Beginning at the End: The On-Ramp Course

Starting your journey in CrossFit
By Jamie Toland, CF-L1,

I can remember the first time someone told me that graduation was often referred to as “commencement.” On hearing that commencement meant “a new beginning,” I thought that was the stupidest name I’d ever heard. To me, graduation meant “the end” or “getting done.” How could it mean to begin something?

I was only 9 at the time. Give me a break.

Since that time, I have “commenced” on numerous occasions. I recently read a social media post stating outrage over the growing number and types of these graduation ceremonies schools (or more important, parents) are cooking up to make little Johnny and Sally feel special about, say, completing fourth grade.

Throughout my various graduations, I have realized that each one, whether I had ANY idea or not, was a new beginning and rebirth, in a way, of my personal journey.

In 2010, I was the first person to complete and graduate from our new On-Ramp program. (Yeah! He’s getting to the point of this article.) Like most commencements, I had no idea the profound impact it would have on my life and the lives of so many others. Since that time, I have gone to the CrossFit Games, interviewed countless athletes, written hundreds of articles, completed more than 1,000 workouts and even traveled to Europe, all because I decided to try out CrossFit one surprisingly hot March afternoon.

Last June, I completed my CrossFit Level-1 trainer certification and began helping with our current On Ramp program (which has progressed in uniformity, efficiency and number of participants since I completed it by myself in 2010). I like helping with the On-Ramp program because to me, it is the best way to learn how to coach CrossFit. Why? Because you are guiding people who are unsure of every aspect of fitness and movement. It’s so much more involved and difficult than covering a class of 20 or more during the day because virtually all the members in those classes are already confident and trained.

With the On-Ramp program, we run a three-week, nine-class course that consists of three classes a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday). On Day One, each person is warmed up and stretched, instructed on the proper movements and techniques that they will be using for that day’s workout and then put through what we call our “Baseline” WOD.

Baseline is a 400-meter run (500-meter row if it’s the middle of winter), 40 air squats, 30 sit-ups, 20 push-ups and 10 pull-ups. (Often, several of these movements are scaled or reduced on an individual basis.) This workout is for time and is one of the few occasions that we time the On Rampers during the three weeks. On Day Nine, they redo the same workout, with whatever scaling or modifications they used on Day One, and … everyone’s time is better. Ta-da! CrossFit works.

But this is only the beginning. It’s the commencement of their journeys, as it was mine more than five years ago. The thing I’d want all our On Ramp members to know is that you need to treat it as a beginning. You’re never going to meet all your fitness and personal goals in just nine classes, so stick with it. CrossFit is not for everyone, and that is perfectly fine. The issue is that I see too many athletes with the potential to become changed by CrossFit who fall to the wayside because of schedules or other factors in their lives that make their On Ramp experience more of a graduation and less of the commencement that it really should be.

What was your On-Ramp experience like? More important, what do you do to make the newest members of your box feel welcome when they start the regular classes?

Stay on the Grind.

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