Things that Go Unsaid: How to Try CrossFit for the First Time
Nothing made me happier or more excited over Thanksgiving break than to introduce my mom and little sister to CrossFit. After more than three years in the CrossFit community, and nearly that much time as a co-owner, it meant so much to me to share my passion with them! They were incredibly good sports about my making them not only work out on vacation, but also workout by doing CrossFit...four times! Sorry guys:p! Nonetheless, my nearly 60 year old momma of five rocked some seriously impressive squat form, and my little sister really pushed herself on the assault bike! Geez I'm jelly of her long legs! #shortpeopleunite After the week ended, my sister bought a pack of classes to her local area CrossFit gym. DAY. MADE.
Their experience got me thinking though about how to put someone who has considered CrossFit at ease and help them have an amazing experience their very first time. I get it--CrossFit isn't everyone's cup of tea. And for some people, it's super intimidating! And let's be honest, the worst CrossFit stereotypes can sometimes make it even downright off-putting! Shame:(. But, if you don't have someone (read: a bossy big sister or an overly strong-willed daughter) to act as your support system on your first visit (read: to drag you there), there are a few things that can help set you up for success if you've been thinking about visiting on your own.
Contact the gym before you go. CrossFit gyms, most often referred to as boxes, are small businesses. Many times, the coach on staff is part coach, part office manager, and part cashier! Knowing you'll be dropping by can make a coach's job easier, and if you're completely new, they may even be able to suggest a certain class time or day that it might be best to come. Some CrossFit gyms even have regularly designated classes for first-time visitors. That way you won't show up on your first day to very technical gymnastics movements or Olympic lifts;)! Be sure to also ask about payment policies. Many CrossFit gyms allow a first time visit free of charge, however some with higher rates of visitors charge a fee even for first-time visitors. If you're dropping in free of charge, sometimes purchasing a shirt from the gym is a supportive gesture of thanks.
Drop-in to check out the space during a time listed as "Open Gym." Most CrossFit gyms offer classes as well as unstructured time where members can catch up on a WOD (Workout of the Day, or the workout that will be completed during class on a particular day) they missed, attempt lifting PRs (Personal Records, or bests), and do other skill work. This is typically a time when the gym is not as busy and has a more relaxed atmosphere, so the coach on staff can most likely take a few minutes to walk you through the space and show you around. Seeing the space before you arrive on the day of your first workout can help put you more at ease. If you're planning to come back, you can even use this time to complete required paperwork.
Check the workout the day of to see what it entails. Most gyms post the class workout each day online. Even if you're not sure what some of the movements may be, you'll at least recognize them when they are described. And, if you have time or are super curious, you can look up the movements online or on YouTube;).
Bring a water bottle full of water. Again, CrossFit gyms are small businesses. While there are many similarities between boxes, your chosen location may not have a water fountain. Or, it may have a fountain only for water bottles and not for drinking. Or, it may have a fountain with only small paper cone cups. Or, it may not sell bottled water...it's best to bring some with you just in case!
Show up well hydrated and well fed. I don't mean you should eat a huge meal right before you come, or that you shouldn't come if you ate a burger and fries for lunch. What I mean is that it's not the best for you or your coach if you show up having not eaten regular meals during the day or having hydrated. CrossFit may introduce you to a level of intensity you don't regularly achieve. You'll perform your best when you're properly fueled and hydrated to move accordingly.
Show up early if you haven't given the gym a heads up, filled out a waiver online, or paid any drop-in fees. Show up on time if you're in your workout clothes ready to drop your bag, waiver signed, payment made (if applicable) and ready to jump in. Do not show up late. OMG please don't show up late. Classes start on time. Some gyms implement burpee penalties for late arrivals. If your coach is wearing multiple hats, it can be very stressful for them to acclimate you while also giving members the time and attention they deserve. Respect your coach and your class and make a good first impression.
Introduce yourself. Ensure the coach on staff knows you're new and dropping in. Also introduce yourself to existing members. Who knows, you may even meet another drop-in! But, you'll want to set yourself up to be able to ask someone where such-and-such a piece of gear or equipment is located. Also, a CrossFit gym is different than a regular gym in that it's a very social activity. Most CrossFit gyms have a tight knit community. If you drop in and no one says hi or introduces themselves to you, you may want to check out another space. Just saying!
This may seem like a lot to remember--I hope it isn't. If you get stuck, common courtesy, an open mind, and a willingness to have fun and not take yourself too seriously will get you through just fine;). Though it is a competitive activity, CrossFit's defining attribute is that it is an inclusive one as well. So what are you waiting for? You already belong:).