What is CrossFit? How did we get started? Is it for you?
Getting started with any new exercise regime can be daunting, starting CrossFit can be even more intimidating. There are many preconceived ideas about it being so hardcore that almost everyone throws up after, or worse, that everyone regularly gets injured. This is not the experience that we have had at all! So, we wanted to share how we both got started, and more importantly, why we are still doing it!
How did I start CrossFit?
I’ve always loved sport. Since I was a kid, I did a bit of everything, from swimming to running, rollerblading, off-road biking, snowboarding and finally, at the age of 15 I discovered wakeboarding.
Since I first stepped on a wakeboard, I formed an obsession for details and I felt driven by the progression it provides. This love for progression then made me fall in love with CrossFit, which a lot of people think is a dangerous discipline, but in reality, is a praise to progression and technique.
The first time I did CrossFit was in Rieti (near Rome) at a friend’s “box”. It was a tiny little garage where we used to train, and it had all the equipment needed for us to hit every workout. My first workout was Cindy (one of CFs benchmark workouts), a combination of pull ups, push ups and air squats that are repeated over and over within 20 minutes. Even though I was exhausted, I got hooked and ever since I never missed a workout wherever I am in the world!
The biggest advice that I can give, only because it helped me in first place, is to NEVER let ego play with your head, and that’s the main cause for injuries, in CF and beyond.
Take your time to progress, try different boxes in order to find the best coaching for you, and embrace the challenge!
I was introduced to CrossFit by Emilio a year and a half ago. Like most people I had been a little bit wary about CrossFit and needed a little encouragement to try it.
Emilio had been involved in CrossFit for 3 years already (his story coming up!) and suggested that I come and try it out with him. We were in Florida at the time and he was training at a small box (CrossFit lingo for gym) in Deerfield beach that is owned and run by two fantastic women! Automatically the first stereotype was demolished for me! There was not some huge beefcake taking the class, in fact it was a petite Brazilian woman with a huge smile on her face!
Initially, it is easy to feel a little lost, in a short space of time you are introduced to new movements, with new names, and the initial reflex is often, “No way I can do that!” But what they don’t tell you is how much encouragement you will receive from fellow CrossFitters who have all been in the same position at some point, or who are still learning how to perform certain movements. In addition to the detailed progressions which are prescribed for each exercise. For almost all movements in CrossFit there is a way to scale the movement accordingly relative to the individual’s ability.
What do I love about it?
Neither of us have ever been any good at team sports, but have always loved to take part in sports and particularly those sports that create a sense of community. CrossFit certainly does that!
I was fortunate enough to start my CrossFit journey at a small and incredibly friendly box called Beach Bound CrossFit. Shortly after I started, one of the biggest competitions in CrossFit commenced, “The Open”. The Open is a competition that takes place over 5 weeks and comprises of 5 workouts. It is the first qualifying stage for the CrossFit Games (their equivalent of the Olympics) and participation is open to anyone and everyone.
Beachbound chose to complete their Open Workouts on Friday evenings or Saturday mornings and everyone would come together to watch those competing (Emilio included) and cheer them on (I was screaming!). This was when I truly realised the importance of community within CrossFit. There was an incredible atmosphere in the box and amongst all competitors who were all cheering one another along vigorously.
Another element I love about CrossFit is the diversity. The community is as varied as it is large. Sport is an extremely powerful tool in breaking down any barriers, be it age, race, sex etc. and this is extremely true of CrossFit. You train alongside a combination of young, old, fit, less fit, newbies, pros! We all train together, completing variations of the same workout, sweating and suffering as a team!
What IS CrossFit?
CrossFit is defined as “constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity.” It is often used by police, military special operations units, and elite athletes worldwide. CrossFit is essentially a combination of Olympic Lifting, gymnastics and metabolic conditioning (cardio). It involves rowing, running, weightlifting, kettlebell movements, handstands and specialises in not specialising! The goal is to prepare its athletes for anything and everything, whether that means picking up your kid, doing the shopping, or running to catch a bus! CrossFit was designed for everyone to be able to participate in and can be scaled to every individual’s skill and ability levels.
Every day at a CrossFit box (gym) there is a prescribed Workout of the Day that the coach will take you through. When you first join, most gyms will offer a beginner program (often referred to as CrossFit 101 or On Ramp) where you will be shown all the fundamental movements. The length of these programs depends on the gyms, but range from a few days to a few weeks. This is an extremely important element and should not be overlooked. Even the fittest among us need some introduction!
Why does CrossFit get such a bad name?
CrossFit has sparked furious debate since its conception, its exponential growth in popularity has attracted both enthusiastic supporters and critics. The extremely rapid growth has been one of the chief reasons that the sport has received such polarised views.
One of the most common criticisms about CrossFit is that it is dangerous. There is of course some truth to this statement if taken at face value. The reality is that it will push your limits, and given the technicality of some of the movements has a risk of causing injury. However, the injuries are not from CrossFit itself. What causes injuries is not listening to coaches, performing moves incorrectly, or receiving poor coaching. Ego can also be a lead cause of injuries within CrossFit, those who are comparing themselves to others and try to push themselves harder than they should! The trick is to know yourself and your body, well enough to know when to push it, and when to ease off. It is predominantly beginners who are at risk of injury in CrossFit, so for those curious, please make sure to complete the introductory sessions and to not dive in headfirst until you feel ready!
Like with all sports, your goals will define everything. Neither of us train in CrossFit with the intention of lifting 500kg or bulking up. For us CrossFit has provided a certain strength and power that compliments wakeboarding and any other sports we do in a fantastic way. We actively seek out the best coaching and constantly try and improve our form, mobility and speed within training. For those wakeboarders interested in CrossFit, two of the greatest wakeboarders, Rusty Malinoski and Kyle Rattray, have opened an amazing box in Clermont, Florida, and they are veterans in showing how CrossFit training has changed their way of riding the board and simply living a healthier life.
Remember that performing any type of intense activity three to six times a week will indubitably increase your odds of injury. Be smart about your training. If you are feeling too fatigued, don’t let your ego get the better of you and push too hard, always listen to your body! Finally, and most importantly work actively on your recovery and pay attention to your nutrition! We try and do yoga at least once a week, and do a lot of mobility drills and exercises before training. A lot of boxes now even offer mobility/ stretching classes. Do not ignore this element of your training! Be sure to let us know about your CrossFit journey, share your experiences with us here!