If you’ve been thinking about attending CrossFit classes and were wondering how this type of exercise will impact you and your overall health, I’ve written this article to describe some of the changes you will experience in the first few hours, days, weeks and months of your new lifestyle.
The first thing to keep in mind is that you don’t have to be fit or otherwise be in great shape to start CrossFit. This is a VERY common misconception. I can’t tell you how many times people have told me this. It simply isn’t true. Instead of wasting time at a Planet Fitness or other Globo-gym you can come in and get started learning how to CrossFit instead of wasting time preparing yourself. You will make more progress faster if you just come in and start. No matter what state you are in currently!
So, it’s your first day and during your very first workout, you might feel more alert and energized because ramping up your heart rate means a boost in overall blood flow and oxygen to the brain. And yes, you will be tired. Prepare yourself for the day after, you are going to be a little sore. Especially if you haven’t worked out in a while.
But, don’t panic!
And don’t quit!
Even if you are really, really sore. The soreness will only persist for a while and the good news is you’re less likely to get it again as long as you continue to regularly exercise those same muscles. The best remedy is to get back to the gym and get those muscles warm again.
The next day, you are likely to see all those people you worked out with yesterday and when they see you have come back they are going to be really happy to see you. Sure, classes change a little and sometimes life events cause people to switch from mornings to evenings and things like that, but for the most part, these people are going to become your community of fit friends. They will encourage you, yell at you, clap for you and motivate you to work hard and keep showing up! It’s like that group of friends you had in school, except these friends want you to work out with them.
Put on your science hat, because, over the next few weeks, you’ll slowly start to ramp up production of mitochondria via a process called mitochondrial biogenesis. Mitochondria are the things in your cells that convert carbs, fat, and protein into fuel that your muscles then use to do their job, like lifting those dumbbells. After six to eight weeks, studies have shown that people can increase their mitochondria by up to 50%. With more mitochondria in your cells, you’ll start to feel more fit, and your endurance will increase. Now your workouts will no longer feel as difficult as they did during that first week. Let’s be honest, it will still be hard! Just not as hard as it was before.
Once you’re six months in, all that hard work should finally start to show. You’ll notice your muscles begin to take shape. You’re also less likely to fall off the workout wagon at this point. On average, gyms often see a 50% dropout rate within the first six months, but after six months – more people stick with it.
So that’s your starting goal. Make fitness a habit, make it your routine. Do it at a time that won’t get interrupted with work, family or life. Go at a time you know you can attend with regularity – that isn’t competing with some other part of your life.
By nine months of regular exercise, you should see about a 25% increase in your VO2 max. VO2 max is often used as a measure of fitness and refers to the rate your body can transport oxygen to your muscles for fuel. Basically, higher VO2 max means you can exercise faster for longer. So a 25% increase in VO2 max, for example, means you can run about 20% farther in the same amount of time.
If you maintain your exercise program long term, you’re statistically likely to see other benefits: you’ll be at a lower risk of developing arthritis, type 2 diabetes, dementia, and certain types of cancer like breast and colon. In all likelihood, you’re going to live longer than you otherwise would. And that longer life? It will probably feel more fulfilling, because exercise lowers the risk of anxiety and depression by reducing levels of stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline.
Of course, all these benefits depend on a balanced diet. Because as many of us have had to learn (and be reminded again and again) – You can’t out-train a bad diet.
You’ll discover that the fitter you become, the easier it will be to exert a little more energy the next week, the week after, and so forth.
Make the investment in time, make the investment in diet and make the investment in YOU.