Things You Need To Know About CrossFit

I don’t pretend to be the final word on CrossFit, but after doing it for a year and a half at one location, and having tried out three other locations on various trips, I have a strong understanding for what CrossFit offers.

I won’t say it’s for everyone, but if you’re a BroBible reader, I will venture that it’s probably for you, so pay attention.

1. Group classes are better than solo workouts

Notice I said group classes, and didn’t specify CrossFit—maybe Zumba or Spinning classes are more your speed. If so, go for it. Ten bucks says you’ll feel less ridiculous doing Zumba or Spinning in a group class anyway.

But if you belong to a gym and find yourself going there to run on a treadmill and lift weights by yourself, it’s time you think about joining a CrossFit gym. Here’s why: Unless you’re part of that extreme minority who can consistently push themselves without outside motivation, you’re not going to see results working out by yourself. Slightly more muscle in your shoulders, maybe somewhat better definition in your triceps—fine, you might notice moderate improvement. But starting CrossFit, and by extension starting to work out in group classes will result in dramaticimprovements. You’ll make friends, enjoy working out more, want to come back more frequently, become competitive with yourself and those around you, and, as a result of all those things, workout harder. Try it out—many CrossFit locations offer a free trial class.

2. CrossFit is more expensive than being part of a gym—sort of

This is a hard subject to talk about accurately, since prices for both regular gyms and CrossFit gyms can vary significantly depending on location, but it’s something often mentioned as a negative about CrossFit, so I’ll address it. Let’s put it this way: While talking accurately about prices is difficult, it is safe to say that CrossFit will be somewhat more expensive than belonging to a regular gym. But that discounts what CrossFit offers in addition: expert instruction from trainers, a ready-made group of people who share at least one interest with you, and those trainers and members taking a vested interest in seeing you get healthier, seeing that you get stronger. So sure, at face value, CrossFit is more expensive, but I see it this way: Spending my money at a regular gym every month would be a waste of my time and money, because I wouldn’t have the trainers to advise me, I wouldn’t have the group classes to motivate me, I wouldn’t want to go as often, and I wouldn’t end up seeing tangible, meaningful improvements—and isn’t that the goal?

3. Competitiveness can be your friend–or your enemy

Before you go thinking I’m another member of Cult CrossFit drinking the Kool-Aid, let me address a serious (potential) downside. While the group class format is great, it can result in competitive, inexperienced members pushing themselves too hard and getting injured. A competitive guy myself, I quickly learned after a few pulled hamstrings early on that I needed to pay more attention to my body’s signals and decrease the load. It’s not the trainer’s job to hold you back—it’s yours, and that can be too much of a burden for an inexperienced and overly eager athlete to bear. If this sounds like you, proceed with caution, in CrossFit and in life.

4. A warning

Upon starting CrossFit, you’re starting, at least according to some, a new sport. The girl and guy winners of the yearly CrossFit Games—yeah, they’re dubbed the “Fittest on Earth.” You don’t have to subscribe to that belief—that they’re the fittest or that it’s a sport—but be ready for people who do, and who will aggressively argue that over a Progenex Recovery protein shake after class.

5. CrossFit makes you goal-oriented

In another way, the CrossFit Games is a blessing, regardless of whether or not you believe what’s said about the winners. Why? Because it’s an early iteration that’s open to anyone—the CrossFit Open—gives you something to work towards every year, a bench mark by which you can measure your improvements. This year, several hundred thousand people are participating worldwide, and I’ll get to see how I fare against them as we compete in five different workouts over five weeks.

6. Mobility matters

You’d think a guy with a yoga teacher for a mother would have known this. Whoops. Instead, it took about a year of CrossFit for me to recognize the importance of stretching and flexibility. When I started, I hit personal records for lifts almost every other week, since I hadn’t lifted seriously before starting. But once I plateaued in my lifts after about a year, the trainers at my gym emphasized that recording new personal records would require greater mobility in various joints and muscles. So I set to work, stretching every day for a half hour before and after class. Two things happened: First, I did indeed notice improvements in my lifts, as promised. And second, I noticed that I stopped having injuries all together. Duh, everyone tells you growing up that stretching is an important part of avoiding injury, but it never really clicked how important it was until I made it a priority.

7. Community counts

In a society where online dating is the norm because it’s so hard to meet people, CrossFit provides a ready-made community of people who share your interest in fitness. Through classes, bit-by-bit, you get to know the people at your gym—that’s not to say you’ll get along with or befriend everyone, but chances are you’ll find a group you like. Pretty soon, you’ll find yourself meeting up with people outside of the gym, organizing parties with CrossFit friends, and becoming more and more invested in your gym. This is where the accusation that CrossFit is a “cult” enters the conversation, but that’s a misnomer. To call something a cult implies that deception is used to dupe a group of people into following a cause. CrossFit is just the opposite; people are educated in Olympic lifts, gymnastics, aerobics, and plyometrics with the goal of bettering themselves. The fact that so many people become dedicated to their CrossFit gyms is merely a result of enjoying that education and the benefits that follow.