in partnership
Paige Wager has been a Crossfitter since 2007 and is now a trainer who regularly teaches classes at the Northwest Crossfit Ballard gym. (Image: Northwest Crossfit)

A beginner's guide to Crossfit

Crossfit. The word can bring chills to any non-believer, and instantly commands images of super athletes flipping tires, women who look like Arnold Schwarzenegger circa 1967, and newbies vomiting into trash bins.

I have to admit, I felt this way too. I like to consider myself a fairly active person; I try to work out 5 times a week (usually on the elliptical), and throw in the occasional strength training session. But Crossfit scares the heck out of me, and in talking to many people - I'm not alone.

I ventured into the lion's den (more commonly known as the Northwest Crossfit Greenlake gym) to talk to trainer Paige Wager about the fear surrounding Crossfit. I'll note that it was much easier to go to this interview knowing ahead of time that I wouldn't be participating in a class, but I still had fears of showing up and getting told to "drop and give me 50!"

Wager has been a Crossfitter, as they call themselves, since 2007. She nodded in understanding as I explained my own fear of Crossfit, it's intensity, and it's seeming inability to be approachable by the average person.

"I hear that a lot," she said. "We all do. And that's usually the first thing I ask my OnRamp class - who is scared out of your minds right now? And pretty much everyone raises their hands."

OnRamp is a two week series made up of six classes and targeted specifically to Crossfit beginners. In fact, you can't take a regular Crossfit class without first 'graduating' from OnRamp. Each class is about an hour long, and focuses on breaking down the basic movements of Crossfit and easing into the workouts.

"It's very doable," said Wager. "We add new movements each day, and everyone is always modifying them slightly to their own individual needs."

After you've finished the OnRamp series, you get two weeks of unlimited Crossfit classes for free. This is mainly to encourage people to come back and keep doing what they learned, get into a groove, and work the program. Once a month of Crossfit is up (two weeks of OnRamp and two weeks free), Wager says about 70% of people sign up for the monthly packages to continue.

"What I really want people to understand about Crossfit is that no one cares how good you are," she said. "That sounds bad - but I just mean no one is judging you to see how many pushups or double-unders you can do. Everyone is pretty focused on their own workouts and goals, not watching you to see how bad you are."

It felt like she was talking directly about me - I was terrified of joining a class and getting silently judged when I could only do two pull-ups. But the more I think about it, the more self-centered that seems. Why would people be paying for an intensive workout, and then spend their time focusing on me instead?

After talking with Wager, I'm definitely not feeling as scared by Crossfit as I was before. In fact, the OnRamp series sounds like a fun and challenging mix-up to my usual elliptical routine. Now I just have to get up the nerve to actually try it.

Crossfit does however have a substantial price tag. The OnRamp series is $195, and after that monthly dues are $175-$210. While many private gyms may also fall into that ballpark price range, it certainly is no match for my current $40 YMCA membership.

Northwest Crossfit has three gyms in Greenlake, Ballard, and Bellevue and has the most members of any other Crossfit gym in the area, at around 1,000 members.