For many people, watching the Games on TV will be their first exposure to CrossFit. It’s understandable for someone not already familiar with CrossFit to look at the sculpted six-packs and biceps of these professional athletes and be intimidated from trying CrossFit for themselves.
First and foremost, the Games athletes are the 40 fittest men and 40 fittest women on the planet. These are almost all full-time, professional athletes whose sole purpose all year is to train for an opportunity to compete at the Games. Out of more than 300,000 people who signed up for the 2017 Open (the first stage of qualifying for the Games), these athletes represent a very, very small percentage of CrossFitters that make up your typical CrossFit class.
Common Misconceptions About CrossFit Answered
Misconception #1: You have to be already be fit to take part.
Reality: We’ve seen people who have never stepped foot in a gym or done anything remotely athletic go from struggling to do a basic sit-up to stringing together toes-to-bar in a few short months. And these results are not atypical. We could give dozens of examples of individuals who have experienced similar achievements.
On YouTube you might see Matt Fraser clean and jerk over 300 pounds, but in reality the classes that we coach are made up of members of very different abilities. The beauty of CrossFit is that it can be scaled or modified so that anyone can participate in the Workout of the Day (WOD). The truth is it would be extremely rare to walk into a CrossFit class and be surrounded by only elite level CrossFitters. The majority of members aren’t able to complete the workouts “as prescribed” (Rx) and with the guidance of coaches modify the movements in some way to ensure they are able to get the best workout that day. So no, you don’t need to be in shape to start, but starting will certainly get you into the best shape of your life.
Misconception #2: You have to be competitive
Reality: We’ll admit there are people in every CrossFit gym around the world who live and breathe to put up the best score of the day.
What you see on Netflix — CrossFit as a sport (like any sport) is going to be competitive. These athletes are fighting to be the Fittest on Earth and there is a lot at stake, so you will see them leave it all on the competition floor. What you don’t see on TV are the people who aren’t defined by every PB. You don’t see the athletes who do CrossFit as part of a healthy lifestyle, who come to our gym every day because working through functional movements in a constantly varied approach has allowed them to be able to go on a family bike ride for first time in five years. The members who have fought to reclaim pain-free movement after a sedentary lifestyle had left them with poor range of motion and the inability to pick up their kids without back pain.
One of our members is a 47-year-old male who suffers from back pain and needs work his knees. When he first came in he was terrified of lifting weights & running, because he was afraid of suffering even more due to his condition. Fast forward a few months and you can’t keep him in the gym and a barbell out of his hands. Every day he comes into the gym to become a healthier version of the person he was yesterday. These are the types of people that make up the core of CrossFit communities across the country.
Misconception #3: I can’t join in because of a physical limitation
Reality: A lot of athletes think their bodies can’t handle CrossFit because of an old back injury or because they have bad knees. What they don’t understand is their old injuries were due to imbalances, weakness and poor movement mechanics and many sustained these injuries doing everyday tasks.
We coach several athletes who have had pre-existing back injuries who after starting CrossFit live pain-free and can deadlift, squat and do anything else that pre-CrossFit they thought were impossible for them. By working their joints through full ranges of motion, strengthening their cores and correcting other muscle imbalances their bodies are healthier and more resilient. CrossFit’s emphasis on “functional” movements prepares you for the demands of everyday life. There’s no difference between deadlifting a barbell and picking a bag off the ground. The only difference is that in CrossFit someone shows you how to do it with proper form so the next time you move you don’t put your back out picking up your couch.
Misconception #4: CrossFit makes women bulky
Reality: The women competing at the CrossFit Games are pretty stacked. So is Serena Williams and any other professional female athlete striving to be the best in her sport. Genetics, training volume, nutrition and lifestyle are all factors in determining your physique. Again, these women are professional athletes who care more about what their bodies are capable of than what they look like compared to society’s standards.
They have dedicated thousands of hours in the gym to building up their bodies and more importantly follow strict diets, eating much more than the average woman to support their training and get stronger. While yes, these women have much more muscle mass than the average CrossFitter, they are also much leaner which gives the appearance of being bulky. As I already mentioned genetics plays a huge role so some people are naturally predisposed to putting on muscle and some people can eat 4,000 calories a day without gaining a single ounce. CrossFit can certainly give you muscles, but you better be willing to put in the work to earn it.
Misconception #5: People get hurt doing CrossFit
Reality: There is an inherent risk of injury with any physical activity. I’ve injured myself more times playing sports growing up than I have ever done doing CrossFit. I saw a guy’s arm break during a rugby match. I saw a woman twist her ankle walking out of the supermarket. Have people gotten hurt doing CrossFit in the past? Yes. Where you see the most instances of injury is when someone pushes to progress faster than they’re ready.
This is all controlled by having good coaches to instruct you how to do the movements properly and keep your “ego” in check. Anyone who’s hesitant to try CrossFit because they’re afraid of getting hurt should shop around their local affiliates and find the most knowledgeable coaching staff and understand that the benefits of doing CrossFit will far outweigh any risk.
Misconception #6: I don’t have time/It’s too expensive
Reality: Most CrossFit classes are an hour long. CrossFit’s focus on intensity allows you to pack a lot more work into that one hour than many people can accomplish in an hour at their local sports centre. On paper the workouts seem short, but unless you’ve done Fran you can’t fully understand how effective a three-minute workout can be.
Anyone who thinks CrossFit is too expensive, we get it. While a CrossFit membership is more expensive than most traditional gyms, there are a lot of factors that absolutely justify the cost. For starters, inexpensive gyms are cheap for a reason. There’s either no staff or staff that could care less how your workout goes that day. Each CrossFit class is like a personal training session in that the coaches will spend time with you giving hands-on instruction and tell you how to modify or scale the workout so that you get the most out of the WOD that day.
At a big-chain gym, personal trainers on average cost £45 (per session!) and that’s on top of your monthly gym membership. Also, when you join a CrossFit gym you’re actually joining a community, both within your own affiliate and across the 12,000+ boxes around the world. If you’re on holiday or traveling for work you can drop into any box and be welcomed with open arms. Finally, when you break it down the daily cost of a monthly membership can be budgeted for if you look at your spending habits. For what the average person spends on coffee and snack from the shop each day most could afford a CrossFit membership.
Misconception #7: All CrossFit gyms are created equal
Reality: Not all CrossFit gyms deliver the same level of quality to their members. Unfortunately, sometimes someone will get a bad vibe from a gym and give up on CrossFit altogether thinking that all gyms are that way. Each coach has their own style that may not agree with your personality.
Before you let a bad experience at one gym give all boxes a bad rap, we suggest that you attend a class at different affiliates in your area. Find the one where you feel the most comfortable and you get the sense that the coaches are truly invested in you. Also, try it out for a while. Some people will do one class or a handful of classes as part of a Foundations/On-Ramp programme for a few weeks and never come back. In our experience, it takes people two to three months to start to see the benefits of CrossFit so give it a fair try for a few months before you decide whether or not it’s for you.