How to Prepare & What You Should Know Before Starting CrossFit?

Jeff Baldelli
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The Philosophy of CrossFit

Crossfit is a complete exercise regimen. It is a fitness program that can be used for competitive sports, weight loss, bodybuilding or general wellness. It is not a specialized type of training that only works for certain sports or body types. CrossFit is different from regular fitness training because it focuses on high intensity interval training or HIIT. HIIT, or interval training, is essential to CrossFit, and people develop cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, and an increased ability to burn fat and carbohydrates in muscle tissue through this method.

By focusing on high intensity interval training, cross training, and strength training, you get everything you need from one workout routine. Interval training, rather than endurance training, burns fat and helps you to build lean muscle. This is a stark contrast to the common regimen of endurance training accompanied by a low-calorie diet.

Obviously, such a regimen will produce impressive results, but when those results are achieved, many people begin to reduce their calorie intake and stop exercising altogether. This is not ideal for maintaining the body you have worked hard to achieve. When you work out at a high intensity and then continue with a reduced calorie diet, you will burn calories and lose weight. This makes it tempting to reduce calories even further, which will cause your metabolism to slow down.

CrossFit is different from endurance training because it includes strength training and interval training. By performing cardio and strength training simultaneously you can maintain a calorie deficient diet and still receive the benefits of reduced body fat and toned muscle. The caveat is that a lot of people prefer to use a calorie deficient diet to lose weight.

CrossFit is designed to develop your cardiovascular system and your muscles in tandem. The combination will cause you to lose weight and increase strength through increased lean muscle tissue. A calorie deficient diet may make both goals more difficult to achieve.

CrossFit is not a miracle system that will transform your body. It is a system that encourages weight loss and increased muscle mass and strength through workouts that take less than an hour. By using a calorie deficient diet in combination with CrossFit, you are fighting with your body’s own survival mechanism.

The body will attempt to conserve energy when faced with too many challenges; starving the body in order to encourage fat burning may be effective, but not in the long term. You and your body will need to be refueled to continue training. This is a trick that many bodybuilders have employed to their advantage.

What CrossFitters wish they knew BEFORE they began CrossFit:

1. It is challenging but rewarding

The workouts are designed to push you far beyond what you think you are capable of.

If you are looking for a quick fix to lose weight and get in shape, CrossFit won’t do it for you.

The challenge of the workouts will show you quickly why only two percent of our clients have never returned. CrossFit works for those who are willing to commit and put in the hard work to get results.

2. It is for everyone, even if you think you are too old, too out of shape, or have too much weight to lose

Look at our website where you will find testimonials from people of all ages, sizes and shapes.

It is true that the culture of most CrossFit boxes is very young, very fit and very competitive. This is not a coincidence.

CrossFit was designed for fitness first, competition second. Most of the CrossFit boxes have developed a culture that matches the intent of the program.

However, this doesn’t belong to anyone. If you don’t like the culture at a box and would like to find another one that suits you better then just find another box. It will still have great coaches and the same training methodology.

3. It is not a quick fix for weight loss

While some people lose weight quickly and others more slowly, CrossFit is not a get-thin-quick scheme or a miracle diet.

The only way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you consume. Exercise is important, and a consistent exercise program is the key to success. Consistency is the key, so make sure you choose a box that offers a wide variety of classes.

4. You will get injured

Injuring yourself while doing CrossFit is no different from any other exercise. All injuries are preventable, which is what makes CrossFit so appealing to millions each year.

5. You will develop a thick skin, not a thin one

Exercise is not competitive. You’re training for yourself, not against the person next to you. Get the best out of your CrossFit experience by competing with yourself.

Become the best you that you can be.

6. You will constantly learn and grow, both physically and mentally

What Equipment do I need?

At a CrossFit gym, you don’t need to invest in any fitness equipment unless you want to. The best thing about the CrossFit regimen is that you can do it in virtually any gym. All you need is a few basic pieces of equipment to get started.

