The Cult of CrossFit (And How to Get In on the Fun!)

by Greatist
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The Cult of CrossFit (And How to Get In on the Fun!)

Greatist-Logo.jpgCrossFit has mysterious terms like “the box,” a loyal base that proudly dons catchphrase t-shirts, and even it’s own Games on ESPN. But what is CrossFit exactly? It’s a strength and conditioning program designed for all-around physical preparedness that combines sprints with weightlifting, endurance with gymnastics, with a healthy dose of specialty disciplines—like powerlifting—added to the mix. It’s quite a spectrum, so get the low down before diving into those muscle-ups and more and see if CrossFit is right for you.

Befriending Fran—The Need-to-Know

CrossFit focuses on functional movements, exercises that prepare the body for everyday activities so we can tackle any task at hand—from getting out of bed to hauling bags of groceries. (Why do you think they call them “bulk” items?!) But these movements aren’t perfected in a shopping aisle; many CrossFitters head to “the box” (a CrossFit affiliate gym) to attend a group class that is generally broken down into four parts. First is a dynamic warm-up, followed by skill work to practice form on the many different movements used in workouts. Then comes the workout of the day, or the “WOD.” These are usually 5-20 minutes long, and focus on movements done at a high intensity. Finally, a cool-down and stretch session closes out the workout before hitting the showers.

Seems simple enough, so why all the buzz about CrossFit? Some are hooked, while others are not fans. Here are the program’s benefits, along with some possible concerns:

The Pros:

  • The community Workouts are done in a group setting. The box is filled with support and camaraderie with each athlete cheering on the next.
  • The new moves CrossFit often introduces people to exercises they might not be familiar with, like Olympic lifts, handstands, and kipping pull-ups. (They don’t teach you those in P.E.!)
  • The challenge There’s no sugarcoating it: CrossFit is intense. So if you want to push yourself and get fitter, this could definitely be for you.
  • It’s a one-stop shop CrossFit brands itself as the go-to place for every fitness need: getting stronger, fitter, leaner, and probably more badass too. If you’re looking to go after many goals, the box may be your answer.

The Cons:

  • It could be unsafe While fun, those new moves can be pretty complicated. Some CrossFit moves, if not done properly, can be dangerous, especially if the instructor isn’t overseeing and coaching properly.
  • People may push too hard Workouts call for doing moves in a certain amount of time or for as many reps as possible. If that competitive drive is in turbo-mode, athletes may push too hard or go too fast, breaking form and potentially increasing the risk of injury.
  • Uncle Rhabdo could appear In very extreme cases, pushing the muscles to an extremity could result in rhabdomyolysis, the breakdown of muscle fibers that harms the kidney. CrossFitters created a (gross) figure called Uncle Rhabdo to remind athletes to stay smart.
  • Again, it’s a community For those who like to work out solo, CrossFit may not be the best bang for their buck. However, you can check out CrossFit’s workout of the day online and get a workout from almost anywhere.

The bottom line? Be smart and listen to your body, and never push to a dangerous degree.

Ready to WOD—Your Action Plan

Think you’re up for the CrossFit challenge? Take these tips before jumping into that first class:

  • Find a gym With thousands of boxes around the world, it probably won’t be hard to find a place to give CrossFit a try. Most boxes offer a free class for first-timers, too.
  • Ask questions Many CrossFit gyms offer an intro course to teach the nine basic movements of CrossFit. Make sure you feel comfortable with everything before diving headfirst, and check to see if the instructor has the proper teaching certifications. These can usually be found on the box’s website.
  • Scale accordingly All CrossFit movements are scaled and can be modified. Can’t hold on to a 50 lb kettlebell? Grab the 20 lb. Push-ups not up to par? Drop the knees down. Do what feels best and soon those heavier weights and harder forms will be yours!
  • Go at your own pace Workouts are either “for time” (who can finish first!) or AMRAP (“As Many Reps As Possible” in a certain amount of time). Either way, make sure you feel comfortable with all the movements and go at a pace that’s challenging but doesn’t get unsafe.
  • Remember to rest prescribes every fourth day’s workout as a “Rest Day.” Make sure to take some time off to help the body recover.
  • Learn the language Before you can walk the walk, you gotta talk the talk.From “burpees” to “thrusters,” “Fran” to “filthy fifty,” CrossFit has a jargon all its own. Luckily, we have a lingo guide to provide a head start.
  • Have fun CrossFit may seem intimidating at first. Butlike any exercise program, the most important thing is to challenge the body while having fun. So if it sounds like a good fit, give it a try! Fran will love you no matter what…

Have you tried CrossFit yet? What was your first time in a box like? Share your experiences in the comments below.

