25 Tips for CrossFit for Newbies: What I know now (that I wish I knew then)

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Written By

Lauryn

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Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

New to CrossFit? Welcome to the club! Here are 25 tips to thrive (and survive) your workouts at the box. Get ready to get in the best shape of your life. 

I used to hate travel.

Travel totally threw me for a loop—out of the comforts of my routine, my control, my ‘safety’ net of familiar foods and my gym.

For a long, long time, my days (and existence) was pretty much defined by these things (my days revolved around my next meal time and next workout) and travel of any sort completely put a damper in my style.

Fast-forward to today, and I embrace it!

Or rather, it doesn’t freak me out quite as much.

I have found, over the years, no matter where I am at, with the foundations and values of self-care now in place in my life, I can pretty much manage anywhere (nourish my body, and workout to keep fit and active—but it not be my LIFE).

In fact, one of my absolute favorite things about traveling nowadays is to keep up my fit and active lifestyle amongst OTHERS.

I love dropping into a new CrossFit gym no matter what city I am in—and meeting anywhere from 5-25 new instant friends along the way.

Most recently, I traveled back home to Arkansas for the holidays and believe it or not, CrossFit does exist in the Natural State.

Like I often do, I dropped into a local box—Wellness Revolution CrossFit and was instantly embraced by the community with open arms.

These are my people!

 

I trained a couple days at the gym, got in a couple good workouts, and more than anything…did some big time reflection on the past, and now present.

Home in Arkansas was where my eating disorder began and really defined my life for all of my middle school and highschool years.

Exercise, in the past, was a deep, deep dark habit and obsession, I kept completely to myself—in the throes of my eating disorder: pushing my body to the limit to burn more calories, and essentially, run myself into the ground.

Fast forward to today…and one of the biggest reasons I train now is because…it’s FUN!

I love community. I love pushing myself to new limits and seeing what I am capable of. I love getting stronger (inside and out).

These are my “Why’s” (Why I train).

Why do YOU train?

Exercise can be a tricky booger for those in recovery—especially if, at one time, in your eating disorder, it had a completely different life of it’s own.

Exercise was a mandate, a chore, a no-excuses, no exceptions sort-of activity in which I HAD to participate (no ifs, ands or buts about it).

Binge exercise sessions (weight training…then cardio…then yoga…then spinning…then boxing) stole the fun. Slaving away on a StairMaster for 3-hours a day made me feel like a hamster on a wheel. I’ve always hated treadmills—they destroy my knees and my feet as I would force myself to run at Level 10—the top speed, holding on for dear life.

No more!

Today, I have a voice and a choice in what it is I do, and in my own recovery, I made a personal vow to myself to no longer force myself to do things that did not make me feel alive.

Whatever it is that you do for fitness, I encourage you to find what MOVES YOU; what brings you joy and gets you out of that head space that steals all the other fun otherwise.

If you’ve never tried CrossFit before, (it may or may not be for you), I believe it is always fun to try new things!

Here are 25 Tips for the complete CrossFit Newbie (CrossFit 101):