For example, there are two main tools you need for CrossFit workouts: a pull-up bar and a pair of light dumbbells. Both of these are easy to find. You can find pull-up bars in most gyms, including apartment complexes with workout facilities. Your local sporting goods store likely also has a range of dumbbells that can work for your CrossFit training.

You may also want to invest in a thick barbell to make your strength training workouts more difficult. If this is the case, then you can likely find what you need either at a gym or at a local CrossFit store.

While you probably want to buy a few items for your home gym, you shouldn’t need any equipment to start. CrossFit, besides being a way of training, is also a form of community and camaraderie that you can experience in the gym, and this is something that you can also bring with you on your own.

How to Get Started

You can get started through a local CrossFit gym, or you can start taking classes from your gym or at a CrossFit facility.

The nice thing about these groups is that you can take classes without becoming a member of the gym, so check them out in your local area if you’re interested in learning more.

Alternatively, you might be able to take classes with a community group that meets at your local gym.

Ultimately, start with some of the free classes that are available at a local CrossFit gym.

You can also sign up for a book on CrossFit training if you’re interested in getting a good foundational knowledge base for your classes.

What Is the Best CrossFit Workout?

If there were a one-size-fits-all workout for CrossFit, then it would be a marathon. Before you break out into a cold sweat, though, the marathon in question isn’t really a marathon in the traditional sense.

CrossFit Shoes

You may have already realized that there’s not much actual “crossing over" in CrossFit. Instead, it’s a lot of weight lifting, pull work, and sprinting. So what are the best shoes to wear for CrossFit workouts?

CrossFit shoes are specifically designed to handle a variety of different exercises, from weight lifting to sprinting. They are designed to be flexible, but also able to have support for when your foot is only supporting your body weight. They have a high mechanical adhesion, so they stick to the ground and keep your foot stable when doing a lot of lateral, explosive movements. For these reasons, we’d highly recommend the Reebok Nano.

If you're looking for a shoe with a little more style, look no further than the Nike Metcon. It's made to be easily wiped and maintained, so it will always be ready for when you need to hit the gym.

What to Eat before a Workout

Small, carb-heavy meals will provide you with the most energy for your next workout and will help to avoid extra water weight in your body. That being said, don’t go overboard or you can risk insulin resistance, which occurs when your pancreas cannot keep up with how much sugar your body is processing at any given time. This resistance can lead to serious health problems and is best avoided.

What to Drink before a Workout

Carb-heavy drinks like those mentioned previously will help to avoid dehydration, as will hydrating drinks that contain a lot of water and electrolytes.

A general rule of thumb is to avoid soft drinks as they contain a lot of sugar, which can harm your ability to process energy. The carb-heavy drinks we mentioned above, combined with electrolyte-rich sports drinks, are the best of both worlds. A good example of a solid sports drink is the Clif Hydration Energy.

Do I Need Supplements

No, you don’t need supplements, but there are some that can actually put you ahead of the game.

A good example of a supplement you should take is fish oil. Fish oil has been proven to be an outstanding source of omega-3s, which help to balance your cholesterol level and reduce inflammation, which is a marker for heart disease.

What to look for in a good CrossFit shoe:

Many people swear by the CrossFit shoes. These shoes are designed specifically for those who are looking for the perfect blend of performance and style. There are certain features that a good CrossFit shoe needs to have.

One of the most important features of a good CrossFit shoe is that it should be lightweight. An Olympic weightlifter doesn’t need a heavy shoe, and neither do you.

A good CrossFit shoe needs to support the ankle. This is because during CrossFit workouts, the calf must be conditioned to take the strain.

Another quality that makes a shoe good for CrossFit is the ability to grip and stick to the floor. This is because in a number of workouts, you’ll need to stabilize yourself.

In fact, almost every CrossFit workout will require you to either jump or stick to the floor. A good CrossFit shoe needs to have these characteristics.

