5 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started CrossFit
In the last 6 years, CrossFit has came a long way both as a sport and as a training program. I have learned many different lessons as a coach and as an athlete. Many of these lessons, had they been learned earlier, would have greatly increased my growth in the sport. I want to share 5 of the biggest lessons I have learned that I wish I had known from the get go.
#1 Intensity over volume- This is one thing that has never changed in the methodology of CrossFit, but most of us don’t get it right when we start out. Most of us watch the YouTube videos of *insert famous games athlete* doing 5 and 6 workouts in a day and we assume that if we want to be good, we have to do that. In reality you need to be doing the amount of work at which you can keep your intensity the highest. This is a great lesson for those looking to be competitive and for those looking for general fitness. The same rules apply for both– if you keep your intensity high and attack a workout, you will most likely get much more out of that workout. For some of us this might mean only doing the workout with a class and calling it a day, for others they might still be able to do multiple workouts and maintain intensity. The number of workouts might also change from day to day which leads me into my 2nd lesson, listening to your body!
#2 Listen to your body-
- It’s ok to take a day off
- It’s ok to scale the workout
- It’s ok to keep the weight light and work on form
Those are just some of the things you can do when you just aren’t feeling it or something hurts to do. Pushing through pain is not a good thing. I will admit it is something I still do from time to time, and for many of us it is second nature especially if you grew up playing any competitive sports. The truth is these pains are usually signals from the body that something isn’t right and you need to take some time to figure out what is causing it and how to fix it. Youtube is amazing if you haven’t noticed and is a good source of information for fixing minor imbalances and mobility issues that cause problems. So stop doing things that hurt and when something hurts, fix it. Another signal the body gives when something is wrong is to feel overall fatigue. This one can be a little more tricky because you have to be able to figure out if you are just being mentally weak and not wanting to workout or is it truly fatigue. In this case, the best answer I have found comes from Jocko Willink. He advises that you should just go through the motions and if you still aren’t feeling well the next day, that’s when you take a day off. I realize just going through the motions is the opposite of what I was just saying about intensity, but from time to time it is going to happen. You will walk in the gym and just not have it, go through the motions, get the work done, go home and eat and rest.
#3 Attack your weaknesses- This one has become one of my biggest pet peeves especially over the last few years. So many people refuse to work on the things they aren’t good at but love to complain about how they aren’t good at them. I promise you aren’t going to get good at something if you don’t do it. A few strategies I have found for working on your weaknesses are:
- low intensity skill work (aka practice)
- warm up with the movement every day
- change the way you approach your workouts.
Many of you may be looking to increase your daily training volume and instead of doing a half-speed WOD after you have already hit a really difficult one, spend 20 or 30 minutes practicing a movement. You can practice rope climbs by sitting on a box, lifting your feet, and perfecting your J hook. You can spend 5 minutes a day doing double under drills, if you don’t know which ones to do here is a list. You can spend time perfecting your kip or increase your strength by doing strict movements and you can work on perfecting your lifting technique at light weights. Another strategy is just adding the movement into your warmup, for example if you are not good at double unders replace part of your warm up with a set number of double under attempts. Finally, you can change the way you approach your workouts, I tend you make myself go unbroken or for bigger sets of wallballs than I am comfortable doing even if taking a different strategy may allow me to have a faster time.
#4 Active recovery-
Depending on how many times a week you workout will make this more or less important. This is really targeted towards people who are doing 5 or 6 days a week of working out. For some of us, we feel the need to go to the gym even when we feel beat up and know we need to rest. I have found that I tend to recover better and mentally I feel better if I do some type of active recovery once a week. My active recovery usually consist of 40 to 60 minutes of steady cardio. I typically pick the bike because I am not fond of rowing or running. This is one of the few times I would say pick whatever you like best and not what you need most. You want to recover mentally as well as physically and if you are thinking about how much you hate running for 40 minutes it probably won’t help. Another thing I sometimes do if I am feeling good is to do a long EMOM alternating mostly body weight and monostructural movements. If you choose this strategy, make sure to keep the overall volume of each movement relatively low so you do not create soreness.
#5 Have fun-Last but not least just have fun, be humble, and help others! At the end of the day it is just working out and if you are not enjoying it, then change something up. This doesn’t mean you need to love every minute of the workout but overall you should be happy about what you are doing in the gym. No matter how good you get no one likes the cocky guy or gal at the gym. This means be confident in you abilities and the things you can do well, but there is no need to flaunt it. Be nice to everyone and help those around you, especially the new people in the gym. Most feel awkward and out of place when they walk through the doors so help them learn how great the CrossFit community is.