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21 Habits You Need to Break to be a Better CrossFitter

 Written by 

Damect Dominguez

 Last updated on 

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Habitual behavior usually goes unnoticed in the person doing it; it’s a routine, something that happens unconsciously. Because of this, breaking a bad habit can be all the more difficult. Step one, acknowledge the behavior. Here are 21 bad habits that could be keeping you from becoming a better CrossFitter.

1. Placing too much focus on others

Focusing on others instead of yourself can impact your performance in many ways. For one, there is no use in wasting energy getting down on yourself when another athlete does well on a movement you struggle with. Everyone has weaknesses and everyone has strengths. Second, stop worrying so much about what others think of you. So what if you finish last, make a funny face when you squat or have an unusual grunt when you exert yourself. What’s important is that you feel good about YOU during the WOD. Ya dig?

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2. Thinking that nutrition doesn’t translate to performance

Oh grasshopper, it does. It so does. If your performance is not where you think it should be and you’re doing everything else right at the box—mobility, focusing on technique, attending class regularly—take a look at what you’re feeding your body, chances are some improvements could be made in that area.

3. Talking too much

A good box is a social place, where friends can be made and good times shared. The camaraderie between CrossFitters is one of the founding pillars of our sport. But chatting while your coach is demonstrating the finer points of the snatch, or having some fool talk to you as you mentally prepare for your WOD or PR attempt is a problem. You don’t want anything to disrupt your focus—and people, talking too much will do that. So stop it.

4. Being on your phone during class

Social media and advances in technology have brought people closer than ever before, but this isn’t always a good thing. Sometimes they only serve as a distraction. We need to be reminded that there’s a big world out there. How does this translate to CrossFit? Simply put, a lack of focus on the mechanics of a lift or a WOD will negatively impact your performance and long-term progress. You can live without your phone for an hour, so turn it off and put it away.

5. Warming up poorly

A good warm-up should get blood flowing to your muscles and joints, provide a foundation for the movements to come in the WOD and provide you with an opportunity to focus on your goals for the class. If you’re half-assing the warm-up and talking throughout, how prepped—both physically and mentally—do you think you’re going to be?

6. Not having goals

Setting a goal—a movement to nail, a weight to hit, a time to beat or an event to compete in—gives purpose to your training, which will help to propel you on your charge to achieving whatever target you have set yourself.

7. Unnecessary scaling

Is it not nature’s intention to evolve or die? Ok, extreme comparison, but there is an underlying lesson to it. There is truth in learning to walk before you can run, and yes, there is nothing wrong with scaling to focus on technique and safety (in fact, it is to be commended). However, when you’ve been walking for months or even years, it’s time to start running, otherwise you may never learn how.

8. Over-relying on your gear

Things like weightlifting belts, knee sleeves and lifting shoes can be useful for very heavy lifting, but if you’re using them all the time for every WOD, they can become a crutch you lean upon to the detriment of your progress as an all-around athlete.

9. Not socializing with the class

There is a difference between interrupting class with chatter and coming in, keeping your head down and working out in a corner without saying a word to anyone. The people you work out with aren’t just your classmates, they’re friends-in-waiting and a built-in support system. The members of an affiliate are what separates CrossFit from a globo gym. Besides, it’s much harder to cheer for someone when you don’t know anything about them—let alone their name.

10. Not listening to the coach

Your coaches are experienced professionals whose job it is to guide you through the repertoire of movements and exercises in a safe and efficient manner. Listening to their advice is a great way to help you progress. Ignoring it—whether unintentionally or not—is a sure fire way to leave you in CrossFit limbo, or worse, getting hurt.

11. Not focusing on mobility

A lack of mobility, much like having a poor diet, is one of those things that is certain to hold you back from getting better, whether you’re a competitive athlete or use CrossFit as your fitness fix. Taking the time to properly focus on working the mobility in your shoulders, hips, IT band and so on will translate to success quicker than banging your head against the wall again and again.

12. Bringing outside baggage into the box

Even if you consider yourself to have a pretty sweet life, we all battle difficult situations from time to time. But what can be more annoying than ruining a WOD by letting circumstances outside of the box distract you from the task at hand? It can be hard not to let all that shit affect you, but for the sake of your CrossFit soul, you must try. A good way to start is to see how long you can go without complaining about your day when you step foot in the box.

