Updated: Jan 20
Hey you! Yes, I’m talking to you. I want to share a little story with you.
Once upon a time, there was a girl–aka me–whose biggest dream was to shed some pounds. I wasn’t talking about those annoying five or ten pounds that just stopped me from fitting into that gorgeous pair of jeans; I was talking about a drastic change. You see, I’ve always been a little thicker than the average Singaporean girl. I got put in the TAF club (aka the Trim and Fit club, this program was created in the 90s to reduce obesity amongst school children. It has since been phased out, thankfully), I had to shop for clothes in the women’s section as early as eight years old, and I was told my entire life that if I lost weight I’d be beautiful and worthy.
You would think that would take a toll on one’s self-esteem, right?
Fast forward a couple of years later, I started working with a trainer and frequenting one of those big-name chain gyms. That change in lifestyle did wonders and eventually paid off; I lost over 80 pounds (36 kilograms) and dropped down three dress sizes.
But just like most people when they go through a weight loss journey, I was stuck at a plateau. I had gotten fitter, stronger, and faster than I ever had before, but I knew I had it in me to accomplish even more.
So, I asked around and somebody suggested an answer to my dilemma: CrossFit.
What is CrossFit?
CrossFit is defined as “constantly varied, high-intensity functional movement”.
If you're wondering what that means, think of that one HIIT class you tried previously—because back then you probably should make use of that gym membership you signed up for as part of a New Year’s promotion—but take it to the next level.
CrossFit combines functional movements from a variety of sports and exercises, training your cardiovascular endurance, gymnastics skills, and strength, making it constantly varied, allowing you to develop multiple physical skills at the same time. CrossFit workouts are also designed to be high in intensity, pushing your limits and allowing you to get those gains at a faster rate compared to conventional gym exercises.
Check out CrossFit's article: What is CrossFit?
So what are the benefits of doing CrossFit? (I’m so glad you asked):
It improves physical fitness, prolonging physical independence.
We’ve all heard time and time again about the benefits of incorporating regular exercise into our routines, so why CrossFit?
CrossFit's infinite scalability makes it accessible to anyone regardless of age. For the younger ones, you’ll get more bang for your back with CrossFit compared to just jogging and doing a couple of simple bodyweight exercises; CrossFit trains your endurance, strength, agility, balance, coordination, and more at levels of higher intensity.
For older adults, because the majority of CrossFit’s movements are designed to mimic the movement patterns of everyday tasks, doing CrossFit can help you perform these everyday tasks more easily and efficiently.
We don’t really think about this as young healthy adults, but this is something we’ll appreciate more as we get older and find that it becomes more difficult to climb stairs, sit up, and carry our groceries from the market.
It’s for everyone!
No need to be intimidated when you look at a typical CrossFit workout; you can still attempt it even if you can’t do the workout with its exact prescribed difficulty. One of the reasons why CrossFit is so popular is because the workouts can be scaled. In other words, the load and intensity of the workout can be adjusted so that it accommodates your fitness level while challenging your physical limits at the same time.
For example, let’s say that one of the movements in today’s workout is 15 pull-ups. If you haven’t gotten that first pull-up yet, you can still do those 15 pull-ups! Instead of a standard bodyweight pull-up, you could scale it down to assisted pull-ups with your feet planted on a box set underneath the pull-up bar, or bodyweight rows using the rings. If that’s too easy or too difficult, ask your coach! They’ll usually provide a list of movement scaling options for you to choose from if you’re not sure which movement would be the most optimally challenging.
The first thing you’ll notice when you see a CrossFit gym is that there are hardly any exercise machines, save for rowers, air bikes (not to be confused with the more commonly spotted spin bike), and maybe some ski ergs. But there are lots of other types of equipment that adorn the walls and corners of the gym space, like barbells, gymnastics rings, jump ropes, and more.
A CrossFit gym is like a fitness playground—there’s lots of space for you to move around in and plenty of interesting equipment that’ll keep you entertained and will help you work up quite a sweat.
The beauty about CrossFit is that because it has such a diverse range of movements, you may discover that you’re better at performing some movements than others. Outside of classes, you could either further develop the skills that you’re more comfortable with and enjoy doing, or you could do some extra practice with the skills that are still a struggle for you. Or why not do both?
Regardless of where you’re at in terms of CrossFit experience, there’ll always be something for you to work on. It may not be what your best friend has to work on, and that’s absolutely OKAY.
It’s a highly social activity (and you might make some new friends along the way!).
Every CrossFit gym has a different vibe and atmosphere depending on its coaches and patrons. Some are more competitive and intense, while others are more relaxed, supportive, and have tightly-knit communities. Your fellow athletes (yes at CrossFit, we call everyone who attends class an athlete) will come from different walks of life, all with varying levels of experience in CrossFit.
Depending on the day’s program, you might get paired up with someone. Your partner might be a beginner who is just like you, still unfamiliar with the more complex movements but is eager to work towards getting to that stage one day. Or you might get paired with an experienced athlete who’s been going at it for years; many of these “veterans” can be very approachable and are more than happy to shower you with tips on how to improve yourself.
