What to expect at your first Crossfit class

You've no doubt heard of Crossfit. You may have friends who won't stop talking about it, or maybe you stumbled across the Crossfit games on television. Have you ever wondered if Crossfit is for you? Maybe your'e thinking about trying it, but aren't really sure what a Crossfit class might entail (and if you're ready for that level of workouts). 

We spoke with Crossfit coach Jeremiah Strother over at Crossfit Medford of New Jersey, and the insights he provided helped to dispel a few popular myths about the wildly controversial "sport of working out." Here's an insider's examination of all things Crossfit from how the sport was created, to what your first class will be like, and even the Crossfit Games. So if you've had any questions about Crossfit, we've got the answers you've been looking for.

What is Crossfit?

The official Crossfit website defines the sport as a series of "varied functional movements performed at high intensity." It involves a variety of movements that incorporate gymnastics, running, weight lifting, rowing, and much more. Defined by measurable statistics, Crossfit will track your progress on huge white boards in the gym in order to ensure you hit your fitness goals. The program prides itself on its universal scalability and its sense of community at every gym.

The origins of Crossfit

Crossfit was founded by Greg Glassman and took several years to develop. The first official gym started in California in 1996, but Crossfit was truly born in the years prior. From humble beginnings, the phenomenon came to life out of a garage where Glassman and his buddies started competing in timed exercises, such as who could do more jump ropes in a fifty seconds. Noticing the camaraderie this built amongst his small group, he decided to start that very first gym, and the rest, as they say, is history. Now known as Crossfit Inc, there are more than 13,000 affiliates nationwide.

What you should wear

It seems like each different style of working out also requires a different style of clothing and accessorizing. That's both true and not true of Crossfit. The one thing Strother stressed the most was to wear comfortable workout clothing. You will sweat and your workout will challenge you, so be sure that your sneakers fit well, your yoga pants or shorts allow for mobility (without falling down), and your attitude is positive.

What to bring with you

The nice thing about most gyms is that they will almost always have everything you need. Crossfit is no exception to this rule. All the equipment you need to get your workout in will be provided for you and, in most cases, will be quite new and well-maintained. 

While you can likely buy drinks or snacks and rent towels at your gym, you'll save money by bringing your own. You should always call in advance to see if your gym offers these items to buy or rent if that's what you prefer. Most gyms also provide access to water fountains. The most important thing to do before, during, and after any workout is to hydrate, so be sure to bring your water bottle with you and make sure to fill it up before you start your workout. 

A towel would also be a great asset here. Crossfit prides itself on being able to challenge people of all fitness levels. This means that you will sweat and that towel will come in handy more than once. A light snack or protein shake might be a good idea for after the workout. However, before taking any supplements, consult your physician to ensure that you aren't putting yourself at risk for certain side effects.

Are the coaches too intense?

When I spoke with Strother, he seemed particularly proud about the fact that Crossfit is all-inclusive. He compared the coaches to "chameleons," meaning they can adapt to any individual's workout intensity and coaching preference. While the long-time members and more experienced athletes might prefer to be coached hard, that absolutely does not mean they will coach you that way. 

Crossfit workouts are in a group setting and are all about propping each other up and making it to the finish line together. However you get there will be up to you, but know that your coach will make sure to help you find your preferred method of instruction and stick to it.

Group classes

Crossfit is like taking a personal training session and multiplying it by 20. You will be surrounded by people of all walks of life who want to get healthy, just like you. Anyone who signs up for the class can workout and there are no restrictions. This leads to a sense of community that is well-known in the fitness world as one of the tightest knit groups out there. Everyone is encouraged to talk to each other and to prop up their fellow workout partners. 

Strother is proud to say that you won't find any bullying, shaming, or other forms of gym intimidation here. Because everyone starts and finishes together, there is a communal sense of accomplishment for whatever the workout was that day. Get ready to work hard and feel good about yourself.

How much is too much?

If you are thinking about joining a Crossfit gym, you might be also be wondering what that might cost. There are varying levels of membership, just like all gyms, but Strother recommends taking an introduction class first and making sure you like that particular gym. No two gyms are exactly the same, and you should make sure that it is the right one for you before you commit. 

Prices can range anywhere from $120 per month on the low end, to $180 on the higher end. What that gives you exactly is a certain amount of classes per week up to an unlimited membership. Granted, this is more expensive than your average gym membership, however Crossfit also puts you on a workout plan with a personal trainer. You'd pay the same or more for that at a regular gym.

The first class

Your first class and every class after will usually be about an hour long. You can expect to jump right into the workout with about 15 minutes worth of warmups. This will be followed by 20 minutes of whatever your workout is for the day (gymnastics, rowing, olympic-style lifting etc.). Next up will be 15-20 minutes of cardio. And to close, you'll have about ten minutes of stretching. 

The class will start with a big 3, 2, 1 countdown and everyone will start the workout together. More experienced athletes will usually be seen going on their own and at a faster pace. Strother said that he and the other coaches generally know a majority of the students and are trained to know who needs more attention, while still keeping an eye on the experienced athletes. If you have some sort of injury or restriction, tell your coach. They can tailor the workout specifically for your needs. Remember to have fun and pace yourself.

Diet myths surrounding Crossfit

Just like any workout routine that has come out in the past decade, there has been a diet that seemingly goes along with it. With Crossfit this couldn't be further from the truth. I scoured Crossfit's official website and found no mention of required diets or supplements. 

Somewhere along the line, diet plans known as "Paleo" and "RP" are commonly followed by people who do Crossfit. These diets promote lean meats, fresh veggies, and cutting out processed foods. When I asked Strother about this, he was hesitant to give any advice because he is not a licensed nutritionist or physician, but he did say that eating healthy and using common sense are your best bet.

The Crossfit games

The only thing some people may know about Crossfit is the illustrious Crossfit Games they've seen on TV. We asked Strother to shed some light on this and what it means for the average Joe who might see that and think, there's no way I can do that

"In order to do Crossfit or any workout, you need to have some sort of competitive desire," says Strother. "The Crossfit games are simply the culmination of that desire for the top athletes, and [a way] to celebrate their achievements." 

That sounds pretty cool, and quite unlike traditional sports mantras. Anyone can tryout for the games at a registered gym or via video submission. Crossfit truly lives their all-inclusive mentality, and it shows. Head over here if you're interested in learning more about the games.

Get fit and have fun

Gone are the days where your only option was to get up at 5 a.m. and hit the treadmill before work. If you are looking to get healthy, have fun, build a sense of community, and exercise around the modern workday, Crossfit could be your perfect match. Also, if you have kids and want to promote an active lifestyle early on, try out their kids-only classes and get them in on the fun too.