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A beginners guide to CrossFit
Starting any new exercise practice can be daunting, but entering a CrossFit box can be particularly nerve-wracking. It’s a community rife with demonstrations of hardcore feats of strength and endurance — and, worse, its members speak their own language. To better integrate you, here’s everything you need to know to begin your CrossFit life. Are you ready to pull the trigger on a CrossFit gym membership, but the only thing you know about the program comes from 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games highlights or your CrossFit-obsessed officemate? There’s a lot more to consider, from how to avoid injuries to finding the perfect box for you, so to ease your transition, we’ve assembled this everything-you-need-to-know guide.
CrossFit is full of its own lingo, and none is more important than or as simple as the “WOD” (Workout of the Day). Scribbled on whiteboards in CrossFit boxes across the country every morning, the WOD is likely the first thing you’ll look for when you walk into your new gym, and it’s what your body will remember on your way out. That workout will involve “constantly varied, high-intensity, functional movement” — the theory underpinning CrossFit that makes athletes better, faster and stronger — and will be the focus of your training that day. Other CrossFit words to live by: The Girls: a series of iconic WODs, each given a girl’s name. When asked the reason, CrossFit founder Greg Glassman reportedly said: “Any workout that leaves you flat on your back, staring up at the sky, wondering what the hell happened deserves a girl’s name.”
Paleo: the favored diet of CrossFitters.; entails eating the way our cave-man ancestors did, so lots of meat and vegetables; no dairy, legumes or grains
Kipping: a small but powerful full-body movement originating in the hips; used to create momentum particularly as part of a pull-up
AMRAP: acronym for as many rounds (or reps) as possible; a common directive in WODs
Rx’d: prescribed; means that a workout was completed exactly as written
Mobility: distinct from flexibility; training to improve motor control and movement of the joints, enabling the body to reach full range of motion on all exercises.
Up The Intensity
Athletes new to CrossFit might be initially alarmed at the intensity level box members bring to workouts. As many WODs are a race against the clock and other members — it is the “sport of fitness,” after all — you’ll be asked to perform them at a high rate of speed and a high heart rate. Fostering this friendly competition between gym members will have you performing at a higher level than you thought possible. Keep in mind, however, CrossFit is almost infinitely scalable, so that WOD designed for some of the top performers in your gym can and should be altered to fit your needs and current abilities.
Muscle Soreness and Recovery
Because of the intensity and volume associated with CrossFit WODs, one big adjustment for new members is dealing with muscle soreness. Even those with an athletic or training background can take several weeks to acclimate to the new workload. Basic maintenance like ice packs, ibuprofen, fish oil and foam rollers will help get you through the early days.
Rather than throwing you right into CrossFit classes the very day you sign up at your box, your coaches will likely get you started in introductory classes to make sure you know how to safely execute the many CrossFit movements regularly seen in WODs. These include the more basic, yet critical, exercises like the squat, deadlift and press, as well as more complex Olympic weightlifting movements, including the clean and jerk and the snatch.