Crossfit do’s and don’ts

I’ve been practicing Crossfit for over 2 years now and i wanted to share some of my experience and things i would have liked to have known prior to starting Crossfit. So here goes:

Value technique over intensity

During a wod and in the box it’s very easy to go into the redzone and try to lift or do more than what you’re are used to or capable of. Especially in the beginning when you see a lot of athletes going at it.

My advice: start slow, scale everything (even if you think you don’t need it), feel the exercises, give your brain and neurological system enough time to adapt and focus on training rather than exercise. Go lighter with most of the drills and when you feel good try to do a bit more. But the first half year (depending on how much you practice) don’t worry about RX or going all out, focus more on technique, it will help you in the long run.

Value 80/90% workout over 110% workout

I recently saw a documentary about marathon athletes in kenia and they mentioned that they usually don’t train at 100%, just between 70-80% because there is no point in doing so. You just wear out your body . In Crossfit you always see people going all in and over, redlining their body. And although that’s good at times, what you usually see (youtube, tv, netflix) are athletes that workout 6 times a week 2 to 3 times a day. And when they train they also don’t go over 100% all the time.

For myself, especially the first year i loved going all in and getting exhausted but i was also just workout twice a week and wanted to get the most out of it. But focussing less on RX and more on technique, rythm, more quality reps than weight, breathing etc.. helps a lot.

And luckily not all WOD’s are Hero’s WODs, at least at my box, but also focus on pure technique, endurance, etc… thus not having to go all out all the time. It’s also better for your body, especially when you are a bit older, which needs to recover less which means you’ll be fitter the next workout.

Value mobility over weight

I’m not very mobile in Crossfit terms, my hip-flexors, shoulders and especially my ankle’s are tight so overhead squating, pistol squats, front squats, snatches are all movements i can’t really do well or with a lot of weight. My deskjob doesn’t help either.

Mobility in itself is, in my view, a very underrated part of the Crossfit level 1 course. And when coaching it’s something to be very aware of because people tend to put too much weight on the bar when not having proper technique and mobility which causes injury.

I’m trying to improve my mobility which takes time and effort (and i could be doing more) and it has helped to a certain extent. My front squat max was 90kg but recently i did 5 paused front squats with 90kg, mainly because i stayed upright more so less strain on my back. Also my overhead squat improved a little (with weight).

So being more mobile helps with a lot of things and i think i would have liked to have gotten more pointers on this subject from the start. There’s tons of youtube video’s and resources about mobility but remember, a lot of the people in those video’s assume you have the room, asseccories and time to do this quite often and/or are very mobile themselves which they sometimes forget and make things sound easy.

So when your start to do Crossfit start working on your mobility to get more out of the workouts. Or just start working on your mobility anyways.

Value a foamroaller over a couch (when watching tv)

Foamroallers are great, painfull, but great. After a workout it’s a great idea to give your muscles and surrounding tissue a massage. Foam rollers are perfect for that and will help recovery. It’s not as easy as it sometimes look but also not so difficult as some might tell you.

For me the calves, lats (side of your body under the should joint) and the front of my quadriceps are the places to hit. But my advice is to buy one to use at home, they are not expensive, and use them from the start. Maybe not after every workout and also simply on an off ‘workout’ day.

ps: a tennisball is also a great accessory to have (or a lacrossball) for really deep tissue massage

Value and extra resting day over an extra workout

It’s very temping to do another great WOD and to put your body to the test but when you just start and/or are a older it’s better to have an extra day of (active) recovery. It doesn’t mean you can’t do something but keep it light and combine it with stretching/mobility. Running (slowly) a few km’s, riding a bike, doing a 20 minute mobily routine works wonders.

You have to live with your body the rest of your life and our body needs rest and time to recover as well. Beginning with Crossfit you will feel all kinds of aches and musclepain so don’t start of with working out 5 to 6 times a week but give your body (and mind) time to increase the amount of workouts over a period.

Value the voice of your own body over the voice of others

Basically all my points above have to do with the ‘intensity’ part of Crossfit. You have to remember that it’s not about the Rich Froning or Matt Frasier intensity (which is what we usually see) but about your relative intensity. Meaning what’s appropriate and challenging for you.

When working out it easy to get caught up in the hype of the workout nd the other athletes trying to outdo eachother. And it’s good to have those ‘voices’ challenging you, they might take you to places you never thought possible and break your own PR. But remember, especially when you start, listen to your own body more. Because when you start you don’t know what your capabilities are yet, take time to get to know them and go a bit harder every workout.

People have a tendency to, even when they are not feeling well or are just recovering from a flew or injury, wave things off. “I’ll j ust have to get through it and i’ll be okay” is what you often hear. But as a coach i would say:

  • If you’ve just been sick, stay at home for at least an extra day after you tell yourself that you are ok, and do a mobility workout. Often the joints are stiff from mying still or not moving as much as you are used to.
  • If you’ve just recovered from an injury, do at least a few weeks of very light weight and slow down the reps. See the aftereffect and if there are no negative effects, add just a little more.

To summarize

  • Value technique over intensity
  • Value 80/90% workout over 110% workout
  • Value a foamroaller over a couch (when watching tv)
  • Value mobility over weight
  • Value and extra resting day over an extra workout
  • Value the voice of your own body over the voice of others

Final thoughts

I love Crossfit, but i also need my body for at least 50 years to come. Doing crossfit, or doing cross functional workouts helps with that. But the other half of the coin is being able to manager your body, and the mantra ‘less is more’ is very appropriate. With the above tips you’ll have a better chance of succes. Ultimatly it’s up to you to balance yourself with all things you do in life.

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