By: Dell Polanco

Q: What should your fitness level be going into CrossFit? Do you need to start at a certain level of fitness?

Dell: There is not a necessary level of fitness required for CrossFit.  Many start with no athletic experience or even years of not exercising.  When dealing with a beginner or a deconditioned athlete, the most important part is introducing intensity at a pace that would be comfortable for the capacity of that individual.  And of course, scaling workouts in accordance to their ability also plays a big part – this will allow for steady and safe progress as the individual adapts to the physical demands of the workouts.

Q: Who’s a good candidate to try CrossFit? Is there a certain type of person that seems to do well with it?

Dell: CrossFit is for everyone.  We believe that the response elicited to a professional athlete in training will optimize the same response in the elderly.  Of course, my grandmother cannot lift the same weight  I cannot load my grandmother with the same load as an olympic athlete but they both need to squat.  Fitness differs by degree, not kind.  For instance, when I train my 63 year old mother and my 83 year old grandmother, they do the same exact workout, except that my grandmother would do a scaled version (differing by degree of difficulty).  When my mom does regular push ups and air squats, my grandma does her push ups against a wall and sits to a chair for her air squats.  Also, CrossFit is used by many adaptive athletes as well.

For the most part all do well in CrossFit because it’s created to meet the demands of the general population through proper coaching provided.

Competitively speaking, someone with a strong athletic background (whether in olympic weightlifting, gymnastics, powerlifting,etc) tends to do very well in the sport of CrossFit (CrossFit on a competitive level).

Q: What are the basic terms associated with CrossFit, and what do they mean?

Dell: There are so many but here are a few:

AMRAP
As Many Rounds As Possible or As Many Reps As Possible.  This means the amount of work completed in a given time frame for the workout.

For Time
This means how long it takes to complete a workout (the task at hand).

EMOM
Every Minute On the MInute.  On every minute there’s a task to be completed within that minute.

WOD
Workout of the Day

Chipper
Longer workouts to complete

Box
The way many CrossFit gyms are referred to

Q: How are CrossFit classes generally set up (for example, what do WODs entail, and how are they structured)?

Dell: CrossFit classes can differ by affiliate. At BRICK the classes are typically structured the following way:

  1. Warm up – this is intended to get your heart rate up and get your joints and muscles through full range of motion and to prepare for the workout at hand.
  2. Mobility – this addresses all the elements that limit movement and performance including short and tight muscles, soft tissue restriction, etc.
  3. Strength/Skill – This is the strength part, where athletes work on getting stronger.  On the skill part, athletes work on efficiency of movement of simple and complex gymnastics movements.
  4. Conditioning – This is where the actual workout occurs and scores are taken at the end to keep track of progress.

WODS are entailed of all CrossFit movements. This can be monostructural work (running, jumping rope, rowing, biking, etc); gymnastic movements (muscle up, dips, pull ups, handstand push ups, etc; and weightlifting (cleans, presses, back squat, snatch, etc).  This can be done in endless possibilities, in terms of varying the loads, rep schemes, time domains, and movements.  Despite all various outcomes of workouts, they are typically structured under two different umbrellas.  They are either task driven or time driven. A task driven workout would be that I would give a certain task to complete and how long it takes you to complete that would be your score.  A time driven workout would be that I would give you a certain time frame to complete as much work as you can within the time given.  How much work you complete, that would be your score.

Q: What types of exercises are focused on in a CrossFit class?

Dell: Here are a few:

Air Squat, Pull-up, Push-up, Dip, Handstand Push-up, Rope Climb, Muscle-up, Press to Handstand, Back Extension, Sit-up, Jumps, Lunges, Run, Bike, Row, Jump Rope, Deadlifts, Cleans, Presses, Snatch, Clean and Jerk, Medicine-Ball Drills, Kettlebell Swing, and many more.

Q: What kind of equipment or tools can you expect to use in a CrossFit class?

Dell: Barbells, plates, kettlebells, rings, jump ropes, boxes, dumbbells, medicine balls, bars, sleds, rowers, bikes, etc.

