CrossFit is a great workout route to take for anyone wanting to improve their fitness, lose weight, and get stronger. For the newcomer, though, it can appear daunting. The workouts look really hard and the people doing them look in really good shape.
The truth is that CrossFit is accessible to anyone. But you’ve got to ease into it properly. Here are 16 essential CrossFit beginner tips to help you become a part of the most powerful fitness movement of the 21st century.
Tip #1: Do Not Compare Yourself to Others
When you turn up for your first CrossFit session, you’re going to see people in all sorts of shape. Some of them, who may have been doing CrossFit for years, will be able to do amazing things on the gym floor.
This can be inspiring – or it can be discouraging. It all depends on how you view it. Remember, the competition is never against the other person. So, don’t beat yourself up because you’re only lifting half the weight that the person next to you is lifting. Focus on yourself and doing a little bit more each time than you did last time.
Tip #2: Do Not Drink The Night Before
A lot of people think they can get boozed one night and then turn up and smash their workout the next night. The truth is that you will pay dearly for your alcohol overdose.
When you’re part of a CrossFit class, you’re working out with a group. You don’t want to be running to the toilet to throw up half way through the session. In addition, you’ll be paying for every class – a hangover-laden workout is simply wasted money.
Tip #3: What You Eat Will Affect Your Workout
Proper nutrition is vital to a successful workout. So think about fueling your body for a great workout before you hit the Box (that’s what CrossFitters call their gym).
About 90 minutes before the workout, you should take in a balanced meal that consists of about half the calories you plan on burning during your workout. That will probably mean that your meal will be around 250 calories.
Your pre-workout meal should be 55% carbs and 35% protein. A good example would be a slice of wholemeal toast with peanut butter and a banana.
30 minutes before your session begins, you should have a small, fast digesting high carb meal. This will fuel you up with instant energy for your workout. A fruit smoothie, a banana or an apricot are all great options.
Apples have been shown to contain compounds called polyphenols. Research indicates that polyphenols have the ability to enhance the fat burning process while also promoting strength and muscular endurance. So, grabbing an apple on your way to the Box is a smart idea.
Tip #4: Get Educated
Before you rock up for your first CrossFit workout, do your research. There is a wealth of information online that you can find on the basics of CrossFit.
For example, you can head over to CrossFit.com.
There you’ll find exercise demonstrations, advice on getting started, tips on proper CrossFit etiquette, terminology, and a whole lot of workouts of the day (WODs).
When it comes to an exercise protocol like CrossFit, knowledge most definitely is power. So, do your homework and you will find that your workouts will be a whole lot more productive.
Tip #5: If You’re Not Sure, Ask
When it comes to working out, you are putting your body on the line. It’s up to you to make sure that you don’t do it any serious damage. That means that you should never forge ahead when you’re not sure of what you need to do.
This is especially important when you’re being introduced to a new exercise, workout of the day or movement pattern. Don’t allow fear of looking silly to stop you from speaking up. Remember the only dumb question is the one you don’t ask!
Tip #6: Learn the Exercises First
CrossFit exercises involve a lot of rather complicated movement patterns. Often times, people will jump into their workout without doing the groundwork. This is great for chiropractors, but not too good for the budding CrossFitter.
You need to learn the basic technique of such moves as the squat, deadlift, clean and jerk, and the snatch away from the pressure of your Workout of the Day. If you can afford for a personal trainer to teach you the specific techniques, you will forever benefit.
When you are learning an exercise technique, it pays to have very little, if any weight on the bar. Concentrate on engaging and isolating the working muscle, maintaining a neutral spine, and not allowing momentum to do the work for you.
Tip #7: Don’t Ignore Pain
There are two types of pain when you’re working out. There’s the muscular endurance type pain when you’re pushing to your limit, the lactic acid has overloaded your muscles and every fiber in your body is crying out for relief... that’s the good type – keep going.
Then there’s the physical injury type pain. That’s the sudden sharp, stabbing feeling you get when your ankle twists or you lower back goes out... that’s the bad type – stop.
You need to know the difference between these two types of training pain. The famous training motto, ‘No Pain, No Gain’ only applies to the first one.
Tip #8: Don’t Overtrain
As you’ve probably experienced by now, CrossFit is hard work. During your workout, you are not getting bigger, fitter, and stronger. Just the opposite. You are breaking down your muscle fibers by putting an overload of stress on them.
As a result, your muscles get weaker as you progress through your workout. It is only rest, proper nutrition, and recovery that allows them to rebuild bigger and better than they were before.
But, if you are training too often your body will never get enough time to recover. You’ll be overtraining and your body will be wearing itself out.
