I’ve been doing CrossFit for a little over 5 years now, coaching CrossFit part-time for four, and full-time coaching between CrossFit, CrossFit Kids and nutrition for a little over a year and a half now. Through my years of CrossFit training and coaching others, there are so many pieces of advice that I wish someone told me when I first started, but I then realized these were often lessons and experiences I have learned along the way. Some people may never know what CrossFit is, or will never give it a try, but here are 8 things I wish I knew when I first began my journey down the CrossFit rabbit hole:

1. You don’t have to be fit or look fit to get started. Even though I had been running for half marathons about a year prior to starting, there were still so many aspects of CrossFit I had to ease into. It’s not all just one aspect of fitness, such as cardiovascular endurance. It incorporates many aspects in one hour: mobility, stamina, strength, power, agility–just to name a few.

2. Leave your self-doubt at the door. I grew up being my own biggest critic at everything I tried. It was detrimental to my experience if I came in that day already thinking “I’m not good at this.” I usually felt tense, worried, insecure, and incapable. However, coming in with an enthusiasm for learning something new or a lesson from that day helped me grow as an athlete.

3. What you do outside of your 1-hour class is more important than anything else when it comes to making improvements. From getting enough sleep, managing stress, and eating the right foods–all of these are much more important habits for making positive change towards healthy living than simply showing up for 1 hour.

4. Still show up. Even when you’ve had the worst day at work, or you are in a tough, personal situation, or it’s just way too cold outside–still show up. Doing the work on some of the toughest of days further shows you just how much you can achieve on the days you are thriving and everything is going smoothly in life.

5. Your coach is advising your approach to the workout with their BEST intention. They’re not there to see you fail, or to stand around and not get a good workout. If they are giving you a modification for a certain movement pattern, or challenging you with a heavier weight, they are doing so with their professional knowledge and good intention. If you disagree or are hesitant, just have a conversation with them about it. Understanding the stimulus of a workout, or the reason for modifications is a great way feel more confident in approaching the WOD (workout of the day).

6. “Gains” take years, despite what you see on social media. When I was still working full-time as a teacher, in grad school, and coaching and training were all part time, I would often get frustrated as to why I couldn’t be as strong or as fit as the next chick squatting double bodyweight. I had a very naive conception that my 1 hour CrossFit classes 5-6x/week were going to get me there within the next year or two. Even until this day, I am learning to understand that not only my lack of strength training background but also a variety of other factors such as genetics, food volume intake and recovery are all key factors as to why it’s taken years for me to make some real gains (and as my own worst critic, I’m still trying to celebrate these!)

7. Your lifestyle begins to shape up a little differently when you commit to it and see results. Before I was a coach, I realized I began to wake up earlier on Saturday mornings to go to CrossFit, started timing the time it took to shovel my mom’s driveway in the winter, and even researching things like “paleo” or “zone dieting” because I really started drinking the “kool aid”. But in reality, seeing that I was in a better mood after my classes, incorporated it into a regular routine, and also started to see myself doing new things I didn’t know I could do, such as handstand push ups, or squatting anything over 100lbs. I was hooked on seeing results time and time again, and I wasn’t ready to slow down!

8. You make some genuine, lifelong relationships with people you meet at the box. As cliche as it may be, it’s true–you find that the people who populate your box community are people that have more similarities than differences with you. Everyone’s story may be a little different, but everyone is also there to work hard, encourage others, and improve their life in some way, shape or form. From your coaches, to your classmates, and even some of your friends or family members you’ve known your whole life–your relationships with those who share your CrossFit experience are like none other.

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