About the Author


Greatist helps you find what’s good for you. Not like “eat your vegetables, they’re good for you.” More like “here are some choices you can realistically make, stick with, and feel really good about.” Because in the end, you don’t have to choose between being happy and being healthy; they’re really the same thing.




47 responses to “The Cult of CrossFit (And How to Get In on the Fun!)”

  1. Avatar _antihomerism_ says:

    if the goal is to be trendy, can we get a guest blog from Dr. Oz?

    • Avatar Austin Schilling says:


      • Avatar Moyote says:

        Nothing more need be said.

      • Avatar jofjltncb6 says:

        Do you believe this is a crossfit-exclusive affliction? What percentage of those who do crossfit develop it?

        • Avatar TheJohnykat says:

          It’s not Crossfit exclusive at all.. However, way too many boxes, instructors and general XFitters treat Rhabdomyolysis as a joke. Uncle Rhabdo? Cmon, this is not something to strive after. Working in an ER, I’ve seen… And it’s pretty freaking horrid.

          • Avatar JofJLTNCB6 says:

            No doubt, it’s horrible…but of all those cases you’ve seen in the ER, how many were crossfit related? Does crossfit truly have a greater-than-average (compared to other activities) rate of rhabdo? Is it higher or lower in crossfitters compared to, say, triathletes?

            Don’t misunderstand…I’m all for reasonable warnings about reasonable issues…but the admonishment of crossfit seems disproportionate to its actual danger.

            Also, I agree, that mascot is unfortunate (and ridiculous)…and crossfit corporate has made plenty of “unfortunate” blunders…but that doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) necessarily discredit the entire approach.

          • Avatar TheJohnykat says:

            As I said above, it’s not Crossfit exclusive. There is a higher chance of it in the CF style high intensity workouts, but as with other workouts it can be minimized with proper instruction and safety. . The issue I have is that by making Pukie the Clown and Uncle Rhabdo unofficial mascots, you are discrediting the severity of the issue. And that is dangerous. Is clients see instructors treating it as a joke, then they will as well.

          • Avatar JofJLTNCB6 says:

            Higher chance in high intensity workouts compared to what? To lower intensity workouts? Okay, fine, I’ll accept that. But compared to other forms of high intensity training? I simply haven’t seen any research to support that assertion. (I’m not saying it isn’t there…just that I haven’t seen it…)

            For what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure crossfit corporate has greatly toned down (or perhaps even eliminated) their use of the mascots.

            And most importantly, none of this (IMHO) justifies actively trying to dissuade people from considering crossfit as an option as seems to be so popular lately. Reasonable warnings? Sure, those make sense. Telling people “Crossfit?!? Not even once!” seems like an unreasonable reaction.

  2. Avatar Ferrit says:

    I do Crossfit at least twice a week (and I’m 15kgs overweight), and I’m addicted to it! It pushes me to do stuff I’d never self motivated myself to do and it’s great having the support from the gym instructors. It sometimes virtually kills me but I feel great after! It’s helping me lose the weight (along with MFP etc) as it’s such a great workout.

  3. Avatar patii jim says:

    hi! i have a quiestion do you know how many calories o you burn in crossfit… its not in the database and i dont have the hr monitor 🙁 thanks!

    • Avatar Nic says:

      There is no way to calculate that. Building muscle and working muscle burns calories for hours and even days after doing the work. U can’t put a number on weight lifting and crossfit.

      • Avatar Elle says:

        Not very many, in general. I crossfit (over a year and a half) and always wear my HR monitor. If you do spinning or other standard cardio workouts you burn more.

    • Avatar Thomas J. Owens says:

      Generally speaking and on an average it’s about 500 calories for a one hour workout. Someday’s more, someday’s less for an average athlete. Some of the more elite athlete’s may burn more and older farts like me will burn less.

