Is starting CrossFit on your list of goals for 2015? No? Well, it should be! Juuuuust kidding…I just say that because I love it so much. I love the intensity, the variety, the sense of community and the results I get. Over the last few years it’s become my main form of fitness and I’ve seen more improvements in my strength and conditioning than ever before. If you’re new to CrossFit, or maybe even new to working out, don’t you worry! I reassure you, anyone can do it!
CrossFit is designed for universal scalability making it the perfect application for any committed individual regardless of experience. We’ve used our same routines for elderly individuals with heart disease and cage fighters one month out from televised bouts. We scale load and intensity; we don’t change programs.
Joining a gym where I could attend CrossFit classes was one of the best fitness decisions I’ve ever made. Although I had been doing CrossFit workouts for years on my own, there is no comparison to doing it with a ground of positive, like-minded people.
I don’t think CrossFit is the end all to be all when it comes to fitness and I know it’s not for everybody. But I do think CrossFit can be an incredible and enjoyable fitness journey, or a valuable supplement to an already solid fitness routine. When it comes to fitness, I think you should do whatever you enjoy and whatever you’ll actually do day after day. If it’s CrossFit, that’s awesome!
I also think it’s a great introduction to lifting weights if you’ve never done it before. I’ve always been into weightlifting but for women who are new to strength training I think CrossFit is wonderful for showing them just how strong they can be and just how powerful and amazing their bodies are. It takes the focus of weight loss goals and puts it on improving your skills and abilities. You’ll start to focus on a better back squat or getting your first pull-up rather than fitting into a certain size of jeans.
If you’ve been putting off getting started, don’t wait any longer and don’t be scared. YOU CAN DO IT.
17 bits of advice for CrossFit beginners.
I hope these help clear up and hesitation you may have and help you get started on your goals today!
1. You don’t need any special clothing or gear.
Regular workout clothes and some athletic shoes are all you need to get started. Essentially anything you’re comfortable moving in. I typically wear workout shorts or tights and a tighter-fitting tank top or t-shirt.
I like my workout clothes to be tight enough that they stay in place while I’m training but not so tight that I don’t feel comfortable. When you arrive to your first class you might see women wearing minimal clothing, guys with their shirts off and a myriad of knee socks, wrist wraps and weight belts. Don’t worry about that. Wear whatever you feel like. Anything works.
As for gear, there really isn’t anything you need to do CrossFit. There is absolutely no special clothing you need to get an awesome workout and start seeing improvements. Your box will have the equipment needed to complete the workouts and from there, it’s all just extras and accessories you can discover as you progress in your CrossFit journey.
That being said, here is some gear I use frequently:
2. Don’t be afraid to show the love and be proud!
When I first started CrossFit, even though I loved it right off the bat, I didn’t feel comfortable enough to call myself a “CrossFitter.” But wait, why not? I was there day after day, doing the WODs just like everyone else. If you’re there and you’re loving it, don’t be afraid to show it, talk the talk and be proud of your accomplishments, no matter how large or small! You’re a “CrossFitter” as soon as you start.
3. Ask questions.
Don’t know what an AMRAP is? A 1 RM? How about an EMOM or T2B? Don’t worry about it! CrossFit has weird terminology. Whether it’s about the use of acronyms, the upcoming workout or foot placement during a squat, ask your coach or a more experience athlete for clarification, they’ll be happy to answer your questions.
4. Nail technique first, only then start adding weight.
Don’t rush adding weights to your lifts before you’ve really got your form down pat. It’s better to form good habits and get your technique down at a lower weight before you start piling plates on the bar. If you start increasing weights before your form has had a chance to improve you could start developing habits that will be harder to change later on. And as tempting as adding a few more plates to the bar can be, I don’t typically go beyond what I can perform with decent form, but that’s just a personal preference. As always, listen to your body and do what you feel comfortable with.
