The answer to the question of who Crossfit is appropriate for makes the most sense when you look at Crossfit as a distinct sport and not as a workout (like a spin class for example). Most anyone with a modest fitness level can participate in a sport like running or golf, but not everyone will excel. Most people who are reasonably fit can also get through a 15-minute jog or can swing a golf club a hundred times in an 18 hole round, but not everyone will enjoy it, and Crossfit is no different.
Assuming that someone new to Crossfit is being properly trained in technique with a ‘safety-first’ approach, all workouts can be scaled back to an individual’s own abilities regardless of how little physical fitness they may start with. This is the philosophy I’ve encountered at Crossfit Zone in Victoria, BC anyways.
However, in order to participate in regular classes, or ‘graduate’ from the initial personal training sessions, a participant has to reach a certain minimum threshold of ability in a number of different elements as determined by their trainer and by completing a final workout with a score of no less than 200. This is meant to ensure that when someone moves onto classes they’ll be able to keep up with the class and be able to participate safely.
It took me 16 1-hour personal training sessions in total to graduate, and I’m someone who works out on a regular basis and was reasonably fit to begin with. For someone less physically fit the road would likely be longer, and with that comes more of a time and financial commitment, but if motivated and committed to one’s health there’s no reason it can’t be done.
As with any sport, those who make Crossfit a part of their regular routine seem to have a number of traits in common (this is just by my personal observation and there may be many others):
1. They place a high priority on their health and fitness. Most people will pay some lip-service to their health but regular crossfitters are truly committed to showing up and investing in their health.
2. They have some prior experience in sport or fitness. It’s not a requirement, but it’s a lot more natural for someone who is already reasonably coordinated, and has some experience sweating to be able to adapt to the rigors of Crossfit workouts.
3. They are positive and self-determined. Not much can keep these people down, even Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness.
4. They enjoy a challenge. These are the kind of people who aren’t satisfied with coasting through life and who enjoy testing their limits and boundaries. You might say that a lot of Crossfitters lean slightly towards the ‘Type-A’ personality.
5. They enjoy change. Many people thrive on routine and continuity- especially in their workout routine, but crossfitters tend to thrive on not knowing what to expect with each workout.
6. They enjoy the social environment. This is not to say that every crossfitter is a gregarious ‘life of the party’ type of person (although many are), but that they tend to embrace the group/team/family environment that the sport offers and the supportive atmosphere that comes along with this dynamic.
7. They’re mentally tough. Crossfit is demanding, and much of one’s success in the sport depends on the will to be successful and train the mind to make the decision to show up and finish a challenging workout.
If this sounds like you, then chances are you’ll enjoy Crossfit and can be successful at it.
On the other hand, maybe this doesn’t sound like you, but if the desire is there, simply participating in Crossfit can actually grow these positive traits as well, many of which are characteristics that can transfer to success in other aspects of life. So don’t be shy about giving it a try and at least testing the waters for yourself. In the end, the only real prerequisite to start is the desire and the attitude to do so.