6 Things You Need to Know About CrossFit

CrossFit is one of the more intimidating workouts out there — and not just because it got its start training firemen, police officers and military personnel. The CrossFit studios (or boxes, in CF-speak) are no-frills gyms with the kind of old-school equipment — think barbells, medicine balls and heavy weights — that makes you think of protein-drink-pounding meatheads. But here's the thing: CrossFit can help anyone get in the best shape of her life, whether you're a hardcore fitness buff or a newly-minted gym-goer. So don't be shy — we talked to Sara Carr, a CrossFit NYC coach, for all the answers to your CrossFit Qs:

Q: Why is everyone SO into CrossFit right now?
A: "For many people, it's like going to practice for a sport — except anyone can do it, and nobody gets cut! Most people who go to the gym have no idea what to do or how to do it. In a CrossFit class, everyone does the same WOD (workout of the day), and it changes daily, so you don't have to come up with something on your own. You also have a coach to help you perform the movements safely and correctly. Workouts are generally short but effective, so you don't waste hours at the gym doing things that don't necessarily work. Plus, each CrossFit gym has it's own community so you get to share your misery with friends!"

Q: What kind of workout can I expect when I go to a box?
A: At CrossFit NYC, we offer free introductory classes in which we talk about what CrossFit is, introduce a few simple bodyweight movements and how to perform them safely and correctly. Then we put attendees through a workout using those movements, which might include squats, push-ups, some version of pull-ups, burpees, wall balls, and box jumps or step ups. They'll all be combined to create a short (usually about 10-minute), very high-intensity workout.

Q: So, I'm not the fittest person in the world; am I going to die if I try to keep up with everyone else?
A: "No! While there is a competitive aspect of CrossFit, it is much more about pushing yourself and going beyond your own mental barriers. We focus on constantly improving ourselves and performing better than we did last time. Every workout is scalable to your own abilities, so you should never feel pressured to keep up with more advanced people."

Q: Is CrossFit the only workout I need to do, or should I be doing other workouts like yoga and running to supplement it?
A: "If you do CrossFit regularly (three to five days a week), you do not need to supplement it with anything else. Some people believe it is the only exercise regimen you should follow and adding in other things will hinder your performance; I'm of the opinion that if you feel good and want to do other things as well, go for it!  Just be careful that you are not doing too much and are still giving your body enough rest each week."

Q: I don't want to bulk up! Am I going to get super ripped from doing CrossFit regularly?
A: "Getting 'bulky' is not an easy thing to do. The women you see on TV at the CrossFit Games look like they train hard because they do. They train two to three hours a day, and when they aren't training, they're eating. You will not look like them just from doing basic CrossFit. That being said, if you've never really done strength training before, you will probably put on some muscle (that's not the worst thing in the world, FYI)."

Q: What do I need to know so I don't look like a total newb in my first class?
A: "Most boxes will not let you just jump into a regular class without first going through an elements or on-ramp program which teaches you all of the basic CrossFit movements. So, your first class will just be an intro class with a whole bunch of other newbs! You don't necessarily need to know anything at all — just be prepared to do a tough, high intensity workout. And no matter how hard it is, don't give up — it will get easier!"

Image: giancarlo501/Fotolia

Must Reads