If you've never done CrossFit before, it's really easy to feel intimidated by it. You see all these superfit people throwing barbells over their head and effortlessly swinging from rings that hang from the ceiling. Although your instinct may tell you to turn away, Elisabeth Akinwale, five-time CrossFit competitor and coach, wants you to jump in on the action.
Elisabeth has been doing CrossFit since 2010 — long before it became wildly popular. She's accomplished so much since then. More than just competing and coaching, she's become a new spokesperson for U by Kotex Fitness, proving that she's got so much positive encouragement to share with women who are interested in health and fitness. POPSUGAR caught up with Elisabeth about her amazing career, and she said joining CrossFit "was life-changing for me." She wants women everywhere to consider joining a box for the first time.
"As you build confidence physically, it builds your overall confidence," she said. "You feel yourself becoming stronger. What a huge benefit that is." If you're interested in trying out CrossFit for the first time, here are her beginner tips.
Work With Excellent Coaches
So much of CrossFit is about being part of a community, and if you find the right box that has educated, caring coaches and owners, you'll get the most out of your workouts. Elisabeth says you should also be "looking for resources" at all times. That means staying after for a few minutes to ask questions, research online, and watch videos of CrossFit experts doing what they do best.
By taking in all of this information, you'll gain so much useful knowledge about the sport, and you'll get better at it much quicker. If you don't feel comfortable with the style of coaching you're seeing at your box, don't feel bad about switching over to another one until you find the kind of environment that makes you feel safe.
Don't Be Afraid of Lifting Weights
"Having muscle mass is going to help you look better," Elisabeth explained. "Your body will be firmer, and your metabolism is going to work more efficiently." There are a lot of myths out there about women lifting weights (like you'll get "bulky"), but she says that couldn't be further from the truth. "People are usually fearful of the extreme idea of what weight training will do to your body. It's really an unfounded fear," Elisabeth said.
All that lean muscle mass will help you feel your best, look stronger, and shed fat. So don't sit out on the sessions of CrossFit that require you to pick up a kettlebell or use the barbell. Of course, only do these exercises when you learn the correct form, but once you know how to do them, don't shy away from them.
Pay Attention to Detail
There's some talk about whether CrossFit is safe because there have been injuries in the past. There aren't many studies out there showing whether this is rooted in truth or not, but keep in mind that injuries happen in every fitness space — and they happen when you're not doing the movements correctly.
"The more you're dealing with external load to your body, you need to pay attention to detail," Elisabeth said. Don't just rush through exercises because you think you have them. Look closely at your form and ask questions if you need to. Also, Elisabeth says you should "keep it well balanced, not taking just one avenue for training." That means you balance the explosive, dynamic movements with something more structural.
For example, make sure you're fitting in enough mobility. Stretch a lot, go to yoga, or go for easy walks. "Have balance in what you do." Also, think about the body parts that you're using. If you're doing a lot of running, pay close attention to the ankles, calves, and hamstrings. If you keep your body supple and mobile, you'll go a long way in preventing injury.
Set Small Goals
For Elisabeth, one of the most rewarding things about fitness and CrossFit is "working toward goals." She advises you take "small steps, learning how to use your body and be in touch with your body." Don't feel like you have to follow along with everyone in your first few sessions. Take your time and work gradually to where you want to be. It helps to set small, obtainable goals, rather than say you'll make it to the CrossFit Games in the next few months. By being realistic, you'll set yourself up for success.
"It's all about the incremental process," Elisabeth said. "Nothing's going to happen overnight. It's a lifelong process of growing and learning."
Go in With Confidence!
"With women particularly, it's really important to go in and try to have some confidence," Elisabeth said. "And if you have to fake it 'til you make it, then fake it 'til you make it." She told POPSUGAR that when she first started lifting weights many years ago, she was the only woman in the weight room, and that was uncomfortable for her. In moments like these, you just have to hold your head up high and prove to yourself — and nobody else — that you've got this.
Elisabeth would love to see women loosen up a bit, rather than being "overly conscious and overly self-critical." Lace up your shoes, walk into that gym, and try to have some fun! It's just fitness, after all.