Although I’m no Crossfit expert myself; I’ve only been Crossfitting coming up to 5 months now, but I certainly feel like I’ve moved beyond that initial beginner phase. This whole new world of lifts and movements has opened up in front of you. Sure, it’s daunting at first when terms like “snatch”, “power clean” or “deadlift” are written up on the board and you have no idea what the night is going to have in store. Beyond that, you’ll probably also be worrying about how you’re keeping up with everyone else. Don’t worry, here are a few things I’ve learnt over my recent graduation from Beginner status.
Firstly, get the basic movements down. If your coach is half competent, he or she will make sure you know how to complete some of the more basic bodyweight movements. By basic bodyweight movements, I mean air squats, pressups, lunges, situps and running. Sure, your movements aren’t going to be perfect for a while yet, but make sure you keep asking questions. Your box should also have a “basic skills” type introduction course that all members need to attend. And don’t worry if you need to take the workouts slower just to really feel and practise those movements. It’s better to drill in good form now, than to pick up an injury through bad form.
As for how long it will take to really “get” the movements, it will depend on your current fitness level and prior experience. Running and pressups for me weren’t an issue (although I was far less accomplished at both than I had thought previously), but squats took me atleast 2 or 3 months to really feel how the movement should feel.
Secondly, feeling overwhelmed is normal. I know I’ve walked into the box, looked at the whiteboard and quietly wondered how I would ever complete a particular movement, let alone the workout. Remember, what’s on the board will be for everyone before any scaling is taken into account. Always talk to your coach if there’s something you aren’t sure off, especially if a certain movement will agitate an injury. Your coaches should always have scaling options available, preferably already written up on the board. The great thing about Crossfit is that there are so many scaling options. Can’t do pullups? Do banded pullups. Can’t do banded pullups, how about jump pullups, or lowering pullups? Even then, they can be scaled back to pressups.
Certain movements for me; especially anything overhead or particularly gymnastic movements, really made me nervous. Because of a previous shoulder injury my shoulder strength has always been poor as I’ve been reluctant in training it in fear I’d damage it. My fears were unnecessary as I’ve not since felt pain again in that shoulder. Anything going overhead had me worried. My coaches were able to work with me and my limitations and now I’m overhead squatting comfortably. I’m not lighting the board up with my scores, but I’m not injuring myself and I’m still getting stronger. Don’t worry if your first few wods are completed with a PVC pipe instead of a barbell, everyone else in your box has been there.
Thirdly, try and get a handle on the new jargon. You’ll walk in the box and see “EMOM” this and “AMRAP” that. You’ll hear people talk about “the Girls” and wonder who they’re talking about. There’s a lot of terminology that will be completely new to you. The thing to do again is to always ask. Even if your coach has explained the workout or the movement and everyone else seems happy to crack on, if you aren’t sure, ask! There was a time when everyone in the box didn’t know any of the terminology, it won’t take long before you’re familiar. Of course, it’s always good to do your homework and check a list like this for any lingo you might have missed.
Fourthly, what you put into your body, is what comes out in the box. If you talk to any of the members at your box; and I sincerely hope you do, you’ll probably hear the terms “paleo” or “the zone” thrown about. Both are popular diets amongst Crossfitters. Both incorporate a low carbohydrate diet, cutting foods like bread and pasta, and instead focussing on vegetables and meat. The reason being is that if you put crap in your body, it’s going to show in your workout. Now, you don’t need to go full tilt; by no means am I paleo, but being aware of your eating habits and lifestyle choices is never a bad thing. Switch to water and cut out the sugary drinks for example. You’ll see improvements in your performances at the box, but also in the mirror. Making small dietry changes week by week will soon add up.
Finally, set realistic goals and expectations. When you first start, you want to focus on all of the above and set realistic goals in relation to them. It might be to complete a set of 10 air squats unbroken, or to get your first pullup. 5 months in and I’ve only just got a grip on overhead squats. My next target is to complete a single handstand unaided. Like any new fitness routine, it’s important to make the targets meaningful, but manageable. Don’t beat yourself up for being dead last on the board. Be humble in the fact that you actually completed something that a lot of the public would take a look at and think “that’s going to kill me”.
Most importantly though, is to have fun and enjoy the journey. You’ve only just begun something that’s going to change you physically and mentally, and you’ll start to achieve more than you probably thought your body was capable of. Embrace the community of like minded people that throw it down in the box with you every time. It won’t be long before you or one of your new friends will be gassing in the middle of a workout, in need of someone to encourage and help them through it.
If you think there’s anything I’ve missed that’s been vital for your first few months Crossfitting, let me know in the comments!