It was five years ago when my sister forced me to tag along with her to my first CrossFit class. While I remember a general nervousness beforehand (the weights looked so heavy), I have a vivid memory of how I felt afterwards.
I sat in my sister’s car in the parking lot of the gym and cried. I felt so embarrassed about how slow I’d gone and overwhelmed by doing so many movements I’d never done before.
I considered myself moderately in shape thanks to a regular running routine, but this was a whole other ballgame. Before you write CrossFit off though, let me tell you what happened next. I went back. And then I went back again. And again.
All of a sudden it’s been five years and I can’t believe how happy I am that I didn’t let that one bout of tears stop me. While everyone gets something different out of CrossFit, here’s what to expect if you want to try the program that has 13,000-and-growing affiliates around the world:
1. It welcomed me.
I live in constant fear of walking into a room, not knowing anyone and having to look at my phone until someone talks to me.That has never happened with CrossFit. The gym I go to (called a box) is one of the most welcoming communities I’ve ever been a part of.
I walk in and people ask how my last weekend was, where I’m heading on vacation and whether I’m nervous about the upcoming workout (the answer is always yes). I’ve never met someone at a gym and become friends with them on Facebook, until I started doing CrossFit.
2. It makes me feel strong.
Before I started doing CrossFit, my favorite workout style was cardio.
I would go for a nice steady jog before work, take a class at my gym on the weekends and call it a day. But it turns out I absolutely love strength training, I just didn’t know. Most CrossFit workouts use weights in some way or another, and when I stand there after having moved a 75-pound bar from the floor to over my head, I feel strong and powerful.
3. Every workout is doable.
One of my biggest fears was that I would show up and not be able to complete the workout. How mortifying!
But in the five years I’ve been going, that has never happened once. And it’s not because I’m super strong or fit. CrossFit does this thing called scaling, so that every single person in the class gets a great workout that pushes them, but doesn’t make them do anything they can’t do safely.
Yet a lot of people associate CrossFit with an increased risk for injury. I chatted with Yuri Feito, Ph.D, assistant professor of exercise science at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, about this.
“CrossFit is no more dangerous than other physical activities,” he told me. “In fact, our research shows that running has a higher injury rate than CrossFit. So yes, while working out can cause injury, we know without a doubt that not doing any exercise at all is more dangerous and comes with a higher risk of death.”
4. It gets me outside of my comfort zone.
I would never make myself do half the things (okay, 90 percent of the things) I do in CrossFit.
Jump up onto a big box even though I’m convinced I’m going to miss it and skin my shins? Hang from a bar and swing my knees up as high as they can go even though I think I’m going to slip off? Flip a huge truck tire back and forth even though I’m not a mechanic?
In my normal life, never. But in a CrossFit class? You bet!
5. It takes my mind off whatever is stressing me out.
As a writer, I always have deadlines and emails from editors demanding my attention. But when all I can focus on is doing as many burpees as possible in the next 30 seconds, those issues are completely forgotten.
6. Lots of the men take their shirts off for the workouts.
Seriously. This is a thing, and it is wonderful.
7. I don’t have to come up with my workout.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I used to go into a gym with visions of grandeur about the workout I was about to do, only do decide at the last minute to just do the elliptical while watching Oprah (those were the days!).
With CrossFit, it’s out of my hands. You literally just have to walk through the door and someone else has come up with your workout for you!
8. It changed my body.
This is what a lot of people are hoping for when they start CrossFit, and it really does happen. The high-intensity workouts helped me drop 15 pounds and lose some extra belly fat, plus now I can actually see things like my shoulder muscles (oh hey guys!).
9. It gives me a huge sense of accomplishment.
Sometimes the only thing that gets me to go to CrossFit is the feeling I know I’ll have afterwards. That walk home is full of pride (I knew there would be burpees and thrusters in that workout and I went anyway), wonder (I can’t believe I just did 10 double-unders in a row with the jump rope) and relief (I don’t have to do anything physical for the rest of the day!).
Finishing a workout makes me feel like I can do absolutely anything. Believe me, I know how cheesy that sounds, but it’s something every single person who does CrossFit totally gets.