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CrossFit® / August 2017
Carrie Anton, Contributor

10 Things to Know before Your First CrossFit Class

Terms like “burpee,” “WOD,” and “box” have piqued your interest for some time and your CrossFit curiosity has gone on long enough—you’re finally ready to throw yourself into your first workout.

Or so you think.

After all, trying anything new can be met with anxiety. And nowhere does this prove truer than when starting a new form of fitness. The “what if’s” come out in droves: “What if I suck?” “What if I’m not strong enough?” “What if I can’t keep up?”

Guess what? That’s normal.

And if Michele Letendre, CrossFit Seminar Staff coach and six-time CrossFit Games athlete, could tell all CrossFit newbies one thing, it’s this: “The best thing is to just try it.”

The best thing is to just try it.

Need more help easing into your first CrossFit class? Letendre shares the ten go-to tips she wishes everyone knew before hearing their first “3, 2, 1...Go!” michele-letendre-first-crossfit-row

1. Drop in First

Before you ever get your sweat started, take a tour of the CrossFit boxes near you. “Nothing beats a first impression of when you walk into a gym,” says Letendre. “You need to go to the gym that you’re thinking of trying and just watch. When you walk in the door, are they welcoming you or do you feel like you’re in their way?” Use this opportunity to check out the environment, ask questions, and address your concerns. 

With over 13,000 CrossFit gyms worldwide, if the first gym you stop in doesn’t feel like the right environment for you, don’t let that deter you from trying the sport altogether. There’s likely another gym nearby with its own distinct vibe.

2. Ditch Loose, Baggy Gear

“I recommend comfortable clothing that’s not too loose, so that the coach can look at your movements,” says Letendre, who also stresses the need for clothing that can easily move with you because you’ll be moving a lot! Oversized sweatshirts and sweatpants cover up your body, making it more difficult to pinpoint if your body position and form are incorrect. 

3. Not all Sneakers are the Same

When it comes to footwear, wearing sneakers to a CrossFit class seems like the obvious choice.

michele-letendre-first-squatNot so obvious: You’ll want to wear a training sneaker, not a running shoe. Many first-timers don’t know the difference, but after working out in a training shoe, you’ll sure feel that difference on your feet.

Think of it this way: If you were preparing to take on a marathon, you’d buy a running shoe, so if you’re preparing to take on CrossFit, buy a training shoe. Letendre emphasizes that training shoes – like the Nano 7 Weave – are specifically designed to help your feet through box jumps, squats, lunges, and lifts. 

4. Fuel with Lighter Fare

“Some people can eat 10 minutes before a workout and some people can’t,” Letendre says. “If you’re not sure how you’ll react, start off by trying a mid-morning class and having a light breakfast beforehand. A little bit of protein, a little bit of carbs, nothing too crazy—just a small meal.”

As you start to take classes more regularly, you’ll naturally learn which foods stick with you and leave you feeling your best mid-workout.

5. It's All about the Basics

The beauty of CrossFit is that thanks to scaling – when the movements in a workout are adjusted to your skill level – athletes new and advanced can participate in classes together and still achieve progress appropriate for each individual. It begins with the basics.

“In every single class we go back to basics in one way or another,” explains Letendre, who says  coaches have a plan to help new people make progress on the mechanics of a new movement, while the more advanced athletes will receive more specific tips to fine tune their form and results.

The best part: with reviewing mechanics as a scheduled part of each class for everyone, you’ll feel a lot less singled out as a beginner. michele-letendre-first-crossfit

6. Variety Is the Spice of CrossFit

“What separates CrossFit from other fitness methods is that it opens the door to learning new things,” says Letendre. “You’re exposed to different sports like Olympic lifting and gymnastics, which really appeals to people who want variety in their fitness routine.” Goodbye, boredom!

7. Newbie Status Lasts a While

Just like the previous tip states, a big part of CrossFit’s motto is “constantly varied” movement. That means one day you could be lifting barbells and swinging kettlebells, while the next you’re throwing medicine balls and running. While this is the foundation for variety, it also means that every day you step in the gym you could be doing something you’ve never done before.

“It’s going to be new from the beginning and it’s going to keep being new for a long time,” says Letendre. “That’s a huge difference between CrossFit and other training regimens.”

8. Surrounded by Supporters

While CrossFit isn’t traditionally a team sport, the camaraderie is essential. Expect class participants to stick around until everyone completes the workout—even if that’s 15 or 20 minutes after the first person yells, “time” to stop his or her own personal workout clock. If you finish before others, give encouragement to those still moving to help them end strong. Expect a lot of cheering and high-fives.

9. Eat Up Post-Workout

“Eating is a good plan after an intense workout,” explains Letendre.

michele-letendre-first-crossfit-deadlift“If you had something light before, you’re probably going to want something more substantial after, which is for sure going to help your recovery.”

Lean proteins, healthy fats, and glycogen-restoring carbs are often prescribed for post-CrossFit workout nutrition. However, different WODs may deplete your body in different ways. Check in with your coach after your workout for food recommendations specific to the exercises you did.

And remember: Hydrating shouldn’t stop when the workout does. Keep drinking fluids the rest of the day so you’re well hydrated and recovered come time for the next day’s workout.

10. Sore? Keep Moving.

“When new people in my gym feel particularly sore, I encourage them to do an activity to get the blood flowing,” says Letendre. “I have a lot of new members that complain about extreme soreness; they’re not used to it, so I recommend they go for a long walk, come into the gym to row for 30 minutes, or do a 5K jog between sessions to help their blood flow a little bit.”

The more you come, the more you’ll adjust to the movements and the less sore you’ll feel.

Stepping into a CrossFit workout for your first time this fall? Tweet  @Reebok to tell us how it goes.

CrossFit® / August 2017
Carrie Anton, Contributor