13. Having a fear of failing

This probably has and will happen to all of us, usually before a PR attempt or a tricky lift. You know the feeling: you approach the bar; the movement makes you uncomfortable; the weight on the bar even more so…thoughts of injury cross your mind. Perhaps it’s the embarrassment of falling flat on your ass or not completing a WOD in time. Rather than fighting the fear, understand that every athlete experiences it. What separates those who are successful is their trust in their physical capabilities and mental strength, enough to generate the self belief that they WILL lift the bar, they WILL finish the WOD, that they WILL succeed. Trust in your mind, your body and your training, focus on what successes you have had and combine them into a mental battering ram to break through the wall of fear. And hey, if you do fail, that’s OK too. As the great inventor Thomas Edison once said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

14. Not tracking your numbers

Consistently tracking your numbers—weight lifted, reps performed, and WOD times—gives you a platform from which to build upon. It allows you to know if you should scale and by how much, what weight to use when the coach asks for 3 reps at 70% of your 1RM and provides you with a daily reminder of how you are improving—all by simply keeping track of your numbers.

15. Sacrificing form for time

“In practice if you’re starting to hurt—legitimately hurt, not pain—you stop. But in competition, unless you’re going to die, I’m going to keep going.”(Josh Bridges on the Mental Game)
There may be a time and a place for form to go out the window, but as 2012’s 2nd Fittest Man so eloquently put it, training is not one of them. From time to time you might say, “Screw this, I’m going balls to the wall to dominate this WOD.” But if you do, remember that bad form with heavy weight equals high risk of injury. Also, if you consistently perform movements with bad technique you are promoting bad habits, and we all know that it’s far easier to prevent bad habits than to break them.

16. Lacking patience

Rome wasn’t built in a day! Did you think that after hitting butterfly pull-ups in one week, you’d automatically get muscle-ups the next? Trying to rush progress to match a rival or satisfy your own desire for success is a sure-fire way to open yourself up to disappointment or worse, injury. Slow down, don’t be greedy. Take the time to really nail the necessary progressions and become efficient in each movement.

17. Not taking rest days

Your body will let you know when enough is enough. Dragging yourself to the box for days on end is not going to make you a better athlete. It can actually make you worse. Aside from giving your body time to recover and reducing the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), some time spent away from the box is good for your mind and helps to prevent the CrossFit burnout.

18. Not working on Skills

Much like a warrior who sharpens his sword in preparation for battle, CrossFitters must continue to work on their skills to ensure they don’t become rusty. You’re only as strong as your weakest movement, so if you spend all your time working on, say, Olympic lifting, your gymnastic skills will invariably suffer as a result. Worse still is an athlete who neglects working on skills altogether, hoping that the weekly WODS will suffice for their development. News flash—it won’t.

19. Not getting enough quality sleep

Don’t underestimate the value of a good night’s rest. The strains and obligations of everyday life (and CrossFit) take a toll on your body and mind. In no way should you neglect yourself from the recovery that sleep provides. A good night’s sleep means quality sleep, which comes about in a few ways: sleeping in complete darkness to help 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.

20. Making too many excuses

Excuses prevent you from taking ownership of your goals. Nothing worth having is ever easy, so expect a few bumps along the way. Not training because you didn’t feel like it or because it’s raining means that you’re just avoiding the road to success all together. Additionally, blaming your poor performance on a funny feeling in your wrist or how sweat got in your eyes won’t cut it either. Excuses are not a hallmark of successful people. So stop making them.

21. Not giving 100%

If your goal is to come to CrossFit, chat with your friends and get in a workout, you’re probably getting what you want out of the experience. But if you want to hit a PR, drop or gain some weight or make it to Regionals or even the Games, you need to understand there is a certain work ethic you need to apply each and every time you step into the box. You need to work harder than you ever thought possible, and keep that level of effort consistent. 2013 Games 3rd place finisher Ben Smith sums it up perfectly: “Remember the CrossFit term of ‘virtuosity’—doing the common, uncommonly well. I would say, work harder than you think you should. If you think you’re working hard, work twice as hard as that. Always work your hardest. You can’t be going at it at 50%. Every workout should be making you better. If it’s important to you, you’ll make the time for it.”

Athlete pictured: Gretchen Kittelberger @ the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games

From the August/September 2014 issue of BoxLife Magazine


Damect is the visionary who brought BoxLife Magazine to life. As the author of “Training Day – 400+ original WODs,” he has played a pivotal role in shaping the CrossFit community. His passion for the sport and dedication to the community are the foundation upon which BoxLife was built.

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