According to Swedish CrossFit coach, Johan Andersson, “Beginners should start with a maximum of one class every other day (2-3 per week). Then, once you aren’t so sore after workouts, maybe increase the frequency to 3-4 sessions a week. But really try to listen to your body – if you have more pain than muscle soreness, or feel really fatigued, take that seriously and have a week off, with long walks and massage thrown in”.
Tip #9: Get Stronger
Look for a CrossFit Box that incorporates strength training on basic moves like squats, deadlifts, and cleans in order to get their members stronger.
You’ll find Boxes that just focus on doing a warm up and then the WOD. This will not build the base of strength that their members need to power their way through their sessions. And, the stronger you are, the less prone you are to injury.
Tip #10: Recover Right
After your workout, you’ve got a 20-minute window in which to take your body from a carb depleted catabolic state to a protein rich anabolic state. Taking a protein drink straight after training is a smart idea.
If you don’t have one, invest in a blender bottle to allow you to mix your protein shake by hand right in the change room. If you can find a protein formula that includes branch chain amino acids, glutamine, and creatine, all the better.
Tip #11: Work Intensely
Some of your workouts will only last for 3 or 4 minutes. Others will take up to 20 minutes. You need to go into these sessions with the mindset that you are going to push as hard as you can.
However, your attitude toward a 3-minute workout should be slightly different to a 20-minute session. According to CrossFit legend, Rich Froning, “During a twenty-minute workout, you’ve got to know what intensity you can keep, when you’re not slowing down. For a three or four-minute workout, there’s no pacing yourself. You’ve got to just push past that limit” .
Tip #12: Invest in Some CrossFit Shoes
People turn up to their CrossFit workouts in everything from bare feet to thick cushioned sports shoes. Neither of these options is going to keep your ankles and knees safe.
CrossFit shoes need to provide the balance between rigidity, slightly raised heel, firmness for squats and other Olympic moves, and the lateral movement and dexterity required for burpees and box jumps. Specialist shoes are able to provide that need.
When looking for a CrossFit shoe, look for a model that is hard and flat on the sole, which has very little give on the inside. This will provide the stable base that you need to train hard and safely.
There are a lot of brands of CrossFit shoes out there. The four most respected are Nike, Reebok, Asics, and New Balance.
Tip #13: Get Some Wrist Wraps
The main thing that many CrossFit newbies complain about is their wrists. People who are not used to holding a bar in the front rack or pressing a bar overhead while doing squats will find that these moves give their wrists a real challenge. A good pair of wrist wraps will take much of the strain off the wrists to allow you to focus on the exercise.
Wrist wraps come in lightweight, heavyweight, and ultra heavyweight gradings. For most beginners, a heavyweight set, with a length of about 15 inches, will be ideal.
Tip #14: Learn How to Load A Barbell
A lot of injuries occur because people don’t take gravity into account when loading and unloading barbells. If a loaded bar is sitting on a rack and you pull the weight off one end, there is a good chance that the bar is going to fly upwards – and possibly take out your eye.
Always be careful when loading and unloading weight. If possible, have someone help you to evenly unload a bar. If there’s no one around, pull the bar all the way across so that, when you take an end off, it will still be evenly weighted.
Make sure that you always secure the ends of a barbell with working collars. It’s easy to come across old collars that don’t tighten. Don’t’ accept them. If your Box doesn’t have proper working collars, tell them to get some – for the safety of their members.
Tip #15: Learn to Grip the Bar
The quality of your grip on the bar will determine how effective your set is. To avoid making your grip the weak link, learn the three basic grips:
- Pronated (overhand)
- Supinated (underhand)
- Mixed (one hand each way)
Regardless of which grip you use, make sure that it is a closed grip. This means that you wrap the fingers and thumbs around the bar. An open grip will make it too easy for the bar to roll out of your fingers.
In terms of grip width, this can vary according to the specific move you are doing. On most exercises, though, you should have a shoulder width grip.
Tip #16: Get Some CrossFit Gloves
A good pair of CrossFit gloves will reinforce your grip on the bar, allowing you to focus on the working muscle and the exercise technique. When you are wearing gloves, your workout will be more pleasurable and less painful. You’ll also drastically reduce the effect of sweat slippage. Gloves will also work along with your wrist straps to provide more wrist support.
There’s been quite a lot of recent media reports about CrossFitters suffering training injuries. Don’t let them put you off the CrossFit experience. But do learn from them by counting the cost and easing into your CrossFit sessions the smart way.
By incorporating these 16 CrossFit beginner tips provided above, you’ll be able to progress from newbie to seasoned CrossFitter, without any adverse effects.
Are you already a seasoned CrossFitter? Have you got any extra CrossFit tips that you think our readers would benefit from? We’d love you to share them with us in the comments section below!
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