Comparing the most important CrossFit shoe brands and models on the market:

New Balance – The New Balance 811, are great shoes for CrossFit. They are made with extremely lightweight and breathable material. They are fast drying, which offers a lot of comfort. This shoe is known for its durability, which is very important in CrossFit. Because the workouts are so intense and demanding, the athlete needs a shoe that will last for a long time. The New Balance 811 delivers.

Reebok – A lot of athletes like the Reebok Nano 6.0. The shoe features a synthetic upper combined with a heel support cage for excellent ankle support. The Reebok Nano 6.0 is considered one of the best shoes for WODs and competitions. The shoe’s sole is made of glass fibers, which give it an excellent grip.

Inov-8 – Made for those who like to take their workouts to the next level, the Inov-8 spike may be the best shoe for a serious competitive athlete or for those who like to challenge themselves by trying out new and innovative exercises.

The shoe is made of TerraPlate, which gives it fantastic traction. The shoe is specially designed to stabilize the foot so that the athlete can jump, run, and lift as hard as they want. The Inov-8 spike is also very light, weighing just 8.9 ounces.

Comfertable workout pants and top

It's called the “sport of fitness,” so make sure you are dressed comfortably. Don't wear your best clothes to the gym. Instead, wear breathable exercise clothes.

Breathable fabrics and a flatter, more natural waistline with lots of lying room (you will likely drop an inch or more in pants size). If you are going to CrossFit regularly, you want your clothes to hold up, so don't go for high-end fashion.

Quality, not quantity, is the name of the game when it comes to exercise clothing.

I've personally frayed and worn holes in workout pants literally for the past year because I have just worked out in a different pair every day and have not invested in a few good pairs of workout pants. It's no fun, trust me.

Shoes

Women should avoid tennis shoes with narrow toe boxes.

I simply can't emphasize this enough.

Wearing shoes that are both too big and too narrow can cause blisters, calluses, foot cramps, and even long-term problems like hammer toes, bunions, and other foot deformities.

When it comes to footwear, to ensure your safety and comfort, the general rule is that the bigger the box, the better!

Chances are, unless you have a super narrow foot, you're not going to be in a situation where you need to go down in size. Rather, you're going to be in a situation where you should be going up in size, so that you have room for your toes to splay and relax.

You want to have space to wiggle your toes and feel awkward in your workout shoes, that's what makes your toes stronger.

Maybe you take a size 8 in some shoes and an 8.5 in others. You're not going to be in a situation where you need to size down from an 8.5 to an 8. Unless you have some mutant foot that is the shape of a banana, most women are going to want to go up in size.

If you are going to invest in just one pair of shoes, this is the pair of shoes you want to invest in.

When you're buying your first pair of CrossFit shoes, you'll have a few options to choose from.

Compression Gear

Most people associate compression clothing with recovery and performance clothing purely used by athletes, but have you ever considered wearing them for your workout?

True, the performance clothing that we have found to be beneficial in terms of recovery and endurance is more expensive than your regular workout clothing such as t-shirts and shorts, but they are worth their price tag.

They are beneficial because they improve your workout performance and recovery. Compression gear can be worn during almost any kind of workout, from a rigorous pilates session to a strenuous run.

There are a few different kinds of materials that sports clothing comes in these days, and they all have different benefits.

The most popular types are:

  • 90/10, which is light compression, and is extremely comfortable
  • 30/70, which gives a high degree of compression and looks alike a slim-fitting garment
  • 20/80, which is the most tight and regulating compression and used for high intensity workouts and on-field sports

10/90, which is the strongest compression and prevents swelling.

What Kind of Workouts Come with CrossFit?

There are a few different kinds of CrossFit workouts. These include metabolic conditioning, weightlifting, gymnastics, running, and swimming.

Metabolic Conditioning?

You’ve probably heard of metabolic conditioning workouts, especially if you browse Men’s Health magazine. This is a type of exercise that also involves rest intervals, where you exercise for one or two periods of time and rest in between. This could involve intervals of running, weightlifting, calisthenics, or any other workout, followed by periods of rest.

