THE BLOG
06/19/2013 02:10 pm ET | Updated Aug 19, 2013

From the Couch to CrossFit: 5 Things Beginners Need to Know Before Joining a Box

2013-06-18-OHS.jpg

By now you have seen them on TV, you've shopped next to them at the grocery store, and you may even be living with one. These people love WOD's, eat Paleo, and workout in a box. These individuals range from soccer moms to students to professional athletes. Who are these people? Well, I'm talking about CrossFitter's.

CrossFit is defined as "constantly varied, functional movements at high intensity." It is used by police academies, military special operations units, and elite athletes worldwide. It involves running, rowing, weightlifting, gymnastics, and specializes in not specializing. CrossFit wants to prepare you for anything and everything. That may mean lifting your child, picking up groceries, or running from a barking dog. While high-level officials and athletes use this workout to condition themselves, CrossFit is a sport that anyone can do because every workout has universal scalability to ones level and abilities. That means during one class, the new Mom can be working out next to the top-tier athlete. Load (how much weight) and intensity (reps) are changed, but the programs are not.

With the sounds of weights slamming and music blasting through the speakers, it's easy to be intimidated from the outside, but once you join a CrossFit, you will find some of the nicest, most genuine people you have ever met. It's easy to mistake these people as zealots or cultish, but CrossFit is not just a sport, it's a community. Much like the sports we played in childhood, this newfound sport geared mostly towards adults creates the same camaraderie we looked forward to in our after-school days. As adults, most are limited to socializing during work hours or happy hour. Social gatherings are limited to eating and drinking. While I am definitely still a fan of the former, I have become a very big fan of CrossFit. CrossFit gives adults a way to socialize in a positive environment where they learn new things together and bond in the mutual suffering of workouts...and enjoy it!

There are things to know and crucial steps to take when going from the couch to CrossFit. CrossFit gyms are called boxes. Everyday there is a programmed "WOD," or workout of the day. When you join a box, you will most likely and should be taken through an "on-ramp" program, which is an educational course that lasts around 6 weeks and prepares you for general CrossFit classes. Coaches will teach you how to perform every exercise correctly, how to mobilize yourself, and how to prepare your body for what lies ahead. On-ramp is the foundation for CrossFit. Remember, CrossFit is a very intense program and it is not advised that you go from being sedentary to completing CrossFit workouts at 100 percent intensity.

But before you start drinking the CrossFit Kool-aid, there a few things you need to know.

1. To Box or Not to Box: Figure out whether you would like to CrossFit on your own or in a box. Many people follow the Crossfit.com website, which programs WOD's for individuals to complete on their own. If you are very self-motivated, have athletic experience, and have access to equipment, this is a good place to start. If you are motivated by people and/or are new to this type of training, I would recommend joining a local CrossFit gym so that you have the eyes and ears of trained professionals.

2. Define your goals: Figure out what your personal goals are. Why do you want to join CrossFit? Did you just move to a new city and want to make friends? Are you looking to lose weight? Are you a former athlete looking to start training again? Figure out your personal goals before embarking on your journey.

3. Get started: Any type of conditioning you can do before starting your CrossFit journey is good. I personally was an Olympic lifter and track athlete so I did those types of workouts because that's what I was familiar with. My fiancé played soccer and did P90X prior to doing CrossFit. If you like to dance, dance. If you like to walk, walk. Just get moving! All of these movements are assisting in building a foundation for the awesome athletic endeavor you are about to embark on.

4. Do your research! CrossFit is gaining mass popularity and because of that, boxes are popping up everywhere. While this is great for the fitness community and the CrossFit brand, I advise you to do your research when picking a box. Check out a few websites in your area and compare reputations, prices, and credibility.

5. Try before you buy: When shopping for a CrossFit box, I recommend that you try one before you buy. CrossFit can be a hefty investment so try asking for a free class. Another option is to drop-in and watch a class so that you can see how that particular box is managed and how the coaches communicate. CrossFit gyms are individually owned and managed, so they are all different. Traveling around the world to different boxes, I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. Make sure you are happy with your box and the community you are about to join.

Joining the CrossFit community is not just a journey to a better body, but you will find yourself on the path to a clearer mindset, greater motivation, and hundreds of thousands of new friends around the world that share your same passion.

For more by Collette DeBenedetto, click here.

For more on fitness and exercise, click here.

EARLIER ON HUFFPOST:

Celebs Who Love Crossfit