I’ve been going to Crossfit for just over a year and it’s changing my perspective on a lot of things. Most of the time I’m still the slowest and weakest at a WOD and so I feel qualified on this subject! Here are some things I am realising along the way; if you’re just starting out with Crossfit, particularly if you’re very unfit, I hope this helps.
You’re fighting your own battle, running your own race, lifting your own weight.
The sooner you realise this the better. No one knows how much courage it took you to even get in the car and go, let alone what you did when you got there, and it’s different for everyone. Focus on what you’re doing and enjoy every tiny little achievement. Don’t look around and imagine that everyone will think it’s insignificant. If you run 20m for the very first time and survive, then for goodness sake celebrate. Do a little dance!
No one can bring you down unless you let them. My experience has been that other Crossfitters are incredibly supportive and encouraging, so there’s nothing to worry about anyway. Not only is it your own battle, it also operates almost entirely in your head. Decide to win it. Crawl across your metaphorical and literal finish lines and find just enough energy to punch the air!
You see those incredible human machines training around you? They’re awesome!
People often get intimidated when the ‘elite’ Crossfitters are in the room and I don’t understand why. These guys are going to kick your butt – that’s a given! But, thankfully, your Crossfit experience is not a competition with them.
You crawled out of bed, even though you would have preferred sleeping until ten, to push yourself near your physical limits. You made a decision to give it your best, even though you were painfully aware of what you were about to put your body through and the aches it would give you later.
Enjoy watching the coaches and advanced Crossfitters, and shake your head in amazement at the beauty of their movement. To get to that point they must love what they’re doing, so make the most of their experience and let them help you. They appear superhuman but they know exactly what you’re going through.
It’s the same for everyone – but what you’re doing is particularly hard and particularly amazing.
As you watch people lifting ridiculously heavy weights you might think that they’ve got the difficult job, as you look down at your light PVC pipe. You stand there for a moment, trying to remember what to do with your legs...What grip was that supposed to be? Wait, my hands go where? But I thought I had to squat at that point...Oh right, yeah, that was on the snatchy thingamabob. Tummy tight, tummy tight – if I have to hear that one more time...
You’re sweating and you haven’t even attempted a lift! It is difficult at the start. Yes, as you advance you will give yourself more challenges, but nothing is as hard as getting to grips with the weight of new information in the first few months (well, not anything I’ve come across yet!).
You haven’t come last.
It can seem like it. When you watch everyone doing their stretches or hanging about chatting at the end of a WOD, and you’re still huffing and puffing trying to finish your already highly-scaled workout, it’s easy to feel like a loser. Get a grip! You’re one of the few who decided you would do it anyway. You put down the remote control and chocolate for an hour and finished far in front of the many people who didn’t. Throw your pride out of the window along with the chocolate and enjoy the ride. Then go and pick up the chocolate, because you’ll need it after that tough workout!
Talk to people. ‘Hi, I’m *insert name*. So how long have you been doing Crossfit?’
This is a tricky one, particularly if you’re nervous, or an introvert like me. But if you keep in your own bubble you won’t be tapping in to all the support that’s there. Smile, even if you don’t feel like it; if you look awkward, as if you don’t want to talk, then people will find it much harder to connect with you. Take a deep breath and talk with openness and honesty: ‘Hi, This is my first time – I’m kinda nervous.’ You won’t be alone for long.
Listen to your coach AND your body.
It’s tempting to go in all guns blazing at the start, to prove yourself and maybe to try and disguise your physical weaknesses. Don’t. It will take you a while to figure out how hard you can push yourself, so take it slowly. Do what you’re told and focus on your technique. It’s so much more important to get into good habits than to be fast or lift heavy weights and you’ve got ultimate responsibility for your body so if something feels wrong, then stop – it’s better to be safe than sorry and you can always discuss the problem with your coach before carrying on. Injuries are a pain.
Relax and enjoy it.
This is the easiest thing in the world to say. I often still arrive at Crossfit feeling anxious and tense, and it’s something I need to work on. But I know that if I can go into it with my mind at peace then the whole ride will be a lot smoother. It is a fun environment, so try and make the most of it.
For the first bit of your Crossfit experience it may be difficult to ‘enjoy’ it, even if you think it’s awesome and beneficial and are determined to do it. Don’t worry. You will get used to pushing your body. I enjoy it more the more I do it and I’m sure you will too.
Don’t take yourself too seriously. As you try and get your head and body around Crossfit you’ll probably end up looking silly at one point or another. Laugh at yourself when you trip over your skipping rope. Laugh at yourself when you fall on your bottom (whoever invented squat snatches was definitely having a laugh!). Then pick yourself up and get on with it.
So there we have it: Work hard, enjoy the experience, learn the abbreviations, and do whatever you can to avoid being given extra burpees.
Hannah Retallick, 21-year-old DOMS-sufferer.