Classes can also be a good place to make new friends and connections, and can be a fantastic opportunity to find athletes with the same goals as you, to find athletes with the same goals as you, to work on skill progressions together!
Some CrossFit gyms also offer classes designed to accommodate specific populations. Actualize CrossFit’s bi-weekly Legends class is frequented by individuals aged 55 and above, and these masters athletes are doing weighted squats and pushing dumbbells over their heads! Bring Grandma along if you think she’d enjoy more than just that daily morning walk.
CrossFit is empowering.
It’s empowering for the women who were once too shy to venture into the weight room and can now outlift half the guys churning out curls all day.
It's empowering for the seniors who can now participate in activities that they used to do with ease, like climbing up and down the overhead bridge or playing with their grandchildren.
It’s empowering for the former fat kid who was told that she was too heavy to do a handstand, and now she’s working towards getting that first handstand push-up.
Regardless of who you are, where you come from, or how far you are into your CrossFit journey, everyone who tries works hard, and doesn’t give up is celebrated. Every accomplishment, big or small, is recognized.
A classic sign of a CrossFit gym’s supportive community is having the rest of the class cheer you on when you’re one of the last (if not the last) people to finish the workout. Gone are the days when the slowest kid in physical education is left behind to finish running laps by themselves; in CrossFit, the rest of the class joins you for those last 100 meters.
A classic sign of a CrossFit gym’s supportive community is having the rest of the class cheer you on when you’re one of the last (if not the last) people to finish the workout. Gone are the days where the slowest kid in physical education is left behind to finish running laps by themselves; in CrossFit, the rest of the class joins you for those last 100 meters.
I’m Sold! How Can I Get Started?
While CrossFit isn’t as widely popular in Singapore as it is in countries like the US, the UK, or Australia, the great news is that there are now more CrossFit gyms to choose from than ever! You’ve probably gotten a recommendation or two from some guy that a friend knows from work, but here are a few tips that we’ve got to help you decide where to begin your CrossFit journey:
Does the gym have an Introductory Program for CrossFit newbies?
Many CrossFit gyms require beginners to undergo an introductory program–or as we call it, BASE–before joining the regular classes. These classes, usually conducted in very small sizes, introduce you to the world of CrossFit and its fundamental movements. The coach will teach you how to do these movements safely and efficiently and will lay the foundations you need for participating in the regular classes so that you won’t feel too lost and confused for your first class.
If you’re in the golden years of your life and want to get started, try Actualize CrossFit’s Legends class, a functional fitness class for the elderly. The workouts are carefully curated and coached by a qualified physiotherapist and you will train alongside other like-minded individuals such as yourself.
Consider the qualifications of the gym’s head coach/coaches.
This is not a must but can be a very useful tip for helping you get an idea of the quality of the classes and programming. All trainers/coaches need to be at least CrossFit-Level 1 certified to coach CrossFit classes, but having a Head Coach who holds a Level 2 or Level 3 certification will be even better. Coaches that have CF-L2 certs or higher tend to be more experienced. They will be able to make better individual movement corrections and suggest more ways you could improve your technique and other fitness components.
Check out the coaches at Actualize CrossFit here.
Have a look at the various Membership Plans that the gym offers.
If you’re not sure how often you’ll be able to commit to your new CrossFit journey, you can always start small!
Some gyms offer membership packages where you pay a certain amount for 10 classes, and these plans are usually valid for more than a month. If you’re not keen on forking out your wallet just yet, have a chat with coaches, or drop in to have a look (see next point).
See if we have a membership plan available for you!
Drop in to have a look at the facilities if you can!
You’ll be able to get a better sense of the size of the space, quality of equipment, and especially the vibe of the gym if you make an in-person visit. Just be sure to write in to ask if you can drop in to have a look at the facilities and talk with one of the coaches; the last thing you’d want is to walk in while the place is busy and there’s no one available to help assist you with your inquiries.
Peek our facilities here.
Since starting CrossFit with Actualize back in 2019, I’ve made tremendous gains in both my training and my social life. Not only have I progressed to levels beyond what I could ever imagine before, but I’ve also expanded my social network through frequenting the gym regularly and interacting with athletes of various backgrounds and skill levels. Consequently, Actualize has become my second home away from home; you’ll usually find me either lifting a barbell or engaging in banter with other driven individuals like myself. And the story of my journey is one of the hundreds you’ll encounter when you become part of the CrossFit community.
If you’re looking to try something new to kickstart your 2022, why not give CrossFit a try? You’ll kill two birds with one stone by achieving your fitness goals and making some new friends at the same time!
Actualize CrossFit is a great place to get started with its skilled, accommodating coaches and friendly, welcoming community of athletes. Click on the link here to sign up for your first fundamentals class!
Article contributed by:
Katelyn Leong (@thecurvyninja)