CrossFit is a sport (and training regimen) that is nearly impossible to master. From complete novices to elite Masters athletes, there will always be something to improve, something to work on. We (should) accept this fact every day we step foot in the box, and for many that desire to improve is what is so addicting about CrossFit. The accomplishments we do earn are swiftly followed by a new goal—the bar is always being raised. But sometimes we can get in our own way. CrossFit is difficult enough as it is, as an athlete you don’t need any extra help to make it more challenging. As such, we’ve highlighted 10 of the most common mistakes a CrossFitter makes—and what can be done to avoid them.
1. Not doing enough mobility
Mobility is such a key facet of our sport, so why neglect it? Being more mobile is going to help you get better at CrossFit, so isn’t that enough of a reason to take the time to do it, pre and post WOD (and even back at home)? If you leave the gym right after you finish the WOD without taking the time to stretch, you are asking for a sore, stiff body the next day—not to mention missing an opportunity to decrease the effects of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Kelly Starrett, founder of Mobility Wod and author of Becoming a Supple Leopard, suggests people do 10 minutes of mobility every day in addition to whatever work you do at the box. So that means you’re going to need to invest in some mobility gear…
2. Not investing in helpful gear
A CrossFit membership is not cheap, but there is a reason. Box owners and coaches want to attract people who are serious and committed to their fitness. By having a group of people who share a similar interest and are ready to pay to achieve their goals, good things are bound to happen. So when it comes to investing in additional gear that will help your performance, the question becomes: How serious are you? Ditching the tennis shoes and investing in minimalist shoes will make a huge difference in every movement. Struggling with form and balance on your Olympic lifts? They’re called OLY shoes for a reason, people. Is mobility a big issue for you? Then spend 20 bucks and invest in a foam roller and a lacrosse ball to keep at home. Attire is obviously not as big of an issue, but the old adage of look good, feel good can come into play. Plus CrossFit tees are pretty cool, so come on, join the club!
3. Focusing on weight instead of technique
Being able to do a WOD ‘RX’ is a goal for many athletes—a benchmark in itself if you will. Similarly, the constant quest for a new PR can blind many a CrossFitter. These are fleeting temptations, for though they might feel good in the moment, you’re actually hurting yourself in the long run by pursuing them before you are ready to ‘step up a level’. There will come a time when you simply can’t get under the bar, stand a weight up, or get past a certain number of double-unders. What’s worse is by neglecting technique you are opening yourself up to all sorts of problems through bad form, chief of which is injury. Is a serious injury really worth it, just to be able to say you hit a PR, or managed to get a muscle-up? NO. CrossFit is about improving a person’s health for the rest of their lives, not causing problems that may send them to the hospital. Be smart, work on your progressions and technique, and leave your ego at the door.
4. Not eating healthy and not eating enough
Diet is a huge part of any athlete’s training regimen, regardless of their sport. In fact, eating healthy should be a huge part of all our lives. Without going into the nitty-gritty details of Paleo and Zone, if you have a lot of carbohydrates and sugars in your existing diet, you won’t be able to access your full potential as an athlete. Indulging yourself now and again with the odd cookie, pizza and beer is fine (in fact, I encourage it), but you want to make sure that you limit these foods as much as possible. Our bodies are engines, and we want to put the right fuel into them in order to handle all the tasks we are required to do in CrossFit. A good friend of mine has often expressed his desire to get stronger in order to lift more weight. When I asked him what his diet was like, it was clear that while he did eat healthy, he didn’t have enough lean meat in his meals. The fact that he didn’t use protein shakes, in my opinion, also plays a big part. There are entire books on the topic of diet and performance, and your coaches are always on hand if you have a particular question as to what’s ‘healthy’ and what isn’t.
5. Not having a training log
You might not think this is an important element to becoming an efficient and successful CrossFitter, but I assure you that keeping track of your weights and scores can make a huge impact on your performance. Think about it, how many times has the strength portion of your class asked for 5 sets of 3 reps at 70-75% of your 1 rep max, and you have absolutely no idea what that is. All of a sudden you’re spending unnecessary time and energy building up to a weight that feels like the correct percentage. And how will you ever know when you PR a huge lift? You won’t be able to celebrate and have that lifter’s high! Not tracking your weights, scores and times means that you won’t be able to track your progress and see where you’ve improved. When you’re having a rough day at the box and you’ve hit a plateau, you’ll want to be able to look back and see where you once were on the respective lift, etc. to remind yourself that you are indeed moving in the right direction.
6. Overtraining/Getting burnt out
This is a serious issue that if unchecked can lead to someone getting completely frustrated with CrossFit and saying farewell, or even worse—getting seriously injured. Listen, chances are you are NOT an elite athlete with ambitions of making it to Regionals, let alone the Games. Those individuals are a select few who essentially make CrossFit their full-time job and train two, even three times a day. This is not you. CrossFit, believe it or not, is not your entire life—but it is a great compliment to it. It is therefore important to listen to your body and know when you simply need to rest and take a day away from the box. You are likely saving yourself from frustration, mental fatigue and potentially injury. Furthermore, getting away from CrossFit for a little while may remind you why you love it so much. After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder.
7. Not working on weaknesses
Nobody likes coming into the box to see their most hated/weakest movement up on the whiteboard. In fact, I’m sure you know of a few people who specifically avoid coming to the gym on days when their kryptonite is awaiting them. If you’re one of these people: STOP DOING THAT IMMEDIATELY. Here’s the thing—working on your weaknesses will help boost your strengths. A lot of the movements in the CrossFit world are linked. Say you’re a fan of cleans but despise front squats. Well guess what? The core strength and leg power you gain from doing front squats directly relates to your ability to get under the bar in a heavy clean, and stand that sucker up. What’s more is that though certain movements may frustrate you, there’s only one way to become proficient in them: practice.
8. Not taking care of your hands
This can go down as a rookie mistake, for when you get your first horrific ripped pair of palms, you’ll do everything in your power to ensure that doesn’t happen again—right? RIGHT? Ok, sometimes you will take all the right precautions—shaving callouses, using hand care products, investing in gloves—and it won’t matter, you’ll still tear. With that being said, not doing these things is a surefire way to ensure that your hands suffer far more frequently than they need to. So save yourself the discomfort, and make sure you take care of these crucial tools.
9. Not getting enough sleep
We have enough stress in our daily lives to warrant a good night’s rest. When you couple that with the physical and mental strain we endure from a typical CrossFit WOD, then sleep becomes even more important. We need a solid amount of quality sleep to ensure that our bodies will fully recover. This means sleeping in complete darkness (helps the release of melatonin, a hormone that controls the body’s sleep cycle), going to bed at a good hour and sleeping in a cool room (which helps to decrease body temperature and avoid an increased pulse rate). There are other helpful tactics you can employ to ensure you sleep well, so do your homework and make sure you wake up at the start of each day feeling refreshed and ready to go.
10. Forgetting the bigger picture
Finally we have an issue that affects each one of us, and always will. There are days when you’ll simply be tired, worn out and frustrated with yourself and with CrossFit. You’ll question why you aren’t developing faster, why you’re not seeing the physical improvements you want to see, why things seem harder than they did last week. Funny enough, a lot of these emotions can be attributed to all the mistakes above. Indeed, simply forgetting why you started CrossFit and fell in love with it can be enough to derail you. There is a purpose behind your sacrifices and commitment to this sport—you should do your utmost to always keep that in the back of your head, and learn to enjoy the journey.