Starting CrossFit - or any exercise or fitness routine, for that matter - doesn't require a lot of fancy equipment or gear or clothes. If you have a strong mind and a willing body, YOU CAN DO ANYTHING.
I started CrossFit a couple of years ago, after many moons of solo strength-training. I did and still do enjoy lifting on my own, but at the time I was craving a skilled pair of eyes to keep a close watch on my squat form and to critique my deadlift. Randos at the gym just weren't cutting it. So I joined CrossFit Zeus, a great gym located near where we were living at the time. I worked out there for 4-5 months, during which time I received my Level 1 Certification, until we up and relocated. During my husband's deployment, I joined Kings River CrossFit, an amazing community of folks from my hometown area. There, the workouts and the people helped get me through a difficult time, and strengthened me in ways that transcended the physical. Now, I'm living in a new neighborhood, and going to CrossFit K-Block, yet another wonderful gym full of wonderful people, skilled coaches, and great workouts. I feel at home here.
But, when I first started going to CrossFit, I felt like an outsider. Everyone had all the right clothes, the right gear, the right lingo. I admit, I was intimidated. But I still believe that there are only a few things that you really need when you start CrossFit -- here are my top five:
1. A sense of play. Functional fitness should be fun! Let the adventure of discovering new things about your body's abilities take precedence over the boring details of body fat percentage and how your legs look in those shorts. Go climb that rope! Hang from the rings, jump on a box, swing those kettlebells, and enjoy it. The human body is an incredible creation, and it should be a joy to inhabit.
2. Body awareness. Our bodies send us signals every minute of the day, about when to eat, how much to sleep, how deeply to breathe -- we're constantly receiving biofeedback. It's particularly important to pay attention to your body's responses when you're starting a new diet or exercise protocol. If something isn't working, tweak the details until you feel good. If a movement hurts your knees or triceps, make sure your form is perfect before moving up in weight or trying to crush it on a timed workout. Give your body the respect and attention it deserves, and you will be rewarded abundantly by your care. (See number 4 for more about this.)
3. A willingness to drop your ego at the door. To laugh at yourself. To shed self-consciousness. Everyone has to start somewhere, and that includes everyone from the newest gym member to the most seasoned CrossFit Games veteran.
4. The time to take care of yourself. Like, to REALLY take care of your body. It doesn't matter if you're working out twice a week or every day, you need to properly rest, to refuel, to recover. Get enough sleep, eat enough quality food, take rest days when you need them. Mobilize constantly. Get in plenty of low-intensity movement like walking or hiking to supplement your more high-intensity workouts. Book a massage, take an Epsom salt bath, or take a nap! These investments in yourself will pay off in greater longevity, a stronger immune system, less physiological stress, and you getting stronger and fitter as you progress in your program.
5. Blinders. If you have the tendency to compare yourself to others, or if fear of not measuring up to the crowd paralyzes you, put on your metaphorical blinders and then get to work. During a workout, no one but your coaches are watching you - everyone else is so immersed in their own internal dialogue - that self-competition that makes a CrossFit WOD so compelling - that they're not seeing your struggle. They're not judging how much weight you are or are not using; they're not critiquing your jumprope technique or laughing at your box jumps or step-ups. They're going to battle, and they've got their blinders on too. Focus on your technique, your breath, and your body, and try your hardest not to let the success of others be the yardstick by which you measure your own progress.
Granted, there are a few tangible things that are helpful to have on hand when you start CrossFitting: I recommend picking up a pair of wrist wraps and your favorite, comfortable shoes that are appropriate for cross-training. I love the Merrell Vapor Gloves 2 shoes for their flexible, minimal sole and wide toe box, but other people swear by lifters, official CrossFit Nanos, or Innov-8s. Find what works for you.
Ladies, you should also invest in a quality sports bra that fits your body (I LOVE Handful Bras) and some clothes that stay put and keep you comfortable (Lululemon Run: Speed Shorts are my favorite). Get a reusable water bottle for in-class hydration, and pick up a foam roller (this TriggerPoint Roller is an MVP in my house) to keep your muscles and connective tissue supple in between training sessions. That's all.
Here's what you don't need: a perfect body. *Drops mic, walks away*
One final thing to add: I think it's important to understand your "why." Why are you joining CrossFit? To improve your physical fitness? To challenge your mental and emotional strength? To forge relationships with others in an encouraging and stimulating community? To become a competitive athlete? Clarify your goals and keep them at the forefront of everything that you do. When times get tough or when you feel uninspired, these goals will help keep you moving forward on the path of your choosing.
Now it's your turn. Have you ever tried CrossFit and, if so, what would you add to the list?