I unequivocally love CrossFit, and am a bit obsessed with our box, CrossFit Northside. The more I do it, the more I deeply and totally enjoy it. It’s fun, incredibly challenging, and has transformed my body in a way I never thought was possible. Because of CrossFit, Anthony and I are both stronger, more confident, and healthier. It helps that we do have an excellent, if ever so slightly awkward, coach.
Coach James Sheahan
Who can’t help but take a self-portrait if he gets his mitts on anyone else’s camera, but that’s not the point. The point is, he has created a really wonderful environment, and keeps his athletes safe, while consistently challenging them to be better. He has also hired several other amazing coaches to support him in this, namely Adam, Dimmity and Nicole, who share his passion for excellent technique and being hilariously awkward. And drinking coffee. Our box is also made up of group of amazing athletes that have become our friends. Without those pieces, CrossFit would just be an expensive gym.
Coaches Nicole and Dim, with me in the middle
The weekend before my foot surgery, I went up to watch team CFNS compete in the All Stars finals. To make a long story short, one of the athletes couldn’t finish the event, and gave me her blessing to step in to take her place for the last bit of her teams competition. It was the one of the most enjoyable 20 minutes I’ve ever had, and I have done at least twenty competitive fitness events before (always run races or triathlons.)
It was so fun because I was with a team of people who truly couldn’t have cared less how fast I was, as long as I tried my best. Which I did, though trying my best mostly meant trying not to drown or get sick in the pool. I was successful. Hurrah!
In spite of my love of CrossFit, you can’t help but hear horror stories of people really hurting themselves from this incredibly challenging sport, sometimes quite seriously. We really lucked out by finding CrossFit Northside, but looking around at the competition, in which there were many athletes with seriously bad (and dangerous) form, I realized how easy it would have been to choose a box with less conscientious coaches and a less encouraging atmosphere. So, for any CrossFit newbies out there, here are my recommendations on what to look for to make sure your box is the best for you. Of course, none of these are “be-all and end-all” but they might be helpful guidelines to narrow down the decision.
Plus, as a bonus, a bunch of gratuitous photos of me competing! Or pretending to! Lucky you.
- Coaches who have a background that is not just CrossFit. One of the biggest complaints I have about CrossFit is that the certification process is just two days. That’s right, I can be a random Jane from the street, and after two days, Boom! I’m a CrossFit coach. For comparison sake, my NASM personal trainer certification took six months, and my 500-hour yoga teacher training took a full year. There is absolutely no way that after two days, you have enough knowledge and awareness to be a coach of anything, let alone one that involves lifting hundreds of pounds over your head. I would highly recommend a coach that has a wide range of background activities and experiences, particularly weightlifting, as that is the place it is easiest to get seriously injured.Full disclosure: Not actually competing here. Just pretending to.
- Coaches who do not constantly tell you to lift more weight. For the first full month I was at CrossFit (and I went five to six days per week) I didn’t lift anything heavier than the 20kg bar. The coaches all wanted me to get better with my form before I started lifting heavier weight. Three months later, however, when we tested our one rep max, most of the time I was able to use fairly heavy weight with really solid form. I have heard so many horror stories of coaches telling people to add more weight, simply for the sake of doing so, and people getting injured. If the coach is constantly telling you to RXD, or pile weight on and it simply feels too heavy or you injure yourself, that to me is a sign of a coach who is more interested in inflating their own ego than improving their individual athletes.
- Supportive Fellow Athletes. One of the best things about CrossFit that I hear almost across the board is how amazingly supportive and caring fellow CrossFitters are. Perhaps because of the significant amount of suffering involved, CrossFitters tend to bond and be really welcoming. If you happen to stumble into a box where folks aren’t welcoming, or are not as supportive of the person coming in last as they are of the person coming in first, I’d suggest finding another box. The community is what makes the experience.
- A Wide Range of WODs. If you look on most CrossFit websites, they post their workouts daily. Now, this is just an opinion, but I personally believe that the workouts should be wide ranging, and not insanely long or heavy every single day. I’ve heard stories of boxes who do a Hero and a Benchmark WOD (internationally recognized workouts named after heroes and women, which are internationally renowned as freakin’ hard) every week, religiously. Don’t get me wrong, the Heros and Benchmarks are phenomenal, and great ways to check fitness and strength, but twice weekly? I think I’d probably be dead by now.
- They Don’t Just Offer CrossFit. My favorite sessions at CFNS are actually Olympic Weightlifiting sessions. These are the times I get to really work on form and technique, and of course, chat a bunch with whoever else happens to be there. While this one isn’t a deal breaker, I really respect boxes that create the time for athletes to really hone their skills.
Do you have any other things to add? Place them in the comments below!