5. Be consistent and patient. Results will come.
Just keep going. If you’re enjoying it, give yourself at least 3 months before you decide if it’s for you or not. Be patient. Results take time but if you’re consistent, they absolutely will come. The exciting thing as a beginner is that results come fairly quickly, even in 30 days you can really see a difference in your strength and overall fitness.
If you commit to a year of consistent training, it’s amazing what you can achieve. I think 2-4 classes a week is a realistic for beginners, depending on your level of fitness when you start. It may take a while for your body to get used to training at that intensity, so at the beginning you might need more recovery time between training days.
6. Practice your double unders.
What is a double under you may ask? A double under is skipping while swinging the rope under your feet twice with each skip.
In my very first official CrossFit class, the WOD was made up of a ton of double unders, of which I couldn’t do a single one. Oh, the frustration, the whip marks. Ughhhh. I tried with all my might to get that skipping rope under my feet twice with each skip but it just wasn’t happening. All the while I was tensing up what seemed to be every single muscle in my body, trying way to hard and completely exhausting myself.
I couldn’t progress in the workout because I couldn’t get past the double unders. So I started practicing. I practiced until I could do 10, then 20, then 50 and now, I can do over 100 unbroken. For the first little while, they killed me. I’d have to rest after 10 or 20 because I found them to be so physically exhausting. I kept practicing. Now I can fly though them and move on without rest. My body adapted, my technique improved and now I actually get excited when I seem them in a WOD! Practice them, you’ll improve and it will make for a much better experience when double unders pop up in a WOD.
I’d recommend purchasing your own speed rope that’s properly sized for your height, that way you can practice anytime and not have to scramble to find a suitable loaner rope pre-WOD. You don’t have to shell out for a fancy one either. You can get a decent double under rope for around $15, while if you want to doll out a little more, you can spend as much as $50.
7. Scale as needed and don’t worry about “RX.”
The “RX” used in CrossFit WODs is simply the “prescribed,” or recommend weights or standards for any particular workout. If you’re just starting out, simply use it as a point of reference for choosing your weights. Do what is best for you, on any given day. You’ll get the most out of the WODs if you can move through them quickly and efficiently with proper form.
Even the more experienced CrossFitters will sometimes scale workouts. Things change day to day and there are a lot of factors than can affect your abilities on a daily basis. Know that you don’t always have to lift the heaviest weights to get a great workout.
If you have a good coach, they’ll want you to choose the appropriate weight for you on any given day and should help you determine where you should work if you’re unsure. As for exercise standards, those are always scalable too. Pull-ups, push-ups, box jumps – they all have modifications for beginners. Choose what you know will be challenge but is also realistic and safe.
8. Get some help with Olympic lifting.
The Olympic lifts are the snatch and the clean and jerk, which are two different methods of moving a barbell from the ground to overhead. If you’ve never done them before they can be awkward and a honestly, a little scary.
I don’t think the time you spend on them in class is quite enough to get it down if you’re new to it. If you want to progress faster and make your WODs safer and more effective when Olympic lifts are included, I’d recommend working with a coach 1-on-1 or taking an Olympic lifting-specific course or seminar to get some extra help.
9. Understand that sometimes it’s really gonna suck.
This is particularly true if you’re newer working out all together. You’re probably going to be crazy sore, some workouts still leave me sore for days on end. Sometimes you will curse the day you ever stepped into your box. Sometimes it’s really hard but you start to love that about it and you always feel awesome after you’re done.
I’ve noticed that my mental toughness has improved leaps and bounds since starting CrossFit. Where I used to give up, I’m more often able to ignore my screaming body and push through when I want to stop. You get stronger, both mentally and physically, you get better at things you used to suck at and you actually start to enjoy it even on the days you know it’s gonna be brutal.
10. Practice hanging.
One of the hardest things for me at the beginning was simply just hanging off a bar. This made pull-ups and toes to bar really difficult because my grip was so weak and I could only hold on for a few seconds. It takes a bit of work to build those muscles up if you haven’t done it much before. Depending on your level of fitness, start practicing a dead hang off the bar for about 10 seconds and then build up from there. Try building up to a few sets of 30-60 seconds before or after classes.
