Clearing The Chalk: Tackling Common CrossFit Questions w/ Scott Winges

Are you or someone you know interested in CrossFit but have some questions about how to get started, how safe it is or even what it is??

Kinetic's Sean Masters sat down with Scott Winges, head coach and part-owner of Northwest CrossFit - Interbay, to "clear the chalk" on some common questions:

  • What is CrossFit?
  • What makes CrossFit different than other fitness systems?
  • What are common questions you get from prospective members?
  • Am I in good enough shape to do CrossFit?
  • What would you tell a potential member who expresses concerns about getting injured?
  • What would you say to someone who thinks what they see of CrossFit on TV (e.g. The CrossFit Games) is the norm?
  • What are the goals of the Beginners Series?
  • What would your members say is the best part of CrossFit?


"Sean: Hey team, welcome back to Kinetic U. I'm sitting here with Scott Winges, Head Trainer, Manager, Part-Owner, and certified stud at Northwest CrossFit, Interbay. And we're here to talk about CrossFit. For those that are unfamiliar with CrossFit, there are a lot of questions that come with it, and we're here to answer all of those questions. What I want to start with first, Scott, is what is CrossFit?

Scott: That's the most common question, probably, that we get. CrossFit is defined as constantly varied, high-intensity, functional fitness, which doesn't necessarily mean a whole lot to the average person. But basically, it means our workouts change constantly, so it's a lot of variety, in a lot of different ways. Intensity parts of the workouts are not usually easy, pretty much challenging for everyone. But it's a scaled intensity, so it's going to be hard for someone who's been doing it for four years, and hard for somebody that's day two, but not necessarily in the same way. And the last part is the functional fitness, which means that our movements that we do are things that you might see in every day life. So things like picking things up, putting them up overhead, basic gymnastics, pull-ups, push-ups, that kind of stuff. You see a lot of those types of movements. That's really, in a nutshell, what CrossFit is.

Sean: Awesome. Well, what makes CrossFit different from other fitness systems out there?

Scott: I think there are a lot of different things. I could probably give you a long list. But if I were to pick two big things, I'd say that the variety is probably the biggest main difference. Not only do we change how long the workout is, if it's an interval, if it's three minutes, if it's twenty minutes, if it's thirty minutes, you know, whatever the time frame is. We do power lifting, Olympic lifting. We do gymnastics, running, rowing, jump-roping. We do so many different things, that it's hard to see much fitness programs that do provide that type of variety. So, I think that's probably one of the biggest things. The other thing is definitely that community aspect that we have. It's really unique I think. It's hard to describe just how cool it is to work out with these people. You get to know everyone in the class and have this sense of camaraderie when you struggle sometimes through the workouts. Or crush the workout. Either way, you do build that sense of camaraderie, which is really unique. 

Sean: Got it. Well, what are common questions you get from perspective members? 

Scott: The kind of questions besides from, "What is CrossFit?" I'd say the most common I get is, "Am I in good enough shape to do CrossFit?" "Do I need to workout for three months before I can come in?" No, you don't need to. We have a beginner's series, we do an on ramp that takes people and breaks things down a little bit to get you into it. And then the whole point is, you do scale things. So, whether you're next to somebody that's been there for five years, or it's day two for you, the workout is not necessarily going to look the same, but it's the same idea. You scale it. So, there's less weight, or the movements are changed up a little bit, but you still do the workouts together. So, you don't need this background, necessarily. The other one, sometimes I get is when people see it on TV or something and they go, "Oh, there's no way I can do that." It's not necessarily a question, but it's like, "No, the whole point is ..." This is what my job is, to get people prepared to the point where they can actually potentially do things like pull-ups and get themselves into these movements that they might look at and go, "There's no way I can do it." But there are progressions for these things, and that's part of what we do. 

Sean: Well, what would you tell a potential member who expresses concerns about getting injured? What would you say to that member?

Scott: Yeah, that's a big one. This is something we take very seriously. Obviously, we've partnered with you guys, Kinetic, a little bit here, so we work on trying to make sure that our warm-ups and cool-downs and the work-outs themselves are something that we have people...they're prepared for the movements and as safe as possible. But, that being said, as soon as you leave your couch, obviously your chance of injury goes up. You could slip, you could trip, fall, whatever happens. Any physical activity comes with some inherent risks. That being said, I think CrossFit, statistically, is pretty low on the spectrum, compared to other sports. Certainly less than sports like basketball or something like that. It's something that we do take very seriously, because obviously if everyone is hurt, then they're not doing our programming, so they're not making progress. You wouldn't see the progress if everyone got hurt doing it. But it is a concern, for anyone. In physical fitness programs, safety should be included right up there with what you're programming, what you're doing, what your trainers are trained to do. 

