How To Get Started With CrossFit

How To Get Started With CrossFit


With a fearsome reputation for laying down highly demanding physical challenges, CrossFit has attracted a cult following. Perhaps your friends are obsessed with it and you’re intrigued to see if it’s as intense as they say. In the name of demystifying it for the uninitiated, we caught up with two of London’s leading coaches to find out more…

Starting any new exercise can be daunting, but entering a ‘box’ (the CrossFit equivalent of a gym) can be particularly nerve-wracking. CrossFit borrows movements from a variety of sports including weightlifting, powerlifting, gymnastics and rowing. The brainchild of former gymnast Greg Glassman, its goal is to boost your fitness and help you move better by performing functional movements at a high intensity. Workouts change constantly – you’ll never do the same one twice – to keep your body guessing and working every muscle. Debs Manlove, a coach at WIT who has been teaching CrossFit for eight years, says it is a great way to support mental wellbeing, not just through exercise but through the sense of community it can build.


“No CrossFit box is created equal,” says weightlifting and strength coach Khrys Speed. “Environment is everything, so look for a box with a good community and good coaches. The best way to see if a box has these two things is to look at how the members of each box perform, and how they speak about the coaches and the box in general. Most boxes also have trial offers, so take advantage of these, go with a friend and see how you get on. The best time to try a new box is a Saturday as there’s always a great vibe then.”


“CrossFit is for everyone,” Debs says. “Whether you’ve never set foot in a gym before or are a professional athlete, CrossFit will improve your fitness. However, you do have to be willing to work hard to get the most out of your experience.” Khrys adds that you’ll need to enjoy working in a team, as CrossFit is all about the group experience, albeit in an individual way. “CrossFit is great if you struggle to motivate yourself to train solo. With CrossFit, you can work on yourself whilst being in a team – it’s the perfect combination.”


Lots of brands have jumped on the CrossFit bandwagon to sell branded clothes and kit, but this isn’t a prerequisite for getting started. The correct shoes are the most important piece of kit you’ll need, as you could be taking on weightlifting moves, jogging and doing squat jumps in any workout. Invest in a pair of trainers designed for conditioning like the new Nike Air Zoom SuperRep.


CrossFit is full of its own lingo. None of which is more important than the ‘WOD’ (Workout of the Day). Scribbled on whiteboards in CrossFit boxes across the country every morning, the WOD is the first thing you’ll see when you walk into the box. You may also hear the term ‘Rx’, which refers to the way a workout should be completed, with set weights and times/reps. For example, if you Rx a WOD, it means you completed the workout exactly how it was written. Alternatively, you can ‘scale’ a workout, which can involve reducing the weights or swapping out an exercise. Also keep an eye out for ‘pood’, a Russian term which is a unit of measurement equalling just over 16kg; ‘MetCon’, short for metabolic conditioning, a workout which consists of bodyweight moves and circuits; and ‘AMRAP’, acronym for ‘as many rounds as possible’ – a common directive in WODs.


Rhabdomyolysis, a condition that causes muscle tissue to break down and release kidney-damaging waste into the bloodstream, has been linked to CrossFit. However, experts say the dangers of CrossFit may be overhyped, and that pushing yourself too hard in any workout – not just CrossFit –can cause problems. Don’t forget to warm-up: experts say you should also perform mobility drills and exercises to help with recovery, range of motion and preparation for WODs. Most CrossFit gyms have set time aside for MobilityWODs but, if yours doesn’t, check out for some simple exercises you can do at home or in the box before your class.


Most boxes offer beginner sessions, which are heavily focused on form and safety over any competitive or strenuous training. Book in to as many of these initial sessions as you need to feel confident with the movements, or until your trainer feels you’re ready to progress to the more full-on WOD sessions.


No matter how fit you are, with its high-intensity, complex movements and heavy loads, CrossFit is a challenge, so don’t feel the pressure to keep up with the guy next to you, or you run the risk of injury. “Don’t feel the pressure to rush into skills, weights or WODs you don’t feel like you’re ready for as this is when injuries happen,” Khrys explains. “Remember the person who can train the longest without an injury gets the fittest and strongest, so be smart with your training for the best results,” he says. Debs agrees: “Unless you’re aiming to be a competitive athlete, keep your eyes on the long game. Consistently attending class, working on mobility and technique will serve you better in ten years than trying to go from 0 to 100 in your first few months of training.”

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