Crossfit can be intimidating no matter how many people you know at the gym. There’s an air of experience around Boxes (what CrossFitters call a gym), but newbies will feel surrounded by good vibes as soon as they walk in the door. “Everyone is friendly and motivated to help encourage each other. Go in with the willingness to learn and try new things,” Mat Forzaglia, an instructor at NEOU’s New York City Studio, says. During the workout expect to see a lot of burpees, jump ropes (double-unders are popular), squats of every variation, pull-ups, chin-ups and deadlifts. The weighted bar is a favorite toy of instructors, and you’ll see it used with and without weights, and yes, you can drop it on the floor. It’s pretty exhilarating to push yourself to lift heavy weights and then just drop them to the floor. We chatted with Equinox master instructor and personal trainer Gerren Liles, Forzaglia and Blake Shutterly, a coach at CrossFit Fifth Ave and NEOU, to get a grasp on everything a CrossFit newbie needs to know.
There are a few words and acronyms you should be familiar with before you head to your first class. The instructor will go over everything, but so you don’t look like a deer caught in headlights, here are a few of the common ones:
AMRAP: As many reps as possible — usually given with a time limit.
Box: The gym itself, or garage or third floor of a building, etc., where all the weights and machines are housed.
EMOM: Every minute on the minute.
WOD: Workout of the day.
“A lot of people own running shoes with a lot of cushion in them, but those aren’t the best shoes for cross training. They have very little stability when it comes to lifting or lateral movements,” Forzaglia says. “I prefer Nike Metcons or Nike DSX Flyknits. The Reebok Nanos are a great shoe.” What’s important about each of these is that they are designed specifically for cross training. They offer stability, comfort and versatility. Look for a shoe with a flat solid base. Liles recommends Reebok CrossFit Fast FlexWeave or Nano 8 FLexweave.
Lightweight Tank or Tee
“Wear appropriate clothing that can withstand the movements that you’ll be doing in a CrossFit class,” Shutterly says. “I’ve seen a lot of ripped pants in my day as a coach because the material isn’t stretchy enough.” Wearing gear you’re already comfortable in is a plus, no matter what it looks like or what logo is on it.
“There are no right or wrong brands to wear,” Forzaglia says. “You want to wear something you can move freely in like a t-shirt and tank top. It is completely based on one’s preference.” Look for something that is sweat-wicking and breathable. Liles recommends the Lululemon Metal Vent Tech Surge Tank, a feather-light tank with mesh fabric to keep you cool.
While you might see the leggings and shorts combo, you’re more likely to spot a lot of shorts. Again, you’ll want something you can move freely in — everything from squats and lunges to box jumps and Frankensteins. The Reebok CrossFit Super Nasty Board Shorts come recommended from Liles, but any stretchy, comfortable shorts will do. A few other options include the Vuori Banks short or Rogue Black Ops Shorts.
Water Bottle + Recovery Drink
“Bringing a water bottle and towel are two great necessities when working out,” Forzaglia says. “Most CrossFit boxes sell water or have water fountains, so if you forget to bring one, you can get it there.” Whatever bottle you already have at home will do — bonus points if it’s a shake-able one. Post-workout, it’s important to get enough protein, which you can get in liquid form, through sports drink mixes and beverages. Liles recommends Revere’s pre- and post-workout mix (along with its bottle). “It comes down to a person’s preference,” Forzaglia says, but he recommends Fitaid or Killcliff. Most boxes sell a variety of options.
“Invest in some tape for your thumbs when weightlifting,” Shutterly says. “Goat tape is a great brand, but I also like the athletic tape from Dicks Sporting Goods as well.” If your hands start to look like they were mauled by a bear (thanks to calluses), it’s a good idea to start taping up. While you might not need this for your very first class, it is something to invest in if you decide Crossfitting is going to be your workout of choice.
Grips or Gloves
Depending on your preference and comfort level, you can try athletic gloves like Props Athletic, or grips like Victory or Bear Komplex. Both Shutterly and Liles recommend something for your hands if you find that your hands are getting beat up during the gymnastics movements. Grips or gloves help eliminate that.