    • Avatar nick says:

      Why are you looking to burn calories?
      You burn calories doing exercise, sleeping, and digesting.
      if you have a strength and agility goal then cross fit would help you get stronger, faster and more agile.

      If you have a fat-loss (body-composition) goal than you would want to create a calorie deficit in the amount of calories you eat every day. (no cheat meals if you want fat loss) You consume less calories then your metabolic rate or in this case with you adding exercise. Consume your normal amount and then exercise to create a calorie deficit. FINALLY keep in mind; you need to eat a quality protein meal after you do a Crossfit workout the average woman needs 20-25 grams of protein and a man needs 25-30 grams.

      p.s. If you are doing complete cardio for body composition goals, you are not going to get the best results. Cardio increases the performance of your heart, burns calories at LOW intensity and HIGH intensity (the medium ground just helps your heart and your endurance levels) Cardio sessions more than 40 minutes COULD start to use your own muscles as an energy source. The more muscle you have the higher your metabolism can be and the more calories you can burn at rest and while sleeping.
      Please talk to a Personal Trainer to get a SMART goal set for your health and fitness goals.

  4. Avatar Heather says:

    I cross fit and love it! I’ve been going for about a year and the thing is… I’ve stuck with it. I don’t get burnt out or ever fell like I’m in a work out rut. I have friends that go to the gym and aol they do is run on the tread mill for 30 min because they don’t know how to do the machines one don’t want to look stupid. I never have that issue at my class because the instructors are always there to help you with form and answer any questions and even modify the movement if need be!

  5. Avatar Markymark2710 says:

    I started going to CrossFit nearly a year ago, a few months after my wife. She used to come home with all these fun stories about how hard but addictive it was and another newbie had thrown up after a 7 minute AMRAP ! How hard and can it be I thought? Me being a lone trainer for years and one of those guys who rarely leave the Cross Trainer before heading for the sauna !
    Anyway – nearly a year later, I’m fitter, stronger, leaner and much happier. I don’t want to miss a CrossFit class at all costs – it is highly addictive and great fun and you’ll make lots of like minded friends as well. Give it a try – you won’t look back. Most newbies do return !

  6. Avatar deadlift185 says:

    I enjoy the challenge, the complexity, the concentration, the physical awareness gained through CrossFit. I’m 55, I have MS and I love XF. I have achieved a level of conditioning enabling me to be more active & mobile & work in the heat that I have not experienced since being diagnosed with MS. Granted I don’t do Burpees like everyone else, I do modified Burpees but I’m not treated as any less of an athlete for doing modified or scaled WOD’s! In fact, fellow XF’ers cheer me on and that means a lot to me, especially since it was less than a year ago I was walking with a cane for stability due to leg weakness. No more leg weakness – thanks to XF!

    • Avatar Fellow MSer says:

      Thanks for commenting! This was what I needed to hear, I have been contemplating joining a “box” for a while now- but I am so grossly out of shape (fat), and have MS and walk with a cane, I have been extremely intimidated. :/
      Thanks for the encouraging comment, and the MS mention for all of us out there trying to figure out what kind of except use we can do with a disability.

      • Avatar JofJLTNCB6 says:

        I know this is going to sound counter to the prevailing conventional wisdom, but I honestly believe that crossfit is *ideal* for those dealing with issues like this. The entire approach is entirely customizable (aka scalable) for your unique set of considerations. The student-to-instructor ratio is the lowest you will find in any comparable situation (except an individual private trainer). And the culture I’ve consistently found in crossfit boxes…something that is often thrown around as an insult (“cult-like”)…can be incredibly helpful.

    • Avatar Kat says:

      There are people of all shapes, sizes, ages, abilities and goals at the box I attend and we all cheer for each other just the same. I love the community and the variety. But do your homework and check out a few locations to be sure you find the coaches and the crossfitters that will work best for you!

    • Avatar Kat says:

      There are people of all shapes, sizes, ages, abilities and goals at the box I attend and we all cheer for each other just the same. I love the community and the variety. But do your homework and check out a few locations to be sure you find the coaches and the crossfitters that will work best for you!

