Is CrossFit for Beginners Even Possible?
CrossFit, for beginners or seasoned exercisers, can be an intimidating fitness discipline. It takes place in a spartan gym—better known as a box—with basic equipment, including pull-up bars, tires, medicine balls, and barbells. You’d think you’d need to be a bodybuilder just to get started.
You’d be wrong on that count.
CrossFit training is suitable for almost everybody, as every one of its workouts can be scaled to challenge the fitness level of each individual. So if you’re a 40-year-old newbie, you’ll be doing a similar workout to the 25-year-old nearby, except slower and with less weight and fewer reps—that is, until you’re nearly as strong and fit as he is. Indeed, CrossFit instructor Tom Parry (shown above) devotes much of his time proving to his students that they’re capable of incredible feats.
The instructor’s résumé
Parry, who owns Chicago’s Atlas Performance, holds a master’s degree in exercise physiology and sports nutrition. He’s certified as a personal trainer and a CrossFit Level 1 coach. He also worked as a strength and conditioning coach for Fordham University’s Division I football team.
Obviously, Parry has a drive to achieve, which has made him a natural at CrossFit. As a coach, though, he has to motivate people who are less naturally driven than he is. That’s why, by sharing how he gets participants hyped up during workouts, he expects to get more people interested in CrossFit.
How a typical CrossFit WOD goes
CrossFit WODs (workouts of the day) are the building block that make up the entire conditioning system. At most boxes, members show up throughout the day to complete the assigned workout. Coaches choose from a variety of well-known workouts or make up their own. Parry, for instance, is partial to plyometric moves that build speed and agility.
1. The music is turned up to 11.
Parry believes there are few better ways to amp up a bunch of students than some well-designed musical selections. In his opinion, the perfect CrossFit song is Guns N' Roses’ "Welcome to the Jungle." Though any song will work, he said, as long as it’s played loudly and it has a good bassline.
“You want music that's just going to completely take your mind out of where you are … [and that] occupies one of your senses completely."
2. The students make their workout a game.
CrossFit workouts are inherently competitive—an ideal situation for anyone who turned every PE class's warm-up jog into a race. Students perform select exercises “for time,” meaning they attempt to do the moves as fast as they can and, hopefully, beat their former time.
“Anybody who's a former athlete or just competitive person in general … [wants] to win the workout!" Parry said.
3. The coach does everything to motivate his students—even lie.
There’s no one-size-fits-all pep talk. "Everybody's different,” Parry said. “Some people just want to go, and if you scream at them, they'll shut down. There's somebody like me where, if I drop the bar, I want my coach screaming in my ear to get back on that bar."
Yelling is Parry’s preferred method of encouragement, but he knows it’s not what will get everyone through a day of CrossFit. For beginners and those who simply hate hard workouts, a little sugarcoating of the truth could be the nudge they need to finish and get closer to achieving their fitness goals.
To these students, Parry might say something like "Hey, the harder you work today, the easier it's going to be tomorrow."
“But that’s just something I’d say,” he emphasized. “You'd come back the next day, and I'd make you do it heavier.”
Photos by Matt Schwerin, Groupon
Learn more about crossfit:
Pull-ups are obvious. Maybe so are thrusters. But AMRAP? The minimalist workout’s out-there terminology, explained by a trainer.
These CrossFit workouts are intimidating, no question. But with the help of a CrossFit coach, we explain why they’re popular and how even beginners can do them.