Know your level and limits. You don’t need to be in shape to start CrossFit. Scale and start at the level that’s right for you. As Greg Glassman once wrote, “If we substitute light dumbbell shoulder press for the handstand push-ups and use a broomstick for the deadlifts we could take that workout to the senior center.” The point is, everything is scalable to fit every fitness level. Every workout should be adjusted to fit your specific needs and level if you want to maximize the results.
2. Allow Yourself to Recover.
What you do when you leave the gym is just as important as what you do inside it. Sleep, nutrition, rest, mobility top a long list. Take care of your mind and your body. Overdoing it, in the beginning, is easy. It’s also how most people approach training. But don’t underestimate the importance of rest days. Going too hard too fast can lead to injury and/or poor performance. It’s also the leading cause of burnout and why people do not stick to new habits.
3. Learn to Find Comfort in Being Uncomfortable.
Breaking plateaus from your comfort zone is hard. That is true of any goal, especially CrossFit goals. Yes, it’s tough! When you’re 50 wall balls through 150 wall balls for time, and you feel like stopping, that’s when it’s time to find comfort in your discomfort. The more you give in to the pain or fear, the stronger the habit of stopping becomes. The more you fight through, the stronger that habit of pushing your limits will become.
4. Find the Right Community and Coach.
There are over 15,000 CrossFit affiliates (I think). Boxes (what CrossFit gyms are referred to as) are each unique in their daily workouts, the makeup of their members, their goals, etc. Find a box that will keep you coming back and the best coach to help you reach your goals.
5. Always Warm-Up.
A proper warm-up can improve performance, reduce the chance of injury and mentally get your prepared for the workout. A proper warm-up involves the whole body, functional movements and is specific to the upcoming exercises.
6. Eat Right.
Eat according to your goals and habits. The nutritional needs of a competitive athlete are much different than the needs of someone looking to start making healthier choices or just to lose a few pounds. In either case, a post-workout protein shake can help decrease muscle loss while increasing fat loss.
7. Just Do CrossFit.
Constantly varied, high intensity, functional movements. That is what you need. That is what CrossFit is. Beginners easily get sucked into a routine of focusing on just one or two aspects of CrossFit like Olympic weightlifting or gymnastics. Stick to the group class where you’ll get to practice to a new skill daily. You’ll develop as a well-rounded athlete much faster that way, and you’ll be more prepared to improve more quickly when you choose to focus on a particular skill down the line.
8. Prioritize Technique over the Time on the Clock.
Poor technique leads to injury and faster fatiguing muscle. Proper form and movement efficiency should be the focus of any CrossFit athlete. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look at the clock. You should! So that you can compete against yourself. Push it, and be safe!
9. Listen to your Coach (not everyone else).
You’ll learn that everyone has something to share. That’s what we do, we help each other out. To be safe, in the beginning, focus on what your coach has to say. If you’re confused, ask the coach, that’s what we are here for. Too much information from too many sources is never useful.
10. Some Days You Will PR, Others You Won’t.
That’s the way it is. As a new CrossFitter, chances are you’ll set new PRs and learn new skills often. Eventually, these PRs will plateau and slow. The gains you saw your first three months will take a year if not more to match. Some days, you’ll actually lift less than usual. You’re not doing anything wrong. Some days you’re not going to ‘have it.’ Do the best you can on that given day and look forward to the next.
11. Track Your Workouts.
What gets measured gets managed. A good training log will help you assess your progress and set better goals. It’s always inspiring to see how much you’ve improved in the last six months. If you’re not keeping a training log, it’s hard to set goals and really enjoy the improvements your making.
12. Have Fun.
The best advice comes in the purest form: Just have fun! It’s hard to be consistent at something if you’re not having any fun. You might be able to force yourself to work out for a few days, but pushing yourself to do something you hate is not a good long-term solution. Enjoy your time at the box. Be part of the community, attend special events, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re not progressing as fast as you’d like. You’ll get there. We all do.