  1. Everyone was once where you were. Nervous. Scared. Excited. Unknowing. Many, many people who have now ‘drank the Kool Aid’, didn’t start off as ‘super ripped’, or ‘obsessed’, or ‘insanely fit.’ Everyone had a baseline. Most everyone had no idea what to really expect at their first workout. And many people thought their first WOD was ‘tough’ (and exhilarating at the same time).
    And many people were relieved when they discovered that no matter what the workout was on the whiteboard…it could be scaled to their current abilities.
  1. You will love it—or you won’t. There’s really no middle ground for most. You will find out through the course of your first months if you like CrossFit or you don’t. Either way, there is no judgment. Over the past 5 years that I have been covering CrossFit—the sport and exercise program, 99% of every individual I have ever spoken to have said the same things: “I was hooked.” That ‘hooked’ moment happens, for most, within the first few workouts of really trying CrossFit out—not dabbling in it, or cherry-picking workouts on your own…but trying out CrossFit at a local box, with great coaching and great community.
  2. You don’t have to ‘get in shape’ to start CrossFit. There’s some misconception that goes: ‘In order to start CrossFit, I need to be in shape first’—and people will hit the globo gym StairMasters and turn on the P90X videos collecting dust before even setting foot in the CrossFit gym. While these methods don’t necessarily hurt…CrossFit is meant to meet you right where you are at and get you to where you want to be (more fit).
  3. All ages. And…you are never ‘too old’ to start. At age 40 and 50, many people are finding they can (and really enjoy) CrossFit. Master’s is where the program is at now! In other words: age is no excuse to workout (or, rather, not workout).
  4. No two thumbprints (or boxes, or coaches) are alike. CrossFit gyms are not franchises (like a Pizza Hut, or Double Tree Hotel, or Fantastic Sam’s haircut shop, where the businesses are practically the exact same—no matter the city, neighborhood or community they serve). CrossFit gyms are simply affiliates run by thousands of vastly different coaches and owners, with vastly different programs and niches, vastly different gym spaces, vastly different community ‘feels’, vastly different programming, and vastly different niches/specialties. In other words, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to a CrossFit box. That being said…the type of CrossFit you experience at one place, may look vastly different at another place.  While the foundations will be similar; including:
  • Many of the same movements—deadlifts, pullups, squats, pushups, presses, box jumps, kettlebell swings, etc.;
  • The same methodology (high-intensity, constantly varied, functional movements)
  • And similar appreciation for community, clean eating and hard workThe experience can (and most likely will) be completely different. In other words: Don’t judge one book by its cover to mean that all the other covers look the exact same. Try out a handful of places before deciding on the right ‘fit for you.’ Chances are, as you explore, you will learn more about what you like, what you need and what you don’t like.
  1. Form first. No worries about being thrust into lifting heavy weight, or being expected to do pull-ups, or even jump up on a box. If you are at a reputable gym, form—above anything else—will be what is most stressed and taught by your coaches. And even if you’ve been working out for awhile, and think you’ve got the form thing down pat…be prepared to potentially get educated. You may very well find that the squat you were doing all along—was really not a squat at all—it was a hip flexor strainer or knee joint killer. Come with an open mind to learn how to properly move you body—and get stronger and more mobile in the process.
  2. You won’t look like a Games athlete. We’ve talked about it numerous times before, but we will say it again. The vast majority of women who participate in CrossFit are NOT Games athletes…and do not look like Games athletes. The term “beast” refers more to the amazing performance, abilities, fitness and results you will gain from beginning a CrossFit regime—not the ‘big guns’ or gams lifting barbells gives you.
  3. Consistency. Keep showing up. In order to see the progress or results you hear so many talk about in relation to CrossFit, like most things, you just need to show up (and of course jump into the workout).
  4. Don’t drink too much (Kool Aid). In other words: don’t over do it. Starting CrossFit is fun and exciting-and chances are, with each and every workout, you’ll be more inspired to continue to improve and push it. And the options can be limitless to do so: Unlimited classes, CrossFit Endurance, CrossFit Gymnastics, strength classes, barbell ‘clubs’ and on and on. Sometimes newbies can have the tendency to go ‘all out’…only to wind up burnt out, fatigued, injured or stalled in their progress. Balance people, balance.

