What Is CrossFit? How Do I Start + How Much Does It Cost?

October 5, 2017

what is crossfit

You’ve seen it on Instagram and heard that your friend from work likes to go every night, but you might still be a little confused as to what CrossFit actually is. 

CrossFit has been around as an exercise programme since 2000, but with the wellness boom of recent years it’s been growing in popularity more than ever. Here, I detail what exactly CrossFit is, along with common questions like how much it costs, what the abbreviations mean, and how to start CrossFit.

I hope this post answers your questions, but if there’s anything I don’t cover, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll answer for you.

Everything we’re wearing in this post is from Kitbox.co – check them out for all your CrossFit needs! Images shot by Neil Shearer Photography at M Squared Fitness

What is CrossFit?

CrossFit is constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity. That’s the brand’s own definition – but what does that actually mean?

To explain that definition, CrossFit is an exercise programme that’s constantly changing, although it does follow periodisation – you will work in strength, muscle growth, and endurance cycles. You will do one WOD (workout of the day) one day, then the next, it’ll be different. Functional movements are those which transfer into real life, for example a deadlift is just like lifting a heavy object, and a burpee is getting up off the floor. High intensity means that you’ll do these movements to the best standard you can, as fast as you can!

What you really need to know as a beginner is that CrossFit is a mixture of bodyweight movements, weightlifting, endurance like running or rowing, and gymnastics like pull-ups, with a workout created each day by the coach. Everything is infinitely scalable. The more you go to the box (that’s a CrossFit gym), the more you will get used to and love this format!

what is crossfit

How much does CrossFit cost?

CrossFit seems expensive, but you get so much value for money – you get unlimited use of an incredibly well-equipped gym, you get all your programming done for you, you get coached sessions, and you can also pick your coaches’ brains at most other times.

The cheapest I’ve seen a CrossFit gym is £55 per month, and I’ve seen prices go up to £250 per month in London. The average is around £80 per month, so £20 per week – if you go out on a Friday night, I can guarantee you spend more than that, yet CrossFit is contributing to your overall health and longevity.

Can I do CrossFit if I’m unfit?

Short answer: yes. Every single movement can be scaled. Some workouts will be tougher than others (burpees are still hard for me, two and a half years on) but you will get fitter as a CrossFit newbie by doing them.

If you’re concerned about what others in the class think, then don’t be. The CrossFit community is supportive (seriously, just wait until you meet them) and are also aware that they too were beginners once. You will also find that everyone will be grafting hard in the workout, and are unlikely to notice what anyone else is doing.

So turn up, scale the workout as you need to, put in the work – and soon you’ll be feeling a lot fitter.

what is crossfit

What are some popular CrossFit movements?

‘Constantly varied’ means anything can be thrown into the mix, but there are some popular movements other than things like squats, deadlifts and running you might be used to in your normal workouts.

Wall balls: Holding a weighted ball in front of you, squatting down, then throwing to a target.

Burpees: From standing, lie down so your chest touches the ground, get up again, jump and clap above your head to show full extension.

Cleans: Moving a barbell (or dumbbell, wallball, or kettlebell) from the floor to your collarbones in one motion. Can sometimes be followed by a jerk, which is using hip drive to push the barbell overhead.

Snatches: Moving a barbell from the ground to overhead in one movement. A snatch (or squat snatch) is landing in a squat so your hips are below parallel, and a power snatch is landing with hips above parallel.

Box jumps: From standing, jumping onto a box, and fully extending your body at the top.

Hopefully you understand how all of these movements could translate to real life. Your coach will also explain the technique thoroughly to you in your first session, called Foundations, where you’ll also try these movements and more out.

what is crossfit

What does WOD, AMRAP, etc mean?

CrossFit does have a lot of its own jargon, but it makes sense – promise! There is lots, but here are some of the most common abbreviations.

WOD: Workout of the Day. Just what that day’s workout is.

AMRAP: As many (rounds/reps) as possible. You’ll be given a time window (say, 20 minutes) and you’ll have to do as many rounds or reps of a workout before the time is up.

RX: Doing the workout as prescribed – at the weight that’s on the board. This is only really important for competitions – always scale as you need to to get the best out of a workout.

GHD: We do sometimes have straightening irons in our changing rooms – but this refers to a Glute Ham Developer, a machine you can use to do back extensions or GHD sit-ups on.

TTB: Toes-to-bar. Holding onto the rig and touching both of your toes to the bar.

what is crossfit

How do I start CrossFit?

First you can find your nearest affiliated box on the CrossFit.com Affiliate Map. Most will have Facebook, and I’ve found most boxes are responsive on Facebook, so drop them a quick message introducing yourself. If you’re going to drop in, it’d be useful for you to let them know so they can ensure there are enough coaches around to help.

Most boxes offer trial classes, so try it out and see what you think! Remember, it’s all scalable. Before signing up as a fully-fledged member, you’ll then do a Foundations or Fundamentals course, which is normally two hours long, and you’ll learn many of the movements you’ll need for the classes in a safe environment.

Then you’re ready to join classes – but you’re not left alone. Coaches are there to support you with any questions or concerns you might have at any time you’re in the box.

what is crossfit

What’s the best thing about CrossFit?

You’ll hear this so often, but by a long shot, it’s the community. They’ll support you when you’re struggling with a workout with words of encouragement. They’ll support you when you’ve smashed a workout, and be as pleased for you as they would be for themselves. They’ll offer you advice or an anecdote when you’re feeling down or stuck, and they’ll laugh at themselves when something goes wrong. They’ll also be there for a beer when the time’s right – CrossFitters play as hard as they train!

Don’t forget to high-five or fist bump your fellow CrossFitters at the end of the workout.

Hopefully that’s covered your CrossFit questions and you feel encouraged to try a class now. If not, just drop me a comment and I’ll happily answer your question. See you in the box soon!

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Sarah fitness blog Manchester


Welcome to That Squat Bot! I'm Sarah, a Personal Trainer based in Manchester, UK.

I love strength and functional training, but I also love trying different types of movement and using my fitness outside of the gym. I'm vegan who loves avocados and vegetables as much as I love a great veggie burger. I'm also a massive Marvel nerd!

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