young adult to a healthy and fit adult. Exercise is just part of my daily routine. No questions asked. But as with any routine, things become rote and I noticed I was not only putting on a few pounds, but feeling less excited about my workouts. Many of my friends were enjoying CrossFit, a strength and endurance-based workout that takes place at specific CrossFit gyms - or boxes, as they're known - around the country (and the world.) I loved the appeal of a strength workout but I have herniated discs in my back so was concerned about injury. Well within a couple of classes I was not only hooked, I was certain that I could do this class safely. Here are some things I've learned in my few months of training: 1) Do your research. Like any gym, not all CrossFit gyms are equal. I was fortunate enough to have an amazing friend who looked up a few boxes in my area and told me what she liked about them from their websites: transparency of the WOD (Workout of the Day), instructors of all ages, lots of available class times, etc. It turned out that the box I joined also had a beginner's Foundations session which was mandatory. You had to take 6 classes upfront before you could join the rest of the group. This was beyond helpful to get me familiar with the moves and also got me going regularly and into the routine. The people seemed really nice and emphasized support and community - which was really important to me. It should be to you as well. So check around. Pop into some near you and see if they offer a free trial class. That's the best way to see if that particular CrossFit's a fit.
2) Before you can worry about strength, you need to worry about flexibility. This was a shock to me. Not that flexibility is important, but that it's so important in CrossFit. If you can't get low into your squat, for instance, because your hip flexors are tight (mine are like clenched jaws), you are more likely to lean forward to compensate. And when you have upwards of 50 lbs. on your back, that's certainly not safe. Well at my box, they wouldn't even let me progress until I got more flexible. We stretch before every workout and I make sure to do it afterwards and whenever I have time. Believe me, nothing motivates more than being told you can't do something!
3) You'll say 'can't' but you'll discover 'can'. When I first signed up I thought I'd never do a pull-up or a double-under (passing the jump rope under your feet twice before coming down), among other things. Well the other day I did my first double-under and I'm on my way to a pull-up. I also couldn't get low in my squat due to my immobility and now I can. The point is, CrossFit gives you attainable goals that make you want to work for them. You track them on the computer every day so you can see progress happening on screen, and on your body.
4) It's caring not competitive. One thing that surprised me was how welcoming and supportive everyone was. It's a competitive environment yes, but really you're competing with yourself. Everyone's there to push and motivate you but no one ever judges. It's not catty or a place to admire yourself in the mirror (because there aren't any). It's a place for you to push yourself to be the best you you can be. My kind of gym!
5) It's important to know your limits. So while CrossFit is tough and does push you, you can definitely get hurt if you don't listen to your body. I'm so concerned with my back so I tend to lift a little less weight or modify certain moves that put strain on it. But the trainers are always there to help you and offer modifications. But when they think you can do something, they will tell you. And when they think you can't, they'll tell you that too. But the bottom line is to trust yourself to know what's best for you.
Have you tried CrossFit? I'd love to hear your experience. If you haven't and plan to try it, definitely let me know too!
*Main image courtesy of CrossFit Bayside.