So what kind of results should you expect from doing metabolic conditioning?

If you’re lean and have some athletic ability, you should be able to burn about 350 calories per hour of metabolic conditioning. This means you’ll burn about 280 calories in a rest interval, and 70 calories during the workout itself.

If you aren’t that fit and healthy, your results will be more modest, yet still rewarding. You should be able to burn about 175 calories per hour of metabolic conditioning. This means you’ll burn about 45 calories during the work period, and 130 calories during the rest period.

Gloves and/or wrist wraps

CrossFit has a reputation for being a pretty intense workout, and we’re not just talking about the scary beating you might be giving your lungs whilst performing badass exercises like burpees and heavy rope climbs. The infamous hands and wrists can feel the burn like nothing else, which is why it’s important to invest in a pair of padded gloves or wrist wraps if you’re worried about injuring your hands and wrists during CrossFit workouts.

You may not like it, but even if you’re only going to be doing a few CrossFit workouts a week, you’re still going to run the risk of hurting your hands and wrists pretty badly without protective gear. The good news is that investing in a cheap pair of gloves and wrist wraps is well worth it. In fact, it will probably end up saving you a lot of money in the long run, as well as preventing you from having to take some much-needed time off in recovery.

Wrist Wraps

If you’re worried about your wrists taking a hit and you’re not too fussed about protecting your hands, then wrist wraps are probably the best pair of CrossFit accessories you can buy. By taping your wrists, wrist wraps give your bone, cartilage, tendons, and muscles extra support and can help with wrist stabilization and motion.

Wraps will help absorb a lot of the impact and pressure caused by the constant exercising. As well as having a heavy hand, wrist wraps can help reduce the risk of developing pain, swelling, inflammation, and injury. If you want to get your money’s worth, try something like this pair of Kinergy elastic wrist wraps. Overall, they’re great for CrossFit beginners, but if you want a something a little more advanced, click here.

Gloves

Aside from wrist wraps, gloves are probably the second most popular CrossFit accessory. Whether you’re trying to protect your hands from blisters or you’re preparing for some pull-ups or anything else that can potentially be a little too strain on your hands, gloves are definitely worth the investment. As with any type of protection though, you need to make sure you choose the right glove to suit your needs.

CrossFit Terminology

To get the most out of your CrossFit workouts you have to know what a particular CrossFit exercise or term means.

Check out this great video to learn more:

CrossFit Workouts

Now that you have an idea of what CrossFit is all about, you should know a little bit about the CrossFit workouts.

CrossFit workouts, as we just discussed, are different from typical workouts that you would do at the gym. The CrossFit Games workouts are so demanding that athletes have to measure, track and chart their progress.

Most CrossFitters will use a program like CrossFit Workout of the Day (WOD) to gauge their progress.

Some of those WODs include:

Each WOD consists of different workouts that will test your strength, endurance, agility and speed.

It’s kind of like a circuit training program that will improve your overall fitness. The idea is to start with easier exercises, then build up to more challenging ones.

CrossFit Workout of the Day (WOD)

The CrossFit workout of the day or WOD is the daily workout as prescribed by CrossFit HQ.

Sometimes the WOD is actually a combination of WODs. These multiple WODs are named with a 3 letter abbreviation, like "F2B" for "Fran 2" or “Marg 3.1," the "Fran" AND "Martha" workouts combined together.

Most of the time the WODs are not repeated within the week, hence the reason for 3 letter abbreviations. The workouts are designed to be short and intense, because CrossFit workouts are based on high intensity interval training.

The focus of CrossFit is to make you perform as many reps of each exercise as you can in a given period of time.

Usually, the questions that arise from the WODs are:

  • What is the goal?
  • How long do I rest?
  • What is the ideal pace?
  • How many rounds do I do?
  • What is scoring?