1. Scale Know your limits. Let’s take the benchmark workout Diane. Diane consists of 21, 15 and 9 reps of deadlifts and handstand push-ups. The Rx, or prescribed, weight starts at 225lbs for men and 155lbs for women. It’s rare that a newbie could or should do this workout as prescribed. As Greg Glassman wrote, “If we substitute light dumbbell shoulder press for the handstand push-ups and use a broomstick for the deadlifts we could take that workout to the senior center.” You don’t need to get in shape to start CrossFit. Scale and start at the level that’s right for you.
When to scale: Whether or not you can deadlift 225lbs, the question becomes whether you can maintain a high level of intensity and proper form throughout the workout. When people associate CrossFit with injury, it is often times a result of not scaling properly. Know your limits and scale accordingly.
2. Take time to recover What you do outside the box is just as important as what you do inside it. Sleep, nutrition, rest, mobility—the list goes on. Take care of your body. It’s easy to overdo it in the beginning. Don’t underestimate the importance of rest days. Going too hard too fast can lead to injury and/or poor performance.
3. Get comfortable with discomfort It’s hard to break plateaus by living in your comfort zone – that goes for almost any goal, but especially when it comes to CrossFit. Yes, it’s tough! When you’re 50 wall balls through Karen (150 wall balls for time) and you feel like quitting, that’s when it’s time to get comfortable with discomfort. The more you give in to the pain or fear, the stronger a habit that will become. Fortunately, the more you fight through the pain, the stronger that habit will become as well.
4. Find the right box There are over 7,500 CrossFit affiliates. Different from a franchise where you can expect the same experience everywhere, boxes are each unique in their daily workouts, the makeup of their members, their goals, etc. Find a box that will keep you coming back and best help you reach your goals. Looking to make it to Regionals or the Games? Find a box with athletes and coaches who focus is competition and/or programming specifically tailored for this.
5. Always warm up! A proper warm up can enhance performance and reduce the chance of injury while mentally preparing you for a workout. A good warm up involves the whole body, functional movements and is specific to the impending workout.
6. Eat right Eat depending on your goals. The nutritional needs of an athlete preparing for competition are much different than the needs of someone looking to simply start making healthier food choices or lose a few pounds. In either case, a post workout protein shake can help decrease muscle loss while increasing fat loss.
7. Just CrossFit Constantly varied, high intensity, functional movements…that’s CrossFit. As a beginner it’s easy to get sucked into the routine of focusing on just one or two aspects of CrossFit: Olympic weightlifting or gymnastics, for example. Until you have a basic understanding of all the CrossFit movements, stick to the group class where you’ll get to practice to a new skill daily.
8. Embrace technique over the time on the clock Poor technique leads to two things: injury and faster fatiguing muscle. Proper form and movement efficiency should be the focus of any new (and experienced) CrossFit athlete. Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look at the clock. You should! Compete against yourself. Push it, but be safe!
9. Listen to your coach (not everyone else) You’ll learn quickly that everyone has some advice to share. That’s what we do, we help each other out. To be safe, at the beginning, focus strictly on what your coach has to say. If you’re confused about a movement or workout ask the coach, that’s what they’re there for. Too much information from too many sources can overload any beginner.
10. Some days are PR days, other days you may lift much less That’s just the way it is. As a new CrossFitter, chances are you’ll set new PRs and learn new skills on a consistent basis. Eventually, these PRs may plateau. The gains you saw your first three months at the box will probably take a year if not more to match. Some days, you’ll actually lift less than usual—a lot less. Chances are you’re not doing anything wrong. Some days you’re just not going to ‘have it’. Do the best you can on that given day and look forward to the next.
11. Keep a training log What gets measured gets managed. A good training log can help you assess your progress and set realistic goals. It’s always inspiring to see how much your Fran time has improved in the last six months. If you’re not keeping a training log, it’s hard to set goals and really enjoy the improvements your making.
12. Have fun Sometimes the best advice comes in the simplest form: Just have fun! It’s hard to be consistent at something when you’re not having any fun. You might be able to force yourself to work out for a few days, maybe even a few weeks, but forcing yourself to do something is not a long term solution. Enjoy your time at the box. Be part of the community, attend special events at the box, and most importantly don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re not progressing as fast as you’d like. You’ll get there. We all do.
Pictured above: Carl Paoli NFSports Elite Coach Photographer: Nik Martinez