“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
-Lao Tzu

So you’ve made the wonderful decision to give CrossFit a try—excellent! You won’t regret it…I hope. Now, in writing this I assume you’ve completed on-ramp training/foundations, as is required by the vast majority of boxes (getting comfortable with the lingo yet?) within the CrossFit community, and you’re biting at the chomp to get stuck in to your first official WOD—that’s ‘Workout of the Day’, just in case you were wondering. But along with the interesting acronyms that are commonplace within CrossFit, you probably have other questions and concerns as to what to expect at your first CrossFit class. Well, we’re here to help.

Athletes at all levels
You may have been in a diverse group during your on-ramp sessions, but you’ll be left without any doubt that CrossFit truly is for all when you come through the doors for your first workout. You’ll be surrounded by people of all shapes, sizes, skills and abilities, but unified in the fact that you are all CrossFit athletes. Hopefully this will calm any fears you may have had about looking stupid or feeling embarrassed, and help you realize that you are in the right place to achieve your fitness goals. CrossFit is bloody brilliant in that regard.

A social environment
Your box is your new family, where one athlete’s success is shared by all. It may take a few classes for the regulars to get to know you and understand what constitutes a serious accomplishment for you (such as your first pull-up, etc.), but what you can expect (I should say, should expect from a good box) is a warm introduction from the coach and friendly welcome from the class. CrossFitters, as a species, are pretty friendly people, so don’t be surprised to have your hand shaken more than once.

A set structure to the class
Foundations will have laid the…uh…foundations of how a CrossFit class is structured—though it can vary. In most instances, you should expect to spend 5-10 minutes on a warm-up, a further 10 minutes spent on mobility work, a strength or skill element followed by the meat and potatoes of the class—the workout itself. The design of a CrossFit class means that an athlete is making the most of the 1-hour they have available to focus on mobility, strength, skill and conditioning. ‘Rest’ time (remember wasting all that time looking at yourself in the mirror at a ‘traditional’ gym?) is closely monitored and efficiency is prioritized. So not only are you working out and having fun, you’re getting the most bang for your buck as well.

Confusing terminology
Amraps, EMOMs, WODs, OLYs, ‘The Girls’—WHAT? Foundations may have explained the basic terminology of some of the lifts, such as snatches and cleans, but the variety of CrossFit acronyms and workout names can easily confuse a newcomer. You may think that the rest of the class is speaking in riddles, but rest assured you’ll get the hang of it, and in no time you’ll have mastered the CrossFit lingo.

Personal attention from the coach
You are a fresh recruit straight out of basic (aka foundations) so relax, you’re not going to be thrown straight into the thick of it with no one watching your back. In fact, expect your coach to spend some extra time walking you through each movement in detail and critiquing your form. This is to be expected and is a sign that your coach is a professional who wants to make sure you are moving efficiently and safely.

High intensity, but low weight
Like I mentioned, you are brand new to CrossFit. You won’t be expected to do anything you can’t handle safely; that probably means doing the WOD with low weight and checking your ego at the door. Truth be told, this is something that seasoned athletes forget far too often. Performing the WOD with lighter weight ensures that you will be placing more emphasis on the technique of the movement. Since you are still getting the hang of things, this allows you to perform it in a safer manner. But that doesn’t mean that your intensity should waver at all. Effort is universal across the board, so make sure that you give 100% and impress the hell out of everyone in your class so that they know you mean business.

‘Failure’—Expect to be humbled
Unless you’re an athletic freak, you’re likely to finish towards the back of the class on your first day. But it’s not as much about competing against the others in the class as about tackling that very first WOD in glorious fashion. Unless you’re incredibly lucky and it’s a ‘light’ day of work, you’re going to be in for one hell of a ride—assuming you give it 100% like we discussed. Don’t be surprised if you end up on your back gasping for air, shocked at how you feel and how ‘poorly’ you think you might have performed. We all have to start somewhere, and I can assure you that this won’t be the first time a WOD makes you feel like that. It happens to everyone now and again. So chin up and remember it’s only day one.

Bumps, scrapes and bruises
CrossFitters wear their battle scars with pride, so don’t be shocked to see some cut-up shins and gnarly palms on the athletes around you. Depending on the day’s workout, you might be joining the club sooner than you think. Now, you could prepare for a worst-case scenario by wearing gloves or knee-length socks. If anything though, you’ll be part of the ‘club’ and have a good war story for your non-CrossFitting amigos. But after that, make sure to keep your body in tip-top condition as best you can.

LOUD NOISES
This isn’t your mother’s Pilates class. Walk through the door and expect to be greeted with some pounding tunes, the resounding thud of barbells making contact with the ground, yelps of encouragement and grunts of exertion. All normal, natural behavior you can expect within the walls of the box. Music to a CrossFitter’s ears.

Expect to get hooked
You were obviously curious enough to try a free class of CrossFit, intrigued by what foundations had to offer, and willing to throw your hat into the ring with a bout against a regular CrossFit class; all good signs. What you don’t know is that there’s a very good chance that at some point in the middle of the workout something’s going to click in the back of your mind that tells you you’ve finally found what you’re looking for. The missing piece of your fitness/sport puzzle has been found, the kool-aid has been drunk and your obsession has begun.

Photo courtesy of pfazzone/CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0/

William Imbo
William Imbo is an Associate Editor at BoxLife magazine, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer and holds an MPS in Sports Industry Management from Georgetown University. He is an avid CrossFitter and loves film, music and travel, thanks to having grown up across Europe. A fan of the New Orleans Saints and Newcastle United, Will's favorite CrossFit girl is Helen-least favorite being Isabel.

1 COMMENT

  1. I am hard of hearing and my eyesight sucks…that’s on top of the fact that I shattered c1, c2 & c3 years ago & too many other injuries to mention now….I am fearful. I hate looking…feeling like an idiot. I live in a college town and I am an old woman….im not a co ed susie q. My lack of hearing makes it difficult to understand instructions. I wish I cld find private instructions…just for the fundamentals….basic classes. I want to be able to do 50 pull ups before I die. Bucket list

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