Fitness Cheat Sheet: What is CrossFit?

By Wendy Toth

Forget what you’ve heard about CrossFit workouts—that it’s for bodybuilders, that it’s a boot camp, that it’s cultish. So what is CrossFit? At it’s most basic, CrossFit is a form of exercise designed around making you proficient at functional movements, or movements most applicable to everyday life; it’s truly for everyone.

“Think about doing squats,” says Justin Yee, CrossFit trainer and owner of Mission CrossFit in Mission Viejo, California (pictured). “Squatting mimics getting up out of a chair.

A good CrossFit gym will assess your fitness level and start you in a tailored way.

“While one person is doing a traditional pull-up, another may do a modified pull-up where they hang back off of a set of rings with their feet on the ground,” he says.

In one hour-long class, you can expect a warm-up, a strength or skill movement that focuses on proper technique and an eight to 20-minute workout that’s based on intensity, such as a series of lifts and plyometric moves, or super-fast moves to bring your workout up a notch.  “We get a lot of work done quickly,” says Yee.

The intensity is what gets strength and long-term cardio results—essentially making you better at any activity.

Wear It…to class

Go for comfortable yoga-style gear that won’t get in your way.

“It’s very physical so you don’t want bulky clothing, but you want to feel comfortable,” says Yee. In other words, if yoga pants aren’t your thing, wear whatever is.

Say It…for motivation

If you like having a workout buddy but can’t get anyone to come along, Yee recommends highlighting and keeping in mind the scalability of CrossFit. “One of my best clients came to us after two hip replacements because he couldn’t golf anymore.” After one year of CrossFit, the client was back to his annual golf trip, playing six rounds in two days at his lowest score in 20 years.

“If you are 60 or 70 and want a better range of motion, your goal is the same as the athlete who wants to get proficient at their sport, just at a different scale,” Yee explains.

Find It…near you

CrossFit gyms are all independently owned and operated, so start by locating a few in your area (SpaFinder Wellness can help), then go try out the free introductory class at each one.

“Make sure you feel comfortable with your coach,” Yee says. The best CrossFit gyms start new members out with an “onramp” or “elements” course. “Stay away from gyms throwing you into the regular course.”

Do It…now!

A lot of women enter the CrossFit gym voicing the concern that they’re afraid of “bulking up,” says Yee. But since CrossFit is about making you fitter overall, you’ll never lift enough weight often enough to get bulky.

“You’ll lean out and tone up,” he says. Who wouldn’t want that?

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