Starting CrossFit: What Should I Do to Prepare?

CrossFit, Training — By on January 6, 2012 10:49 am

This week I posted a short article about CrossFit and The Biggest Loser.  It quickly become the most popular article on the site and has been shared all over Facebook.  However, given that there was little meat to the article, I tried to understand why it resonated.

What I came up with was the following:  If your life has been positively impacted by CrossFit, you want your friends, family, and coworkers to have that same opportunity.  And having seriously overweight people succeed means CrossFit isn’t just for people who are already fit.

CrossFit HQ acknowledges the perception of CrossFit may make it seem out of reach for everyday people:

“Our typical reader [of CrossFit Journal] is seen by his friends, acquaintances, and family members as, quite frankly, a freak – a fitness freak, but still a freak. Your endorsement may not carry the weight you would hope or think it would.”

This comment from Anne captures the sentiment exactly:

Starting CrossFit after seeing TBL

So, if the show The Biggest Loser can motivate and inspire someone in starting CrossFit, should they immediately sign up for a membership at a local affiliate gym?  I would argue that people who have been sedentary and are seriously out of shape would benefit greatly from a month or more of remedial, at-home exercising BEFORE enrolling.

Some will say that you can scale CrossFit and begin at any stage of fitness.  OK, perhaps that is true.  But, I believe that people are more likely to stick with the program and become integrated into the community IF they feel like they belong.

Walking in on day one with the ability to do a few basic movements gives you a big boost of confidence and proves [to yourself]  that you belong.

OK, Where do I Start?

For now, don’t worry about the CrossFit lingo (Fran, WOD, AMRAP, etc.).  Don’t worry about purchasing new shoes.  And most definitely don’t worry about learning Olympic weightlifting.

Starting CrossFit with Primal BluePrint Fitness

No, if you are sedentary and out of shape, I highly recommend getting Mark Sisson’s free ebook, Primal Blueprint Fitness.  In the book, Mark identifies the “Five Essential Movements,” pushups, pull ups, overhead press, squats, and plank and outlines a realistic and reasonable series of progressions for each.  Below are videos are Mark demonstrating each of the five movements:





Overhead Press






I’m not suggesting that you need to master each of these five movements or even progress all the way through them.  However, having one, two, or three months with these skills will give you a big leg up when starting CrossFit.

Does this seem reasonable?

Related Posts:

CrossFit:  The Biggest Loser or the Biggest Winner in 2012

CrossFit Training – Getting Fit for Life

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Tim Huntley , the former CEO of Ganymede Software, spends his time advising high tech start-ups, serving on the board for the Track and Field Athletes Association, and writing on his blog, An Entrepreneurial Life. Circle me on Google+.

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  • M Ward

    I think that makes complete sense in theory. And it may work for many people. But I tried that and found myself faltering for the same reasons I’ve always had trouble with physical fitness. What I needed was the encouragement and support from those around me, so jumping into it was better. It probably depends on whether being unable to do the movements will drive them away or whether having to be on their own will stop them from doing anything at all.

    • Tim Huntley

      Thanks for your thoughts, and most definitely, having the encouragement from others can pull you along. That said from the “Bootcamp” I went through at CrossFit Local last April had only two of us to move on and become members, and that was out of 20 something people.

  • Steve Joyce

    Dozens and dozens of people in our gym couldn’t do a pullup when they first started CrossFit. No big deal. Now most of them can at least knock out a few and many are well past that. I don’t think you need to train before coming into CrossFit. That being said, if you are one of the people who get out of breath walking up one flight of stairs, you might struggle in a class workout. This isn’t unique to CrossFit. You would probably have problems starting in an average aerobics class.

    • Tim Huntley

      I don’t disagree at all – However, my primary point (which I didn’t make very well in the post) is that a lot of people will never start at CrossFit because of their perception of who CrossFit is for and their own current level of fitness.