Q: How many times per week do you recommend people go when they’re starting out for best results?

Dell: It’s hard to give a universal response to this just because everyone has a different background and the way each person responds to the workouts will be different.  But I would recommend for those starting out to have the intention of being active as many days as they can throughout the week.  However, rest days will be dictated by the unexpected events that arise in life and by listening to the body.  For example, the person has every intention to go to the gym but something came up and they cannot make it in, then that would be a rest day.  If the person is overly sore and tired, then that will also be a rest day.

Q: If you’re staying consistent with going this many times per week, what are some results people can expect to see, and how long do they take to start to see?

Dell: Some results will be a change in body composition. The body starts to take the shape of an athletic built (loss of fat and muscle gain).  Please do keep in mind that proper nutrition plays a big part of this.  CrossFit is not only about exercising but it’s about embracing a healthier lifestyle.  Many crossfitters eat differently, however, a zone prescription type of diet is highly recommended.

Another result that can be expected to see is better quality of movement.  Meaning their kinesthetic awareness is highly increased and since CrossFit’s prescription for exercise is functional movements, this is directly transferable to everyday activity.  So people become more aware of on how they sit (no slouching), walk and stand (chest up), and how they carry items.  Whether it’s grocery bags, lifting something from the floor, placing an item overhead, etc.

Generally speaking results can be seen in a three to four month period.  These results can vary because it is also dependent upon proper nutrition.

Q: Is there anyone who might not want to try CrossFit?

Dell: Most people would want to give CrossFit a try.  However, there are some people I can see that may not want to give it a try in a class setting.  If someone is super introverted, they might not be to attracted to working out with a community of people.  Also, if someone does not know much about CrossFit and assumes it will be what they saw televised on ESPN (Reebok Crossfit Games), that may lead them to be intimidated and can make them a bit apprehensive about trying it.

Q: What’s something you’ve noticed that new people are surprised by during or after their first class?

Dell: Most of the times people underestimate what they are capable of doing and with proper coaching they achieve more than what they thought was possible.  Whether, is completing a workout or executing a movement they thought would be difficult but yet perform it with proper technique.  Also, people are surprised how easy a workout can be or how challenging it ends up being (all relevant to background and how the workout was scaled).

Q: What can you expect after your first class, and throughout the early stages? (Physically, mentally, etc.)

Dell: After your first class, you will realize how deconditioned you are and how much more there is to learn.  CrossFit is one of those things that it’s all about the journey.  Regardless, of your athletic background there is so much to learn and improve on that it’s almost never ending.  But that’s what makes it so much fun and very difficult to ever get bored.

Some of the changes that do occur throughout the early stages are an increase in kinesthetic awareness, body composition (relevant to nutrition), and an increase in your cardiovascular capacity and overall strength.

Q: If there’s anything we haven’t covered here, what else do you think people should know before they go to a CrossFit class, or if they’re just thinking about it?

Dell: One of the things to be mindful is to do your research on the CrossFit gyms you are considering attending.  Although CrossFit gyms all use the same methodology, each affiliate is independently owned (meaning all are owned by different people).  Therefore, your experience at each CrossFit gym will be different.  Some things to look for is there on boarding process.  Make sure the gym actually has classes that are dedicated to solely the introduction of the foundational movements of CrossFit. These classes can be called On Ramp, Foundations, Elements, Academy, etc.  This will make sure that you learn proper technique of the foundational movements of CrossFit and will help you get acclimated to the level of intensity required for the workouts.

Also, there are four other things to be mindful as well that will have an impact on your CrossFit experience.  

  1. Coaching – Are the instructors super knowledgable where they can keep you safe, they can teach you something new, deliver a fun product and most importantly do they really care about their members.
  2. Programming – What actually makes the workouts that will be done at the gym.  Is it a smart, purposeful program.
  3. Community – The people that go to the gym.  Would you feel comfortable and at home, when at the gym.
  4. Facility – Are you looking for really clean gym that offers many amenities or not.  Since everyone is different, this is more of a personal preference.