    • Avatar Kat says:

      There are people of all shapes, sizes, ages, abilities and goals at the box I attend and we all cheer for each other just the same. I love the community and the variety. But do your homework and check out a few locations to be sure you find the coaches and the crossfitters that will work best for you!

  7. Avatar Crossfitterbm says:

    Please stop writing opinion blogs.

  8. Avatar Chelle Nash Ethington says:

    I am 59 years old, have been ‘Crossfitting’ for a couple of years now… my first experience in the box made me want more. I love that everyone in the class cheers and encourages everyone else. I have to do most of the WODs scaled – no one ever treats me like I am wimping out or doing less. I think you can get injured in ANY workout if you don’t do the moves correctly, or if you push yourself too hard – common sense is a good idea.

  9. Avatar Markatencio says:

    I love crossfit. The problem is, the cost. $125/month, not worth it.

  10. Avatar Markatencio says:

    I love crossfit. The problem is, the cost. $125/month, not worth it.

  11. Avatar Markatencio says:

    I love crossfit. The problem is, the cost. $125/month, not worth it.

    • Avatar Evelyn says:

      Buy groupons!

      • Avatar Markatencio says:

        Thanks Evelyn. I could, I guess. For me, I’m better off doing my own WODs in my garage, in combination with my $30/month globo gym membership. Guess I love the workouts, not the cult.

  12. Avatar Markatencio says:

    I love crossfit. The problem is, the cost. $125/month, not worth it.

  13. Avatar Teachr9998 says:

    I am if a Certain age (over 65) and joined CF in January of this year, after one on one with the coach for 22 sessions. I started at 25lbs overweight and hardly able to breathe. I go to class three times a week. My workouts are modified but that doesn’t mean my workouts are any less challenging. My breathing has improved and I have lost I’ve 20lbs. (diet figures in here, also) I don’t know why I hadn’t joined sooner. One of the best decisions I have ever made. I don’t miss many workouts. G

  14. Avatar Ann Brewer says:

    I’m a 55 year old woman who joined CrossFit 9 months ago and it is AWESOME!

  15. Avatar Machine says:

    I did crossfit for about 6 months and loved it, particularly felt I was a lot stronger. Unfortunately it didn’t give me much of a cardio workout, having to go to my other gym after an XF session to get a fix of kickboxing or spin. Couldn’t justify the cost of 2 gyms so dropped XF and do my own strength at the other gym. $50 a week was a bit ridiculous really just for XF. If I could have done 1-2 sessions a week at around $10 each I would have continued but the price was not negotiable 🙁

    • Avatar Elle says:

      I agree with you. I have been doing crossfit for the past year and half, and while it is a great place to work out, the WODs are very short and the emphasis is on strength more than conditioning. I missed my cardio, so I am slowing down with crossfit to pick up my running back…

    • Avatar Julie says:

      Same boat here. I did xfit for over a year. Got a lot stronger but the lack of cardio did nothing for me in terms of weight loss. In fact i gained weight! I am currently not xfitting because i ended up with a stress fracture above my ankle 🙁 Now i’m wondering if I should try something less intense with more cardio in hopes of losing weight while trying to maintain my strength gains, or go back and risk further injury. My box, although affordable, is very clique-y and the coach pushes you to where he thinks you should be, which in my case, resulted in injury.

      • Avatar katlynn says:

        I truly apologize that you ended up with a trainer that pushed you to the point of injury. That is unacceptable yet seems to alhappen no matter what sport you train for-theres always those coaches. I would recommend (to the weightgain) that you also consider the weight you would have gained in muscle from the training may be what led to the gains. Also, if you are more interested in cardio there are many ways to tailor your WODs to fit that goal. If your interested in cardio for weight loss, the muscle gain will actually promote higher calorie burns in the long run and what would be even more vital than cardio would actually be the amount (and kind-healthiness) of the calories that you intake. Just some considerations.

  16. Avatar Jrad says:

    I am 69 years old and started crossfit 11 months ago thinking that since the box was conveniently right around the corner I’d actually go and do it. I was fit because i’d always kept active but this was something totally different. At first I would get nauseous about halfway through each modality but I’ve been cautious and scaled my workouts carefully. The friendliness and encouragement of the members and coaches kept me coming back and I now go four times a week, even dropping in on classes in another city. I have not lost weight but my clothing fits differently and due to increased core strength I can now do things that were not possible even three months ago, especially modalities that require good balance.
    I will continue as long as I’m physically able.

