Photo: Vivienne Magalie @viviennemagalie
Do’s and Dont’s for CrossFit beginners
Written by Jessica from Eat.Run.Love
Currently I’m doing CrossFit for almost 1,5 years and I am still learning every day. I’m still not able to do most of my workouts RX (as prescribed), but I don’t care about that because I notice I’m getting stronger and above all I’m having lots of fun. When I tell people I’m doing CrossFit the most common reactions are: “Wow, that is extremely intense right?” or “Then you must be extremely strong” and “That is not for me!”. While I actually believe CrossFit it is very accessible. You don’t have to be extremely fit or want to train every day to practice CrossFit. At my box you can find a lady of 70 years old, people that are overweight, people that do CrossFit next to other sports or people who just want to become stronger. Yes there are also some super fit athletes but everyone is welcome and cheered for during the workouts. However I do recognize that it can be exciting to start CrossFit and next to that there are quite a lot of new things coming your way when you decide to go for it. I initially wanted to share five tips for CrossFit beginners with you but I was so into it that it turned out to be eight.
Build up slowly
When starting CrossFit you don’t need nor want to be in the box five times a week. When starting running on a regular basis you also don’t go immediately five times per week, right? Build it up like any other new sport. Start for instance with two times a week, do this for a couple of weeks and if your body gets used to it you can build it up by adding days up to the amount that is right for you. Just like in any other gym there are several types of subscription possibilities. Usually there are several options ranging from 10 classes paid upfront that you can plan whenever you like, to subscriptions ranging from 2 classes a week up to unlimited classes. I started with a subscription for 3 times a week and after a year changed it to unlimited because I went running less.
Listen to your body
Following on the above, pay good attention to what your body is telling you. CrossFit workouts can be quite intens, that means you need to take enough time to recover. Don’t plan two workouts in a row especially in the beginning but take rest for at least one or two days. If you have the feeling not to be recovered fully from the last training then take it easy during the next workout. Use a lower weight, do less repetitions, or just don’t push yourself past your limits. There are plenty of options to downscale in all CrossFit affiliates.
Eat sufficient protein
After a training focus on your recovery. Drink enough water, make sure you get enough sleep, use the foam roller and adjust your diet. You will notice when increasing your training frequency and heaviness that your body starts asking for healthy food, at least for me that is absolutely the case. A balanced and healthy diet contributes to a better performance. Pay special attention to your protein intake. Additional protein secures a faster muscle recovery and muscle build. Make sure you consume around 20 grams of protein within an hour after training and also 20 grams of protein with each meal. Besides the protein consumption from your normal diet like dairy, meat and grain products; it can also be tasty and handy to take a protein shake. My favorite protein is EkoPura Organic Whey. This is organic whey protein from organic grass fed cows, without artificial additives and other nasty stuff. They also have plant based protein if that has your preference. You can easily prepare a shake after training or mix it through pancakes, oat meal or waffels.
Listen to the coaches
Coaches in CrossFit are very important. In registered CrossFit affiliate boxes you can be sure that the coaches know what they are doing. They can teach you all the tips and tricks. Make sure you train and practice the technique of every exercise before focussing on weight and speed. The coaches will help you to acquire the proper techniques but also on how to downscale a certain exercise. In my experience the coaches are very good at estimating what works best for you. If a coach tells you to take it easy, use less weight or go less fast you should listen. In this way you train safely and prevent injuries from happening.
Keep a log
It might sound a bit nerdy; keeping a log but it is actually very handy. In CrossFit there are many exercises and workouts that come back on a regular basis. It’s handy to know what your time was last time, the weight you used, the amount of reps you finished in order to estimate your starting point for the next time. You could decide to go a bit more heavy when you feel fit, or keep the same weight when feeling less fit. Also it’s very handy to know your 1RM (1 repetition maximum) because the recommended weights for the exercises are often indicated in a percentage of your 1RM. For example when there’s clean and jerks in the workout and they indicate to use the weight of 50% of your 1RM you need to know what weight to choose. Many CrossFit boxes use an app to enroll in the workouts and you can also keep track of your scores. If this is not the case you can just use the notes in your phone or a plain old notebook and pen in your sports bag. No one will think you’re crazy bringing it with you 🙂
Create goals for yourself
Just like any other sport it’s fun to train with a goal in mind. What exercise or movement do you want to master? Make this clear for yourself and work towards it. Would you like to be able to du pull ups, muscle ups, snatches? Create a schedule for it and ask a coach for input. Challenge yourself during the workouts but also stay a bit longer to practice on achieving those goals. Practice, practice, practice; only this way you will become stronger and better. Participating in qualifiers for tournaments like the CrossFit Games also helps a lot as you will give just a bit extra compared to what you normally do and you will see that you are actually a lot stronger than you think. Most competitions also have a scaled option so don’t be afraid to participate.
Wear the right clothes
It’s important to wear clothing that’s comfortable. Off course you always do that but in CrossFit it’s important to pay attention to a couple of things. As a woman pay attention to the pants you wear; many sports tights become transparent when squatting. So please do the squat test at home in front of the mirror to see if this is the case or not because very transparent pants are really not that sexy. If it’s warm and you want to use shorts I would recommend a tight short over a running short because the sides of running shorts cut in your legs and they move less comfortable. I can imagine that this is something to get used to, believe me you’re not the only one! Next to this it’s a very good idea to start looking for training shoes. Running shoes are comfortable but not very stable during weightlifting exercises like squatting, deadlifting, cleans and snatches.
Last but not least, have fun! Nothing is more important than to enjoy your training. Have in mind why you are going training and make the most of it. Being motivated is perfect, being disappointed when you failed something is also fine, but make sure you always keep having fun. Only in this way you will persist. Many people ask me how I do it, this many sports activities. The answer is that I really enjoy doing it, to achieve my goals and if I don’t anymore, then I stop (temporarily).
Jessica started CrossFit 1,5 years ago and trains 4 to 5 times a week at CrossFit AKA in Amsterdam. Next to that she is training for her first Olympic distance at Triathlon in Barcelona this October. On www.eatrunlove.nl she blogs about her two passions, sports and food. Pay her a visit.