I would argue that most people who start CrossFit do so with the belief that it is a training methodology and not a sport. The approach to CrossFit will likely differ for those who view it as a sport, and for those who see it as a fitness program. But there is one common denominator: everyone wants to become a better CrossFitter. One of the great things about CrossFit is that it’s immensely satisfying to see your numbers go in the right direction, and watch your physical capabilities shift that way as well. Naturally, you want more—and one of the best ways to do that is to consistently attend class and do the daily WOD. But this isn’t the only tool at your disposal. If you want to achieve your full potential and become the best CrossFitter you can possible be, you have to start doing things outside of the box. Here are 8 valuable practices you can do to help compliment your CrossFit training.
1. Fix your diet
And by this I don’t mean that you have to go strict paleo or zone or caveman or whatever, but there are valuable lessons one can take from these diets to incorporate into your own. Lowering the amount of carbohydrates, sugars and bad fats (such as trans fats and some saturated fats) in your regular diet will all contribute to an increase in your physical and mental health, not to mention your performance in the WOD. Conversely, not getting enough lean meat, good fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated), fiber and water can impede your progress as an athlete. Having a healthy, solid diet is the bedrock to any fitness or sport-specific training program, so do your research, talk to your coach(es) and make this change priority number 1.
2. Have better quality sleep, more often
One of the most under-appreciated and underrated keys to a healthy, stress-free, CrossFit-beast life is a good night’s rest. As often as possible. The strains and obligations of everyday life (and CrossFit!) take a toll on the body and your mind, so in no way should you neglect yourself from the recovery that a good night’s sleep provides. And a good night’s sleep means quality sleep, which comes about through 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 avoids an increased pulse rate).
3. Take care of your hands
Ironically enough, I’m writing this article with a pair of stunning rips on my right hand, courtesy of the hero WOD “Danny”. So as I fumble awkwardly with the keyboard (it’s actually not that bad), I can say from personal, immediate experience that there is nothing quite as frustrating as trying to grip a bar with a torn palm from the previous day’s WOD. It’s uncomfortable, it hurts, and it makes getting through those pull-ups that much more difficult. While you may never be able to fully prevent yourself from getting a tear, there are plenty of preventative measures you can take to significantly reduce your chances. Shaving your callouses, using hand care produces, investing in gloves—whatever takes your fancy. But do yourself a favor, and do something to make sure you don’t wince every time your palm comes into contact with water for the next 24 hours—as this is what I’ve got to look forward to.
4. Work on your mobility
Many of us who struggle with overhead bar positioning and squats curse the years of inflexibility and lack of stretching from our days as younger athletes in different sports. It may not have been that important to us then, but it definitely is now, so make up for lost time and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Investing in a foam roller, lacrosse ball and resistance band is well worth the expense to ensure that you stay on top of your fascia build-up and keep your muscles and joints nice and limber for optimum physical movement, in and out of the gym.
5. Take up yoga
The classical techniques of Yoga date back more than 5,000 years, and the word means “to join or yoke together,” bringing the body and mind together in one experience. Something that’s been around for that long must be worth trying—as many CrossFitter’s are starting to do. In fact, there are now numerous boxes that offer Yoga classes in addition to their regular programming. And no wonder why. Some of the numerous benefits of the meditative practice include better balance, being able to breather more efficiently, improved range of motion and mobility and increased sense of focus. That all sounds like it could pretty useful during a WOD, don’t you think?
6. Regularly learn and play new sports
These are the last words from the scripture that is Gregg Glassman’s ‘Fitness in 100 Words’, so we should take heed and put our new found physical skills to the test. Picking up skills from certain sports can help to develop your CrossFit abilities, and all together make you a more well-rounded athlete. Besides, CrossFit shouldn’t be the only physical activity that you do, and after a while it can become a bit of a drag. Get outside and play with your fitness, kick a ball around, go for a swim and bike down a mountain. Whatever it may be, make sure you are engaging in a sport that doesn’t require a barbell or a burpee. If anything, this is a great way to engage in active recovery, and it might make you appreciate the uniqueness of CrossFit even more.
They say that knowledge is power, and they’re right—whoever they are. You might be used to getting all of your information and advice on CrossFit from the coaches and veterans at your box, and while this is certainly useful information, there is plenty more to learn away from the confines of the box. The brain is a muscle that constantly needs to be exercised through informative, educational and quite frankly brilliant pieces on CrossFit news, nutritional advice and training tips—pieces like this one, and this one, this one—oh this one’s great, this one…Arm yourself with as much possible information on your chosen field, and you can start to implement little pieces of golden information into your training that can make all the difference—like pressing into the bar when you perform an overhead squat. You’re welcome.
8. Disconnect from CrossFit
CrossFit is a great way to make new friends, relieve stress and get in phenomenal shape. But it can also be a pain in the ass. Yeah I said it! It can! Being in the box everyday, pushing yourself mentally and physically, suffering through aches, tears, bruises and sweating away most of your bodily fluids can take its toll. On top of this the new friends you’re making will be sharing at least one CrossFit-related post on your social media wall daily. Eventually, it just becomes overbearing, and you end up resenting the box and everything (and everyone) inside of it. Ok, that might be a little extreme, but you get the idea. It’s the same concept you’d apply to your career. If work is just stressing you out, you go on vacation. If you feel your brain melting from watching too much T.V., you read a book or go for a walk. Same for CrossFit. Hey, why not learn a new sport (point 6, wink wink)! The best advice I could give would simply be to do something different for a few days. After three or four days you’ll start to feel a little agitated and you’ll realize that it’s time to return to your box and attack each WOD with a renewed sense of vengeance.