Over 10 million humans on our precious planet Earth now practice some form of CrossFit. Of those 10 million, the majority (an estimated 60%) are women. This article is geared specifically for them.
Here are 10 tips that might make your experience inside the box a little bit smoother.
1. Check your pants. Those workout pants might look crazy cute, but will they ride down your butt in a deep squat? Make sure your workout gear fits you well and comfortably. There’s so much to focus on at the box—making sure your butt or boobs stay in their place shouldn’t be one of them.
2. Don’t worry about getting big. Women have far less testosterone than men. To build significant mass you’d have to make it your goal to do so, take supplements, eat a ton and work really, really hard to ‘get big’. If you’re not doing that, then packing on big muscle won’t happen naturally.
3. Work on your grip strength. A study by the European Journal of Applied Physiology concluded that on average, men have almost twice as much grip strength as women. For many women, grip strength is a limiting factor in many movements, including pull-ups and toes-to-bar. Take the time to work on your grip strength and you’ll find yourself progressing much more quickly.
4. You will bruise. It’s ok. If you think you might bruise, have your go-to remedy ready, whether it’s ice and heat or some arnica gel. Treat the bruise early to prevent it from getting nasty, unless you’re into that sort of thing. Or, you can always treat it like a badge of honor…
5. No, everyone isn’t staring at you. Don’t hold yourself back out of fear of what others might think. The entire class isn’t judging your performance. They’re too worried about their own. Enjoy your journey.
6. Don’t skip workouts during that time of the month. You might actually PR. During your period and the week after, your estrogen and progesterone levels are at their lowest. During this phase, research shows women recover faster and have a higher pain tolerance.
7. Lift heavy weight. Remember, lifting heavy weight promotes strength, not size. In fact, when lifting very heavy weight (85% of 1RM or higher) the body relies more on motor units and the overall nervous system than your muscles. Furthermore, according to Zatsiorsky and Kreamer in Science and Practice of Strength Training, women should train with heavy weights as it promotes positive adaptations in the bones and connective tissues.
8. Yes, you can do pull-ups. Maybe you’ve heard the myth that women can’t do pull-ups. The truth is, you can. As we’ve said before, the pull-up requires a dedicated strength plan. Waiting for the word ‘pull-up’ to appear every once in a while on the whiteboard isn’t going to cut it. Find a coach to help you design a plan that will simulate actual pull-ups and strengthen the muscles in that specific movement pattern.
9. Protein shakes aren’t just for men. Protein shakes, especially post workout, can go a long way in increasing lean muscle, reducing fat, increasing strength, repairing tissue and helping you meet your basic nutritional needs. Yes, you can always eat a high-protein meal, but drinking a protein shake after a workout helps your muscles recover much faster by providing them with immediate nutrients.
10. Don’t just exercise, train. In case you haven’t noticed, women make pretty good CrossFitters. In fact, the highest score in three out of the five Open workouts came from women. Exercise often becomes a monotonous task as all it requires from you is to show up and work up a sweat. Training, on the other hand, is exercise with a purpose. Training keeps you coming back for more as you attempt to master double-unders, perfect your clean and jerk and so on.
Published in the April/May 2014 issue of BoxLife Magazine
Photo Credit: Nik Martinez Athlete: Andrea Ager