I’ve been meaning to write this post for ages since it’s one of the most common questions I receive about CrossFit. Are you thinking about trying CrossFit? If so, here are five tips that will help you get started!
Don’t be scared.
Seriously, don’t be scared. CrossFit is not a scary thing.
Ok, let me tell you a story that many of you might be able to relate to. When Mal and I decided to try CrossFit for the first time, I was a little nervous. I thought I’d walk into a dark, scary room, full of grunting, sweating meatheads, which, surprisingly, was not at all what I experienced. Instead, Mal and I walked into a welcoming space with motivational quotes on the walls, members of all shapes and sizes, and a warm, friendly coach who was excited to teach us all about CrossFit. I realize this is just one experience, but I’ve visited a number of CrossFit boxes all over the country and have had very much the same experience. In general, CrossFit is a very welcoming and friendly place. No need to be scared.
Know you can do it.
The most common comment I get from readers about CrossFit is “I don’t think I’m fit enough to do it,” which is one of the biggest misconceptions. Just about everyone can do CrossFit. For real. Take Anne Marie McKay for example. She’s 74 years old and works out at the same box as Austin Malleolo, who placed first at the Northeast CrossFit Regionals this year. Kids can even do CrossFit. Every CrossFit workout has modifications and can be scaled based on your current fitness level, so even if you’re just starting out with exercise, you can do CrossFit.
If you’re worried about not knowing how to do the movements, you will learn. Most CrossFit boxes require a series of intro classes where you learn all of the Foundational Movements and get a feel for what CrossFit is all about before you even take a class. Also, keep in mind, everyone was once a beginner at CrossFit. They, too, didn’t know the movements, but they put in the time and effort to learn and master them. Here’s a great example…
Check out Mal’s Overhead Squat (on the left) when he first started CrossFit. He was squatting to a med ball because he didn’t quite have his form down and his mobility was seriously lacking back then. But, with lots of hard work, his Overhead Squat has improved quite a bit (as seen in the photo on the right, which was taken about a month ago).
Compete against yourself.
One of my favorite quotes when it comes to CrossFit is “stronger than yesterday,” which basically means you are competing against yourself to improve every day.
If you’re a newbie CrossFitter, you’re probably not going to Rx your very first WOD and that’s okay. You will get there. (I’ve been doing CrossFit for 1.5 years now, and I still can’t do all of the workouts as prescribed.) Don’t worry about the person next you banging out heavy Cleans when you’re still working with the bar on your form. Start light, work at your own pace, and get your form down, so you can progress to more intense workouts.
Of course, having a competitive attitude at CrossFit is not a bad thing, but constantly comparing yourself to others is. Comparison is the thief of joy, so instead of getting discouraged by what other people can do, use them as motivation. You guys always read about my workouts with my friend Kerrie. We have a friendly competition and constantly push each other to get faster and stronger, which makes us both better athletes. She beats me about 90% of the time, but I never get mad at her. If anything, I thank her for pushing me harder!
Even though there’s some friendly competition at CrossFit, the goal is always to put forth your best effort to improve upon your own performance. Once you start worrying about what everyone else is doing, it stops being fun and you risk hindering your own progress. Focus on yourself and you WILL get better.
Listen to your body.
I guess this is the nice way of saying take it slow and don’t go all balls to the wall on your first WOD. You really need to perfect your form and technique before you ramp up the intensity/weight of your workout. I’ve been doing CrossFit for awhile now, and I still practice my form and double-check with my coaches that I’m not doing anything unsafe. Even though our coaches take on a big responsibility of training good form, I believe it’s even more important for me to listen to my own body to help prevent injury.
During one of my very first CrossFit workouts, another member said something to me that has stuck with me until today. We were working together and doing heavy Back Squats. I was a beginner and felt like I was a little in over my head with such a heavy load, so I told him I was nervous about putting more weight on the bar and hurting myself. He immediately stopped what he was doing and said: “It’s not the weight that hurts you, it’s YOU that hurts you.” As soon as he said that, something clicked for me and ever since, I’ve been vigilant about listening to my body at CrossFit. For instance, if I don’t know how to perform a move properly, I ask one of my coaches for clarification. If I’m doing deadlifts, and my lower back doesn’t feel quite right, I don’t push it and take off some weight. If my body is sore and tired, I scale the WOD. I’ve found that if I take a step back and focus on how my body feels, I tend to perform better and ultimately get further than I thought I could (and, of course, prevent injury). Be honest with yourself, be patient, and listen to your body.
Know that it will get easier… sort of.
Ok, CrossFit never gets easier, but it will suck less when you are able to better perform the movements at a higher intensity. Be sure to keep records (in a journal or online) to track your progress because, before you know it, you’ll be smashing your PRs and doing things you never thought were possible. It’s incredible to see that transformation. My best advice: embrace the “suck” and know that your body is getting stronger.
Question of the Day
CrossFit friends: What are your tips for beginners?
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