How to Pick a Good Crossfit Gym
Just got back from a workout. I'm going to be sore tomorrow, its going to be great. I discovered Crossfit about 3 years ago. If you aren’t familiar, you should check it out. It is by far the best workout I’ve ever done. You are building muscle and endurance at the same time, in a short amount of time. It best results I’ve seen. It’s hard, very hard. But in a somewhat sadistic way…I love it. To give you Crossfit in a nutshell, it’s basically high intensity interval training that you do as a group. One of the main boasts of Crossfit is the camaraderie. The classes are done in groups the WOD (workout of the day) is given by the trainer and you pick the level of intensity that you wish to challenge yourself. I am always at the low end of the spectrum…but I am moving up and making progress.
Two Main Types of Workouts
Workouts function generally 2 ways. The first is AMRAP (As Many Rounds As Possible). They will give you about 3 exercises such as 40 air squats, 30 push ups, 20 ring rows and you will have to repeat them as many times as you can for a specified amount of time (usually 12 or 15 minutes). You push as hard or as easy as you choose. I love this one, since I’m not in the best shape. I still finish at the same time as the super muscle man next to me.
The second type is ‘For Time’. They will give you a list of exercises and rounds and you push them out as fast as you can for time. These are generally the two types of workouts, but of course they can mix t up any way they want, and they do.
I'm So Not a Muscle Man
If you Google Crossfit you will find lots of muscly men and women lifting insane amounts of weight and doing high intensity craziness. It looks a bit intimidating. The key is finding a gym where the trainers are focused on meeting you where you are and modifying the exercises to meet your needs.
When I first started Crossfit I was extremely apprehensive, mostly because I am NOT one of those "muscly women", quite frankly I'm no where near that. My Usual gym was the YMCA, and I like being in good company with all the out-of-shape older people. But I heard good things about Crossfit and I wanted to give it a try, so I have to forgo my comfort zone and see if I could hack it.
Turns out, even the most out-of-shape person can hack it, if you have the right gym with the right trainers. I move a lot and as a result I've had to find a new Crossfit gym three times. One was fantastic, one was ok and one was too much of a meat head gym. If you are thinking of trying Crossfit, I have a few tips for you on finding a good gym (I'm kind of an expert at this point). This is especially important if you are relatively out of shape or have any kind of past injury that might affect your ability to complete the exercises.
Give the Trainers a Ring
Talk to the trainers ahead of time. Explain your situation, your fitness level and your goals to them. Gauge their response. A good gym will have trainers that are interested in scaling workouts to meet your fitness level and to accommodate any past injuries. If they seem like they don't have time to talk to you, keep searching. They probably won't have the time in the class to meet your needs.
Try the Free Class
Most gyms have a free beginner class so you can check it out. Always take the free class. Its a great opportunity to meet people who are new to Crossfit, just like you, and to meet the trainers and see if you like the atmosphere. Take note of their weights. If they don't have a Kettlebell less than 15 pounds, then they really don't cater to people of a lower fitness level. Gyms that do, will have Kettlebells weights down to 4 pounds, or maybe even 2 pounds. 15 lbs may not seem like much, but when you have to swing it 75 times in 12 minutes, it suddenly becomes a lot more challenging. When I going to a new place, I look for trainers (and a gym) that caters to the old ladies as well as the super muscle men, and to do that you have to have a variety of weights.
Join the Fundamentals Class
If you like the beginner class then you will need to sign up for the Fundamentals Class. The length of the course varies from gym to gym. During this class you learn the basic movements and the proper way to do them. You'll also get the feel for the different workout styles and you'll meet people who are new to the gym as well. The same 10 (ish) people will be in every class, so its a great opportunity to find some future workout buddies. Its also a great way to get to know the trainers and for them to get to know you. AS its a beginner class, you are expected not to know anything; It made me feel less intimidated when I had a question (or 100 questions). Most Crossfit gyms require you to take this course. Be sure to check out Groupon, there are often deals on there for fundamentals classes.
During the fundamentals class, take note of how the trainers interact with you. One gym I went to the trainer was pushing me too hard. I have a prior back injury and I had limitations when I did exercises where I lifted weight over my head. I informed the trainer of my limits and he was still pushing me to go beyond that. Trainers want you to work hard, and that's good, but pushing too hard is counter productive and dangerous. Pay attention to your personal limits and if trainers aren't respecting that, keep searching for a gym that does.
The Trainers are Key
I had both good an bad experiences at Crossfit gyms, and it all came down to the trainers. The best gym I went to had trainers that were really willing to modify and scale activities for my fitness level and to work around my injuries. They wanted to work with me to build the muscles in my back without further injuring me. They had light weights and small wall balls that I could use to start to build my muscles. There was even a 60-year-old lady in some of the classes, working out right along with the ripped 25-year-old men. I never felt like a second class citizen because I wasn't in great shape or because I couldn't push myself as hard as some of the others. The trainers took the time to work with me and talk with me about my goals and my challenges. That's the type of gym I look for.
After only 1 month of Crossfit I felt stronger and I was losing inches. The workouts are always different and always challenging. They incorporate lots of different exercises that help strengthen ALL your muscles. I’ve recently moved again and the closest Crossfit gym is over an hour away...sad. I do my own WOD at the local YMCA. They have some of the equipment I need, and a big open gym. I miss the camaraderie and the varied workouts, but I still get the results.