  17. Avatar Natalie says:

    I joined Crossfit about 3 weeks ago and I love it! I was doing at least 10 different exercises classes a week and felt I wasn’t working out hard enough plus I was away from home too 🙁 so I looked up Crossfit and though I would take the plunge and I’ve never looked back
    I go 3 times a week and 2 classes start at 6am so I home much and I feel like I’ve done 10 classes just by doing 3

  18. Avatar 2befit123 says:

    Unfortuantely, I found the Crossfit gym close by to cater mostly to younger folks, and if you weren’t one of their “proteges”, or more elite participants, you didn’t get a lot of attention, so the coaching was not very individual – leaving you open to injury. The cost was also higher than justifiable for a gym with little equipment and limited access in terms of hours – ie you are limited by the times the classes are offered. I’ve since started working with a personal trainier who gave me an personalized program and I find this to be a much better bang for my buck.

  19. Avatar Rae024 says:

    Joined almost two years ago. Went from having no athletic bone in my body to training for my first half marathon and completing 100 pullups (kipping) in one WOD session… CrossFit changed my life!

  20. Avatar Brynda says:

    I am 41, overweight, and have been doing CrossFit for 2 years. I was never athletic in my younger years, and had a bad taste in my mouth about ‘jocks’ and typical gym goers. In CrossFit I have found a community of athletes and non-athletes alike, who support, encourage, help and foster a sense of accomplishment that I have NEVER had anywhere else. These people are my friends and my family, and I LOVE IT!! Everything can be scaled, and every person works at their own level – just at the same time. Feel free to message me if you have any questions on what it is like to be a ‘fat’ crossfitter, because I am that person…but I have accomplished things in the past 2 years that I NEVER thought possible!!

  21. Avatar Carol Dunlop says:

    good article on sharing the basics of what CrossFit is all about. I have been a CrossFit athlete for a little over a year and I am in better shape now and feel more fit than I did when I was competing in bodybuilding and fitness. Yes, it is intense, but by finding a good box, or gym that caters to what YOU want to do, you will see yourself excelling in ways you never thought possible. If you are thinking about it, don’t listen to the hype and the na-sayers, find one, interview the coach/owner or coaches, take a class or 2 and decide how you want to move forward. The best coaches and members are supportive, kind and instructive. They check their egos and the door and they really care about you, your form and your experience. WOD on my friend!

  22. Avatar TS says:

    I too am a great fan of xfit and totally recommend it 100% for anyone who is after strength conditioning and body transformation. I’m a mother of 2 children who checked out a few boxes before joining and was fortunate to find a great one close to work with experienced instructors who ensure my safety at all times. I believe it is important to be trained by instructors who have training certs in ‘Crossfit, Olympic lifting, Gymnastics, Endurance & the kettlebell’ as they will critique your technique ensuring you avoid injury which in return you leave with a great feeling of accomplishment and abs “well eventually”

  23. Avatar Miss Lady Redbird says:

    I am 58 yrs old and have been Crossfitting for over 3 years. It is very challenging but I keep at it. All my WODs are scaled and I do what I can to stay healthy. The people I work out with are mostly younger but very encouraging.

  24. Avatar Brooklyn says:

    How can I get rid of fat around the knees,cellulite and flabby thighs, thick and fat legs and fat ankles ,help!

  25. […] on lots (and lots) of dates Try it all: Zumba, Crossfit, yoga, running, walking, Jazzercize, P90X, that new iPhone app you downloaded, Paleo, Veganism, the […]

  26. Avatar 5mack says:

    Love love love crossfit. My first sessions taught me all about the basic Olympic lifts and the squat and how to perform them all properly which has since helped me recover from a very painful back problem which turned out to be caused by lying on the sofa! Who knew!?! Correct posture in all areas of my life is now at the fore of my mind so that I don’t have to take 8 weeks off exercise again. Those introductory classes helped me fix my slightly off-line hip position under load (which was contributing to my back problem at the time) and now I can squat happy every time. Without the expert coaching I’ve had at the box I could still be carrying a niggling pain into the gym every day. Thanks crossfit. I love you <3

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