CrossFit has long been dismissed in the general fitness industry as a hype, a fad, or a cult. But with more and more boxes (CrossFit speak for gyms) popping up around the country, and indeed the world, there’s got to be something that keeps people rocking up to lift heavy stuff and bust a sweat.

Once you start CrossFit, it’s a pretty steep learning curve, and not just in the movements and acronyms you have to learn… you learn a lot about yourself too.

What you’ll learn about yourself from CrossFit

1. You were taking it easy before.

This may offend some people… hell, this whole post probably will because it’s got the word “CrossFit” in it, but you can’t please everyone! But the truth is, you probably never pushed yourself as hard as you thought you did before going to CrossFit.

Almost every CrossFitter has had at least one moment of cockiness where they’ve looked at the board and thought “oh yeah, I’ve got this” and then totally blown out partway through the WOD. It’s normal. That’s why most boxes have the “leave your ego at the door” rule emblazoned on their walls!

CrossFit will push you in ways you never thought possible, to work harder, move faster, lift heavier and generally be more. Even after 2.5 years I still find myself crawling around on the floor at the end of some WODs having had my ass handed to me – CrossFit has an innate ability to make you feel really unfit, even when you’re the fittest you’ve ever been.

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2. You’re stronger than you think you are.

On the other hand, CrossFit is also able to bring out the best (or beast!) in you. Especially for newbies, improvement in strength and fitness is on a steep increase the moment you start to get to grips with the correct movement standards. Come your first 1RM testing week and you’ll almost certainly surprise yourself with the amount of weight you’re able to shift. And every PB will feel like the biggest achievement.

You might look at others at the box and think you’ll never lift as heavy as them, but then you’ll realise that they probably felt like that too, at some point. Trust in the programming, believe in yourself and you’ll find your strength. And then when you do, you’ll curse yourself because your working percentages will increase!

Read: What is CrossFit?

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3. You can’t count under pressure.

We’ve all been there; you know the WOD inside out, you’ve planned in your head how you’re going to break the reps up and how to tackle those burpees, then the clock counts “3, 2, 1… GO!!” and you dive in. All of a sudden, the blood is pumping harder than you ever thought possible, you’re sweating from pores you never even knew existed and you think “Wait, am I on rep 7 or 8? What round is this?!” If only we had someone to count our reps for us all the time!

Sometimes at the end of a WOD you can barely remember your own name or where you are, let alone what your score or finishing time was. I like to see the positive in this, and actually think that CrossFit helps us build on carrying out calculations and focus on counting while under quite extreme pressure. If you can do this, you can probably focus through lots of different distractions!

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4. You’re actually quite competitive.

So here’s the scenario… you’re standing there waiting for the clock to count down, relaxed, focused and ready for the WOD. The timer signals GO and you get to work, but then you notice your workout buddy is just ahead of you – “oh hell no!”. You suddenly pick up the pace, determined not to finish too far behind. You may not have thought you were competitive, but a bit of box rivalry is the perfect motivator to push yourself that little bit harder.

When you see your box mates hitting new highs, pushing boundaries and achieving new skills, you can’t help but want to be swept along with it. Seeing people doing great things instills optimism, and with optimism comes determination and drive to achieve more too. A little bit of competition is good! And even if you are the rare breed who doesn’t feel a competitive urge at the box, at the very least you should want to be competitive with yourself.

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5. You have strengths and weaknesses.

CrossFit is very good at highlighting people’s strengths and weaknesses. It’s often tempting to only train the things we’re good at – usually because when we’re good at things, we tend to enjoy them more. The problem with this approach is, we get better at what we’re good at, and don’t improve (or even regress) things we’re bad at.

Because of the variety of movements in CrossFit, there really is no hiding – if you’re not so good at something, it will eventually show. This is also the beauty of CrossFit, because everyone has an opportunity to shine. Where you might lag behind in some workouts, you can make up ground in others. Just look at Sam Briggs’s comeback in the 2016 Regionals – she was all the way down in 30-somethingth place and clawed her way back with two event wins and a third place finish to secure her spot at the CrossFit Games.

Embrace the bad, and enjoy the good. All of it makes you a well-rounded athlete.

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6. You often want to do too much.

Something all CrossFitters will have experienced at some point in their lives is what I like to call “WOD envy” or “FOMO” (fear of missing out). You know, that day when you can’t or don’t go to the box and there’s a WOD you just know you would have loved? This, combined with the community feel and certain addiction that come with CrossFit, can lead to you wanting to take too little rest so as not to miss out. But, this can lead to niggles and, eventually, injuries as your body fails to get enough recovery. Rest is so important to every athlete, but it will mean different things to different people. Some can recover faster than others, which is dependent on lots of things, such as genetics, nutrition and how well you rest.

Ultimately, your ratio of training to rest will come with experience, trial and error. If you get warning signs of overtraining, such as persistent muscle soreness, increased susceptibility to illness, insomnia, irritability, decreased appetite, or niggles, you should think about looking at how often you’re training. Try swapping out a CrossFit session for yoga or swimming. And make sure you see a physiotherapist or sports therapist for those niggles before they develop into injuries.

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7. You’re actually quite defensive.

When you first start CrossFit, the likelihood is you’ll have naysayers asking “aren’t you worried you’ll get too bulky?” or saying “you’ll only end up injured!”. CrossFit is not entirely innocent from criticism – there are still movements that I believe to be problematic, or even dangerous, and the programming can be questionable at times. But, overall it’s made a lot of people a lot fitter, increased interest and participation in sports such as Olympic weightlifting, encouraged mainstream gyms to buy in more functional equipment in order to compete, given injured athletes and services personnel something to train and compete in, and given us tops-off-Tuesdays and booty shorts… yay for CrossFit! 

Whenever there is something new and, seemingly cult-like, there’ll always be criticism. The controversy around CrossFit is mostly unfounded and, unfortunately, a few poor coaches and actions set the negativity rolling for the rest of the community. You’ll probably have found yourself on many an occasion stepping up to defend your sport, and sometimes you’ll take things personally – but remember that you can’t please all of the people, all of the time.

And sure enough, CrossFit is gaining respect, well, until it announced giving Glock pistols to the winners of the CrossFit Games, that is. But let’s not touch on that one…

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What has CrossFit taught you?

CrossFit is arguably partially responsible for the change in how modern women want to look – strong, athletic-looking bodies are more desirable, and potentially more achievable, because of CrossFit. More people are getting into sports they never would have realised they were good at without CrossFit. It’s changed a lot of people’s definitions of what fitness is, and especially empowered a lot of women to do things they once thought were reserved for men.

Have you found out things about yourself since starting CrossFit? What has CrossFit changed about you? Comment below or get in touch on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook – I’d love to hear from you!