  • Audra

    As a CrossFit gym owner I would much rather they immediately sign up for CrossFit. If they are that overweight they need to ensure they don’t overdo it, that their movements are correct so they don’t injure themselves and that they have someone to motivate them to keep going when they want to quit after a few days – they won’t get that alone on their own….my gym has made everyone feel welcome and part of the community, no matter what their weight and all of my clients that have come in needing to lose 100+ pounds have been able to be a part of a team, sometimes for the first time in their lives, and have been coached through the movements safely while being counciled on nutrition and I didnt have to “reteach” them movements they learned on their own….I say they should jump into the deep end and as coaches we need to have the ability to support then.

    • Tim Huntley

      Hey Audra,

      I agree with all of your points. Almost anyone, regardless of their current weight and fitness level, can and likely would benefit from CrossFit.

      But I think there are a lot of people who aren’t willing to “jump into the deep end?” And I am not just talking about people who are significantly overweight.

      So I would LOVE your feedback on what we do for those people??? That was my intention with the post, but I definitely don’t think I made that point very clear.

      All the best,


  • Audra

    Hi TIm!

    I get what you are saying about encouraging people to just try CrossFit even though it is portrayed as very intense and scary…I also get a lot of “I am going to go to the gym and get in better shape before I try CrossFit” comments.

    I think that before Reebok and televised Games on ESPN2 people found out about CrossFit from someone they knew – if that person explained CrossFit the correct way those people signed up – if they told them how crazy it was and told a bunch of crazy CrossFit stories then they might not sign up…based on this we coached our members on how they should explain what CrossFit is – essentially to make it seem challenging but not impossible…and they also tell people that in our gym we have people ranging from 20-80 and of all levels of fitness and workouts are modified however necessary to suit everyone. Most people are relieved to know that they will at least be better than the 80 year old! :)

    Now that we have the commercials/televised Games, etc. I get a lot of comments like “I couldn’t do that!”. I have to explain that the people they see are the top 5% of CrossFit! Just like there are people that lift weights to be fit vs people that are bodybuilders – anyone can do it – some do more and some do less.

    I think that having CrossFit as part of Biggest Loser will show people that CrossFit is possible for anyone and that will help…

    We have tried to tackle this perception by having people come to our Saturday “Open Gym”. We tell everyone that this is a bodyweight/cardio style workout suited for “athletes and their Grandparents” and that we will take good care of them and make sure they leave loving CrossFit!! Then, that’s exactly what we do! We usually have a team WOD on Saturday and pair newcomers up with other athletes in our gym that are excellent “diplomats” for our gym and CrossFit.

    Then, once they have a great experience and want to sign up, they do a 5 week On Ramp that teaches all of the movements slowly and includes a 10 minute workout at the end of each class that increases in intensity as we go along.

    At the end of On Ramp we tell each new member that we would like them to spend 1 month leaving the gym thinking “I could have gone a bit harder, I could have lifted a bit heavier”. That gives them “permission” to start out slowly.

    When we program the workouts we often modify by saying “if you have been here less than 3 months we want you to only do 3 rounds instead of 5, or 50 reps instead of 75, etc”. This announces to everyone that the coach is dictating what they are doing and they aren’t “wussing out”…

    By doing all of these things we have created a nice “cycle”. People start, they get results, people ask how, they tell people how they did it and that anyone can do it based on our program…boom, new members!

    Sorry for the long winded response – I am just super passionate about everyone being able to do CrossFit – without training beforehand! My Mom is 80 and just started CrossFit 6 months ago – she has made amazing strides in feeling better and while her goals are different than mine, she feels like she is hugely successful because she can now walk farther, has better balance and looks forward to traveling more than she did when she was in pain and unfit. And she works out next to the top athletes in the gym and they are all in as much awe of her as she is of them! Gotta love a community working out together!!!

    • Tim Huntley

      Audra, This isn’t long winded at all – it is outstanding, and with your permission I will use this as blog post so that a lot more people get the opportunity to read it. THANKS!