Practice often and you’ll be surprised how quickly your grip strength, shoulders and lats will adapt to supporting your bodyweight. It will make a huge difference as you begin to progress into pull-ups and other gymnastic-based movements, as well as gripping the bar during Olympic lifts.
I’d recommend a few pairs of natural grips to protect your hands, or using athletic tape to make your own. You can purchase either option here:
11. Do more burpees.
There’s no getting around the fact that burpees suck, for everyone. But if you do them more often, they’ll suck a little less and eventually you won’t want to cry when you 60 burpees in your next WOD.
Burpees require strength and conditioning and are one of the best exercises out there for improving both those of these elements. Practice. Do more of them, even if you despise them to the core of your being, just keep at it. We’ll suffer together.
12. Ego a no-no.
There just isn’t room for an ego at CrossFit, if there was, there would be a whole lot more injuries going around. Do your best. Listen to your body and don’t compare yourself to someone that’s been training for years. Instead, let them be your inspiration!
Guys, there are going to be women who are stronger and faster than you. Get over it. In your 20’s? Guaranteed there will be a 40 or 50 year old who can kick your butt. Deal. This is one of the reasons why CrossFit is so motivating, and humbling. Work hard and push yourself but always leave your ego at the door.
13. Know that you will get out of CrossFit exactly what you put in.
This pretty much goes for anything in life, doesn’t it though? You want something, you work for it. There isn’t really any way around that, but it is possible. You can achieve anything you want at CrossFit, if you work hard, be consistent and put in the work. Work on your weaknesses before and after class and just keep at it. You will get there.
If there is one particular area where you want to see improvement, work with a coach or even just look online to develop a plan. There are many online resources for improving your handstands, pull-ups, ring dips, or whatever it may be. A little extra work will go a long way.
14. Work on your mobility.
Your box will have evil mobility and stretching devices like foam rollers, bands and balls. Use them. Work on your tight spots. It will make a world of difference your training and recovery. See a RMT or physio if you’re unsure of where to start or check out MobilityWOD for some programs and exercises.
New (and some seasoned!) CrossFitters typically have limited mobility in the ankles, hips and shoulders. A quick Google of shoulder mobility or hip mobility exercises will point you in the right direction. It doesn’t take much to improve your mobility either, 5-10 minutes a day should do the trick. I’d recommend picking up a foam roller and a few tennis or lacrosse balls for home and using them while watching TV.
Check out some of my favourite mobility tools on Amazon:
15. Try not to be intimidated.
I’m not sure how things will be at your box, but coming into mine can be definitely be intimidating at times. Especially if you’re new to that type of gym and style of working out. You won’t know anybody, people will be crashing and banging on the platforms, women and men doing muscle-ups, there may be 6-packs all over the place. Good lord. Haha.
Yes, it can be a little intense sometimes. But there will be other beginners, you’ll get to know people and make friends, the coaches and other members will help you out if you need it. Before you know it you’ll be part of a positive, inspiring community that will help you grow as an athlete. Because yes, you are an athlete. We all are.
16. Don’t take it too seriously.
Realistically, you’re probably not going to be the next Games competitor so don’t beat yourself up if you have a bad day or week, that happens. No worries, always keep persecutive and just move on. It’s supposed to make you happy! Spend as much or as little time with as you want too and refer back to tip #12. The most important thing is to have fun and enjoy what you’re doing, otherwise there isn’t really much point, is there?
17. JUST DO IT!
I put off joining for so long (as in 5 years!!) and I only wish I’d started early. I thought it was too expensive, I was a little scared, I didn’t know if I could do it….excuses, excuses…If you’ve been humming and hawing for longer than you like, just take take the first step and do it already! Your gym should offer some sort of program for beginners that will prep you to join the regular classes. Start with that and go from there. Chances are you’re absolutely going to love it.
That’s just my two sense! I hope you found my advice reassuring if you’ve been considering CrossFit. I’d love to hear your thoughts on all this! Leave me a comment below or hit me up on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Happy training!