CrossFit 101: No Experience Needed. Beginner Q&A.


Intimidation is a great deceiver. Before you start anything, it will tell you that the challenges are more than you’re capable of. You begin to focus more on the future and what seems impossible instead of focusing on the present and what you are capable of achieving and building from that. So, the next thing you know you keep putting off chasing anything of value because you have this idea that you have to be dozens of mile markers down the path to begin at marker zero. The problem is that you never start anything because you’re waiting until you feel you’re ready and deny yourself the feeling of satisfaction of seeing the growth in the many different facets of your life.

This is true for CrossFit as well, many may find CrossFit impossible or think that they are not in good enough shape to start. We know that is not true, but to help you understand we interviewed one of our members who was a beginner to CrossFit less than a year ago!

Steve Cartell is a 44-year old resident of Columbus, Ohio. He became a member at Crossfit Clintonville in September 2014 when he was motivated to make changes in his fitness lifestyle. In his own words, Steve would say starting was “the best thing I’ve done”, and the experience has far exceeded what he could have imagined.

Q: Before joining Crossfit, how satisfied were you about how in shape you were?

SC: I would say fair…before Crossfit I thought I’m ok. I would run… and I thought I’m not too bad. Well now, my running, I can do so much more. After the first few Crossfit classes, by the time I got into it, I really realized how out of shape I was. But the good thing was I realized it’s something I could do. At my age, age is just a number, and I feel so much better doing it. So I would say I’m in good shape now. I want to be in excellent shape and I keep pushing for that. But I’d say I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in now.

Q: Before you walked through the door at Crossfit Clintonville, if someone said “crossfit” to you, what were the preconceived notions you had?

SC: … You have to be in uber good shape… If you would have said a year-and-a-half ago ‘hey, you’re going to be doing Crossfit in 2015’ I would have laughed and said you’re crazy. That’s something that just doesn’t register for me. When I thought crossfit I thought [of] elite athletes… What this has taught me is I can do this. Anybody can do this.

Q: When you were first starting, how did your perception change to what you were actually experiencing?

SC: …So here I was coming in not having any of these skills and wondering ‘can I do this?’ I saw other people around me that were encouraging, saying ‘you can do this. You may not be able to do x, y, and z movements now but you will.’ And they kept encouraging and pushing…The first few workouts there’s no way I could do as prescribed. I was just so burnt out and taxed. It’s like ‘ I’ve just got to get through this. How can I do this for ten minutes?’

Then after the first month, some of the soreness went away… It’s like ‘I want do this. I can do this.’ I started doing more weights like more squat weight, more bench press, more overhead squats and it became something that I wanted to keep doing and I that truly enjoyed… Because the people here… they want you to succeed and they want you to do form correctly. From my experience I haven’t had any injuries because I think we always stretch and they make sure that you’re doing things correctly and if you do that, you enjoy it, [and] the form comes and you can lift more weight.

Q: Describe what those early workouts were like?

SC: We would come in on the 101 days… and I thought this is tough and initially I thought I don’t know if I can really do this. But, after the first week I started understanding the mechanics of every move… It started getting a little easier, a little less sore, and I found myself after that first week or two after every session maybe I’d do it just twice a week because I was just so sore.

But then that quickly went away and I found I had more endurance; I had more stamina; I had more strength and I could get through the workouts and that was like a huge shot in the arm. It’s like ‘ ok, you did these first few weeks, keep going- see where it goes next.’ I found I could run a little easier, I wasn’t as winded. It’s just been an awesome experience.

Q: How soon before you started to realize you could probably handle a lot more than what you thought you were capable of?

SC: It wasn’t as long as I thought it was going to be. I would say within the first couple of weeks (it’s probably part of the mental piece saying ‘ alright, you can do this’) when I realized ‘yes, these are technical moves, or what-have-you, although some of it’s difficult you can do this.’

Q: What are some of the key things to keep reminding yourself as you’re starting Crossfit?

SC: You can’t expect too much out of yourself too soon. Give yourself time to understand the movements. It’s all about repetition, that whole idea of ‘practice makes perfect. ‘You’re not going to get everything down in a week, two weeks, a month, or in two months. It takes the time.

In the very beginning I would get really frustrated if I couldn’t do movements x, y, and z… and all of those guys reminded us that it’s going to take time but you can do it so give yourself that time and don’t be frustrated. And again, I think that’s from a mental perspective so once you break through that, understand it, chunk it out and do step-by-step and give yourself the opportunity to just take time and absorb the movements it will come.

To Succeed You Must Begin

Whether it’s new job, moving, or starting anything that’s new, it’s unavoidable that the beginning will be the most uncomfortable part of the transition. Hardly anyone is ever in a “perfect” position to start something; there’ll always be gaps and weaknesses. When it comes to working out and improving one’s fitness, the purpose of working out is not to show off how perfect one is but to get better and be able to accomplish more as they continue.

However, that can’t happen if someone doesn’t take the initial steps of starting. Those steps are accepting that: things will be rough in the beginning but with the right coaches and community they’ll be able to learn and persevere; most of the reasons they give themselves not to give it a try are fabricated in their mind and not based that much in reality; and finally, by going in with the right mindset they will get better and stronger.