Sean: Well, the CrossFit games just finished up last month. And without a doubt, it's becoming exponentially more popular to watch. And you're seeing the fitness athletes of the world endure the biggest test of mental and physical stamina. And, with that exposure, I think people might perceive that as being a norm. People will see the workouts as being something that's also endured by CrossFit members across the world on a daily basis. What would you say to that member that's asking those questions, or that presents like, "I saw the games last month. That looks incredibly difficult. I don't know if I can do that." What would you say to that person?

Scott: That's a funny one. The games are something that's a blessing and a curse in that sense because it is really really cool to see just how far CrossFit athletes have come. Athletically, the things that they're doing are just insane, sometimes. It's really cool to watch. Somebody that's been doing it for a while, it's really fun for me to watch. I watch it somewhat religiously. But, that being said, it is very intimidating. You watch these people doing crazy, crazy things. It's not necessarily what we do in here. So, something I'd tell those members is, "Maybe 99% of the stuff they do out there, I'm not going to have...Day one, you're not going to do 100 weight press pull-ups in your workout. It's not something that I'm prescribing for you." So, it's not like exactly what they're doing in the games. 

This is the 1% of the 1% that make it to the games at this final level. So, these are people ... almost all the athletes at the games also have really competitive sports backgrounds. Whether they're doing rugby, professional gymnastics, and stuff. So, they come from something else, in addition to the CrossFit. If that is your ultimate goal, potentially, you can start training for four or five hours a day and stuff. But for most people it's more of a lifestyle choice in trying to become healthier, become fitter. Get that pants size down or whatever you're looking for. It's a little bit different than what they do on the TV. I'm not going to have you pick up a 500 pound yoke and walk around the room and do lunges with it or something like that on day one, it's not happening. So, calm down. [laughs]

Sean: Well, you guys offer a great beginners series. I know that, because my wife just finished the beginners series a few weeks ago.

Scott: She crushed it.

Sean: She's an active member in the CrossFit community. What are the goals of that beginners series?

Scott: Well, a lot of goals, I guess I just pick a couple, so I don't ramble. Two big ones, I'd say is, number one, we want to introduce people to movements that they might not have seen before. We generally structure it about four new movements a day, and we're just going over how to safely perform these movements, basically. What the muscle groups we're trying to engage are, what can go wrong with the movement. Starting with basic things like air squats and push-ups, and sit-ups, and that type of thing. And moving on, it builds on it a little bit, to some of the more complex things we do in here. We do so many different things, it's nice to have the series to at least get people prepped so that they have a foundation, so when they come into classes, it's not so intimidating. 

The other thing we do with it, is it is six days that have six workouts in it. And so, we do ramp the workouts up a little bit, so you kind of get that heart rate used to being elevated a little bit more. We do have people that come in, haven't worked out for five, six years. So rather than going in on any sort of random workout we have going on throughout the week, that might be a little more challenging, we know day one what we're doing with these people. And it gives the coaches a change to figure out, "Oh, this person has things where their ankles, knees, hips, something's going on there, so now I know to watch for that." Before they were put into a really hard challenge. So there are a lot of things, but those are two main ones.

Sean: Well, the final question I have for you, Scott, is what would your members say is the best part of CrossFit?

Scott: You mean besides their awesome coach? [laughs]

Sean: Yeah.

Scott: I think, probably the community, is the main one out here. Again, when you do these workouts together, there is something very cool, it's camaraderie to it, where you come together. You're doing this thing that is sometimes challenging. Often times, the most exciting part of the day, in general, is you're doing, "Oh, I never did a pull-up before! Now I'm doing them!" You see everyone else grow. Everyone's there to better themselves. The community aspect, it's hard to even describe, necessarily, until you get into it, but it's very fun. Yeah, that's probably the main one.

Sean: Thanks for your time, Scott. Absolutely appreciate it.

Scott: Absolutely Sean, my pleasure man. Good to see you. 

Sean: You heard it here first. Scott Winges, Head Trainer, Manager, and of course, certified practitioner of awesomeness. Hopefully that helps clear the air, or the chalk, if you will, on CrossFit, answers questions that you have. And motivates you a little bit more to maybe pursue CrossFit in the future. Thanks for watching. Be Kinetic."