  5. No hand-modeling in your future. Your hands may hurt. One of the ‘newest things’ for many newbies to experience is the discomfort they feel on their hands initially from picking up a barbell or holding onto a pull-up bar. ‘Building up your calluses’ is the term this is often referred as. No worries on ‘ugly hands’ though—there are plenty of tips and tricks for keeping your hands nice and somewhat Embrace the beauty of building up your beauty marks. Don’t buy gloves if you can help it—you eventually won’t need them (or even want them). Most everyone had to go through it.
  6. Goal for it. When you start, pick a goal…or two or three. It can be anything! Most likely it will change and evolve over time (after all, gone are the days of just talking about goals—you are actually going to achieve them). It can be anything—from improving body composition, to adding 5 lbs. to your back squat, to jumping up on a 15-inch box (instead of stacked bumper plates), or consistently working out three days per week. And don’t just set goals…write ‘em down. One of my most priceless things I have from my CrossFit journey is the iPhone note I’ve kept over the past five years of my goals and PRs. Just a list with dates. It will be so cool to see how far you’ve come when you look back.
  1. Feed the machine. Say goodbye to calorie counting or working out to ‘earn your next meal’ (or cheat meal). CrossFit nutrition methodology will teach you a whole new way to approach food around exercise: Not sticking to ‘rules’ necessarily, such as ‘eat six small meals per day’ or “must burn 500 calories in order to eat dinner’ or ‘no fruit after noon’ or ‘curb eating after 8 p.m. Instead, the methodology is simple: eat real food—good quality—and plenty of it, in order to fuel your workouts, promote recovery and ensure progress. Lean meats, lots of veggies, little starch, some fruit, no sugar and lots of water. While ‘paleo’ and ‘zone’ are well-known food philosophies within the CrossFit world, you really don’t have to ‘be paleo’ or ‘do zone’ to be a ‘true CrossFitter’—more than anything, CrossFit will teach you what a difference your nutrition can actually make for your workouts and your goals (something like 80% of your results!).
  1. Jump in. Get connected. Don’t just show up to class…be part of the community. Go to the potlucks; show up to the throwdowns (even if you aren’t competing); like the Facebook page; grab breakfast post morning WOD, or invite a few girls over for dinner on Friday night. Community is what CrossFit is all about.
  1. No pressure. CrossFit is for everyone—meaning this is YOUR workout, and should meet your goals and needs…not anyone else’s. You don’t have to compete or go to the Games. You don’t have to snatch 100 lbs. over your head. You don’t have to master the skill of the muscle up. By nature, we humans can tend to compare or measure ourselves to others—or take on the goals of others to be our own. Remind yourself of your goals and know your why behind your workout—no pressure from anyone else to be something or do something you really don’t want to do.
  1. Invest in a good pair of shoes. Innovates. Met-cons. These are some of the most popular styles of shoes for CrossFitters, and are not only a fashion statement, but a necessity for being prepared for the unknown and unknowable. They are designed, specifically, with the elements of CrossFit in mind—versatile to do anything, from sprint-type WODs, to rope climbing, squatting, bear crawling, back flipping…(just kidding).
  1. Don’t break the bank. With the above point in mind…also keep in mind to not go broke in order to ‘look the part.’ CrossFit will expose you to a whole new world of retail, food products and opportunities to sign up for endless amounts of seminars, lectures, and competitions. Don’t throw all the pennies in at once (because chances are…you are going to want the latest pair of shoes…or another protein you just heard about…or another workshop…next month).
  1. Speak up. If you don’t understand a movement…or want a refresher…or don’t ‘get’ how to do a pullup…ask! Coaches love nothing more than to coach…so take advantage and get coached up. No question is ever a stupid question.
  1. Buy your own jump rope. Hands down, double unders will be a faster skill to attain with your own rope! I struggled for 2-3 years, trying to make the gym’s ropes work for me, before investing in my own rope and actually using it to practice this skill—a few minutes before or after class, or at home. Not even a month later…I had my dubs. RX Jump Ropes or Jump-N-Rope are two of my favorite brands!
  1. Drop in. Ever since I started CrossFit, traveling has become a hobby in and of itself for dropping in to boxes around the country. Most boxes have arms wide open for CrossFitters everywhere to come get their WOD on. And if it’s not free, the ‘drop in’ fee is typically a status update on your Facebook or Instagram page, the purchase of a t-shirt, or a $20 pass (like a yoga class).
  1. Learn the language. CrossFit vocabulary is a whole new language for the newbie. Here is a pretty extensive list from CrossFit Reflex in Santa Monica, Calif.
  1. Social Media Savvy. If there’s one thing CrossFitters are specialists at—it’s social media. You’ve probably seen it on your newsfeed before—friends who posted pics from the box, boasted their latest PRs, or showed off their latest swag. It’s cool and all—but don’t go social media crazy here. Remember, you, too, thought it was a bit annoying at one point when someone went overboard.
  1. Loosen up. More important than strength work: mobility work. In order to get stronger…you need to be limber—or at least loosened up to really get to work. Take the time to make at least 5-minutes of mobility a practice and must before attempting to lift heavy things. Your bod (and injury prevention) will thank you.
  1. Don’t care about what others think. It’s the same thing you were told in middle-school…or when you transitioned to college…or when you got a really bad haircut and your best friend tried to console you. But in all seriousness…don’t. You will find that CrossFitters are some of the most ‘welcoming’ of all human kind and will happily accept a new kid on the block anytime—regardless of your own abilities, reservations, body image get-ups and the like.
  1. Games-talk. The ‘Games’ is a whole other world all its own—the sport of CrossFit. Like the NBA Finals or SuperBowl…the pros are who ‘play’ year round to earn their trip to the big show. Familiarize yourself with the terminology, and recognize the difference in CrossFit the sport, versus CrossFit the fitness program. CrossFit the fitness program is for the fitness enthusiasts—the general population at large…CrossFit the sport is for the small 1% of the population who are the ‘superhumans’ of this world. That being said: YOU do have the opportunity to compete to ‘play’—every year the CrossFit Open online qualifier happens during the last week of February through the month of March, and over the course of 5-weeks, you can sign up to complete the weekly workout released by CrossFit HQ. The top 20 in each region (men and women) then advance to CrossFit Super Regionals to compete against 1-2 other regions, and from there the top 5 athletes (men and women) earn a spot to the CrossFit Games. In addition, if your affiliate does well during the Open, you have the opportunity to ‘go team’ (six person teams) to the Regional, and then the top 5 teams also advance to the Games. The Games happens in Carson, Calif. every July where the top athletes then go head to head to compete for the title of the ‘fittest in the world.’
  1. Get Schooled. It’s a whole big world out there in cyberspace, and there are some excellent resources available to learn more about CrossFit, fitness, nutrition and more. Keep up and school yourself on all things CrossFit with resources available online, such as: CrossFit Journal, CrossFit.com, games.crossfit.com, MobilityWOD.com, Box Life Women, Box Life Magazine, WOD Talk Magazine, OPEXfit.com, BreakingMuscle.com and beyond.

 Bonus: A fun research project for you: Rich Froning. Camille Leblanc Bazinet. Aromas, California and ‘the CrossFit Games ranch’. Greg Glassman. Google these terms…and find out who they are or what they are. You will sound super smart and well-educated J

 

Photo by CrossFit Inc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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