There’s no denying it, CrossFit is taking over the world, ok… maybe that was a little hyperbolic but it sure seems like it! These days you can’t go 20 minutes without passing by a CrossFit gym or hearing about someone’s CrossFit regimen. Since the phenomenon has been so hyped up in the fitness world and on social media, many of the images we see are CrossFitters who look like they do nothing but work out 24 hours a day. Let’s face it, it’s really intimidating. To ease you into the world of CrossFit and show you that it’s not as hard-core as you may think, we’ve partnered with Taryn Haggerstone for some need-to-know tips.

Taryn Haggerstone is a competitive CrossFit athlete and Olympic weightlifter. She is also a coach and regular contributing writer to various CrossFit and fitness blogs. Her training style, which emphasizes weights, functional movements, and high intensity intervals, aims to show that with proper training and motivation, anything is possible.  

What is CrossFit?

CrossFit is a style of training developed by Greg Glassman which focuses on the use of functional (full body) movements, high intensity and varied programming, while simultaneously creating a community-based environment in which to train. CrossFit combines elements of gymnastics, weightlifting, running, rowing and a variety of other sports to help people become fitter and more well-rounded. Over the past few years it has grown in popularity at an exponential rate. Every year more and more CrossFit gyms open up worldwide, more and more people are joining gyms and trying CrossFit for the first time, and if you’re reading this, chances are you are one of those people considering giving CrossFit a shot. But, before you sign up with your local gym, there are a few things to consider.

1. Do your Research

In order to open up a CrossFit gym, all gym-owners must pass the CrossFit Level 1 and pay the annual affiliation fee. Aside from that specifics (such as how the gym is run, the style of programming, coach and client expectations, etc.) can vary greatly between locations. As a result there are a lot of really good gyms out there, but unfortunately some not so good ones as well. Be aware, the difference isn’t always apparent at first glance. So, if you are considering dipping your toes into the world of CrossFit, it’s a good idea to do some background research:

  • How do the different gyms compare price-wise?
  • What sort of education do their coaches have?
  • What programs do they offer?
  • What do the online reviews say?

Once you’ve done that, make an effort to check out a few different locations in person. Every gym has its own ‘vibe’ and sometimes a gym that is great on paper can be the wrong fit for a particular person. Community is a big part of CrossFit – it’s not just a gym where people show up with headphones in, do their own thing for an hour and leave. As such, it’s important to find a gym where you feel comfortable.

2. Bring a Friend

Trying CrossFit for the first time can be intimidating. It’s easy for thoughts like “what if I’m not good at it”, “what if the people don’t like me”, “what if I make an idiot of myself” to creep into our heads and stop us in our tracks. That’s why enlisting the help of a friend is always a good idea! Trying something new can be a bit scary, but it will be less so when you have a familiar face beside you as you walk in the door that first time.

3. Be Prepared to do an Intro Course First

CrossFit incorporates a variety of movements and skills from different sports (gymnastics, weightlifting etc.), many of which you may not have done in high school. This means there will probably be a lot of unfamiliar movements. Rather than throwing new members directly into classes that are way over their heads, any good CrossFit gym will require them to go through some sort of ‘Foundations Program’.

The size and cost of these introductory sessions can vary between gyms. Typically speaking, the sessions are smaller, more hands on and slightly more expensive than the regular classes.  Not every gym has a mandatory foundations course. It can be tempting to go to a gym that doesn’t because it means we can start ‘right away’ without paying the extra fees. Just keep in mind, the foundation courses are there for a reason –  to teach you proper techniques and keep you safe. Any gym that doesn’t make that a priority is one I would avoid.

4. It Takes Time

Within CrossFit there are certain movements that always seem to stand out (think the muscle-up, handstands, the olympic lifts), but it’s important to remember that the advanced skills are built from a solid foundation of the basics. The best CrossFit athletes out there aren’t necessarily the ones who got their muscle-up the quickest or walked in the door with the heaviest deadlift. They are the ones who were patient, consistent and and who didn’t skip the basics. CrossFit is like a pyramid, where the bottom-most level is made up of the basic, fundamental movements and the top is where you find the more advanced/challenging skills. The wider and more solid your base is, the higher you will be able to build and the more stable your pyramid will be.

5. Ask Questions

If you’re ever unsure about a movement – how to do it, why we do it, etc. – don’t be afraid to ask the coach. If you ever feel unsafe doing a particular weight/movement – let the coach know. A good coach will listen to your questions/concerns and should be able to provide you with an explanation of the reasoning behind a certain movement and/or an appropriate substitution. If you ever feel genuinely unsafe during classes or like your concerns are being ignored, bring it up with the gym owner and if they fail to address it, don’t be afraid to take your business elsewhere.

Don’t forget to follow Taryn on Instagram and be sure to subscribe to her blog! Special thanks to Athlete Inside for the photos.