All you wanted to know about CrossFit Part 1

One question I get asked all the time is “What is CrossFit?”

I typically answer with “How much time do you have?” 🙂

The official description is “Constantly varied functional movement performed at high intensity.”

Um. Ok. What the hell does that mean?

Crossfit. Better than Yesterday

Constantly varied means the types of exercises, the duration and the intensity will change with every work out.  With CrossFit, you can expect to encounter body weight exercises (squats, pull ups, push ups, lunges, situps), Olympic lifts (clean, jerk, snatch), barbell lifts (bench, deadlifts, back squats), Kettlebells, running, rowing, biking, jump roping and gymnastic type movements (handstands, rings, etc).  Just to name a few things. Keeps your body guessing and keeps you from getting bored.

Functional movement opens up a whole can of worms in the trainer/exercise world but I will keep it simple by saying this means using moves that involve most of your body to get the work done and moves that translate to things you do every day (push, pull, squat, press, carry).  You won’t find too many single body movements here – biceps curls, leg extensions, etc. This helps increase fitness level and should keep us motoring longer in life.

High Intensity is the piece that seems to scare people most. It is also the most personal component. People see the CrossFit games and assume that the expectation is that every one at a CrossFit gym MUST be like that.  Not at all. The intensity is set by you. That is dictated by your current conditioning, how consistently you are moving with good technique, your personal goals and what you bring to the gym on any given day.  It can mean that while one person in the class is sprinting 400 meters, another athlete is walking to the 100 meter mark and back as that is intense enough for them to do.  It is all good and you will get cheered and supported with what ever intensity you bring.

Answers to other questions you may be asking:

  • You don’t need to be in shape to start. That is the point of going to get stronger, fitter.
  • You also don’t need special skills in order to start. Just show up and be willing to learn.
  • Yes, there are people of all ages, shapes, sizes and genders that go.  (Moms, Dads, single people, married people, skinny people, fat people, people who have never worked out before, former high school/collegiate athletes, fit people, gym rats, teens and kids, brothers, sisters, people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, stay at home people, people who work part time, people who work full time,  etc)  ALL ARE WELCOME.
  • No, Its not all like it is on TV. CrossFit can be a work out or it can be a sport. Most people do not perform at the level of the world class athletes you see on ESPN2.  CrossFit gyms are mostly filled with your average (fabulous!) person who wants to come in an be better: healthier, stronger, fitter, etc.
  • No matter what I say to you before hand you will be scared before your first CrossFit workout.  It is ok. Fear is just an emotion. You will be ok. 🙂
  • Cost. CrossFit will cost you more than your average gym. You are essentially paying for group personal training.  Each gym has their own cost structure but it normally ranges from $120-170/month depending on how many times you go each week and other things that may or may not be included. Typically this works out to about $10-15 per class.

You know if you are at a good CrossFit gym when:

  • There is an on boarding program where you learn correct technique and to move safely
  • The coaches know your name, stress safety and technique and are encouraging (and hopefully friendly!)
  • There should be no pressure to lift heavy before you move well.
  • The community should feel welcoming, not judging
  • Eventually you are moving better and hopefully more pain free

My personal experience:

Kara being zen with the barbell
That’s ME!!

What I love about CrossFit:

  1. The Growth – Facing something that scares you and getting through it makes you grow plus I have learned so much about working out and human movement since I started CrossFit. I am better for it.
  2. The Community – I love knowing the people at my gym, having them know my name and encouraging and supporting each other through some really mentally and physically tough work outs.
  3. The Olympic lifts – I had never had any exposure to these before CrossFit. Now I am obsessed.
  4. The Strength – I am stronger and have more muscle than I did before I started. It is the intensity and work I had been looking for my whole life but never knew I was missing. 🙂  Plus focusing on being stronger makes me so much happier than focusing on being skinnier.

I hope this addresses some your questions about what CrossFit is. If it doesn’t feel free to post them down below.  As Jen Grabham said in her interview on ZenBarbell “Take a leap of faith and just try it.”  You will be so glad you did.

Current CrossFitters, I would love to hear if I missed anything or if you would like to share your story about how you started with CrossFit that would be great too!

Stay tuned for next week when I give my thoughts on the dark side of CrossFit. 😮


If you want to learn more about loving who you are and getting peace with your body but aren’t sure how to do that, let Zen Barbell help you! Check out the 30 Days to Stop Hating Your Body program here.