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Learn to speak…CrossFit

Brooklyn CrossFit Columbia Street
Brooklyn CrossFit Columbia Street


Lots of fitness and wellness worlds come with their own complex languages. Here, we teach you the basic vocab you’ll need to communicate (and look cool) during your first CrossFit class or in any future situation where the CrossFit-obsessed can be found (dinner parties, work water cooler, etc).

CrossFit is notorious for its insider culture and community, and lingo is a big part of that. “A lot of people call us Kool-Aid drinkers,” admits Nate Larrea, owner of Brooklyn CrossFit Columbia Street and the brand-new Brooklyn CrossFit South Williamsburg. “It might seem that way. But, on our end, it’s about welcoming everyone.”

Either way, you’ll feel more at home if you’re not wondering why everyone’s talking about WODs and snatches.

We spent some time among CrossFit folk at CrossFit NYC and then turned to Larrea to help us translate the words and phrases that get thrown around during workouts as often as kettlebells and jump ropes. Unfortunately, none of this will help you do 100 pull-ups.

Want to learn to speak CrossFit? Here are the key terms you’ll need to know:

Box: A CrossFit gym. As in, “Which box do you belong to?” And most (but not all) resemble big, empty boxes, garages, or shipping containers.

WOD: Pronounced like a wad of gum. It stands for “Workout of the Day,” which is just the specific set of exercises you’ll do when you show up for a session. It changes daily. “No one wants to say Workout of the Day,” Larrea explains. “It’s too long, and it’s not cool.”

Fran, Cindy, Diane, Murph: These are not the nice, friendly people who started CrossFit—they’re names of specific WODs that will kick your butt. According to my coach at CrossFit NYC, you should “always fear a WOD with a person’s name.” Fran, for example, involves an ungodly number of thrusters (a squat/push-press combo) and pull-ups.

AMRAP: Stands for “as many reps as possible” and is one of two approaches to WODs. You’ll have to complete as many reps of a series of exercises as you can within a set period of time. The flipside of this is when you’re given a set number of reps to complete and have to finish them no matter how long it takes you. “When you’re given the reps, your task is time, when you’re give time, your task is reps,” Larrea explains.

CrossFit Total (CFT): This is a measure of your total strength, which you get when combining your one-rep max (the maximum amount of weight you can lift once) for three popular CrossFit moves—the deadlift, press, and squat.

You'll spot olympic lifting dirty jokes like this one on many a CrossFit tee.
You’ll spot olympic lifting dirty jokes like this one on many a CrossFit tee.

Snatch; Clean and Jerk: The unfortunate terms for the two Olympic-style lifts common at CrossFit boxes. “I don’t know why they were given those names,” Larrea says. “At first you assume that people are talking dirty.” Their potential for dirty wordplay is not something CrossFitters ignore (see T-shirt photo).

Paleo: A diet with principles based on how Paleolithic people ate. The basics: Lots of meat, veggies, fruit, nuts; no processed foods, grains, dairy. It’s not required to do CrossFit, but lots of the community’s members follow it and some boxes even have on-site Paleo meal pick-up.

Bonus conversation starter: “How sore are you?” Are you sore? Where are you sore? Can you walk up the subway stairs or does it hurt to lift your arms? CrossFitters love to talk about any and all of these, as long as you make it clear that you’re only talking about it endlessly because you can totally handle it. —Lisa Elaine Held