I started Crossfit over six years ago, and since that time I’ve learned many lessons along the way. To be fair, had someone shared with me what I’m about to share now, I’m not sure I would have listened anyway. Sometimes we have to go through things and learn the hard way to become the best and most enlightened versions of ourselves.
BUT, if I were to give advice to my younger self, these are some of the most important lessons I have learned along the way that I wish I had taken seriously when I started out.
Rule #1: Ego is the enemy.
First things first, listen to me when I tell you that no one cares about what you’re doing, so stop worrying about what other people are doing or thinking. Stay in your lane, concentrate on your own progressions, and stop comparing yourself to others.
A double-edged sword of Crossfit is the competitive atmosphere within the walls of the gym. I believe that is one of the reasons it’s so popular, but it’s also one of the things that gives the sport a bad wrap. Crossfit tends to attract a certain type of population, usually the hyper competitive, type A personalities (sound familiar?), which can make keeping the ego in check a difficult task.
Because scores are posted for everyone to see, it’s easy to get caught up in the leaderboard, racing people that you might have no business racing, or attempting movements that you have no business attempting. It can be really hard to watch a 16-year-old girl lift more than you, but at the end of the day, know that the long game will pay off and if you can take a step back and progress properly over time, you’ll be lifting more than that teen girl in no time.
Rule #2: Dial in your technique.
Movement quality is everything. Because the sport requires spending a considerable amount of time under fatigue, lifting heavy loads, and moving fast, it becomes easy to let the integrity of your movement slide.
For athletes especially, many of the movements in Crossfit come naturally and quickly, but that doesn’t mean that you’re moving properly. What it does mean is that you’re strong and athletic enough to get away with poor movement patterns. However, this WILL inevitably catch up with you in the way of hindering progress, or even worse, getting injured.
Take the time to learn proper technique for all movements. I’m talking about everything from understanding proper breathing and bracing, to core stability, to having proper ankle and shoulder mobility, to your flexibility and stability. It’s not just about if can you do the movements, it’s about can you do the movements PROPERLY, because in the end moving well is worth your weight in gold.
Rule #3: Slow and steady wins the race.
Rule number three piggybacks off rules number one and two, slow is FAST.
We all know the story of the tortoise and the hare, but sometimes it’s hard to be the tortoise. In the sport of Crossfit, consistency pays off, and slow is smooth and smooth is fast…remember that.
The person who ultimately wins the race is the person who is the smoothest, who moves with intention and purpose, and who can stay healthy the longest. Crossfit is ultimately a game of who can stay in the game longer, and the better you move, the longer you will be in the game.
Rule #4: More is not better.
This is a BIG one, and something that has come to bite me in the ass hard many time over.
To be good at Crossfit it takes a shit ton of time, effort and hard work. With that comes a tendency to want to do more, and more, and more, and ultimately find yourself overtraining and under-recovering.
The foundation of Crossfit was built on the premise of intensity over volume. Basically, working smarter not harder.
There is this thing called the Law of Diminishing Returns, which is an investment term that can be perfectly applied to training. There will eventually come a point when your (ROI) reaches its peak, and progress beyond this point is not worth the investment: this is called the law of diminishing returns. It means the amount of resources you pour into training will not be worth the resulting adaptations, and perhaps the accompanying injuries and/or burn out.
Take it from an overtraining expert, it’s not worth it. Work smart.
Rule #5: Address imbalances.
Knees cave in when you squat? It might not seem like a big deal now, and it might seem more important to squat heavy and gain strength, but if you’re glutes aren’t doing their job, eventually somethings gotta give and that’s probably going to be your back or your gains. Either way, it’s best to not ignore your imbalances.
This one is pretty simple, but we all come into the gym at different levels, with different backgrounds and training history. That background will likely dictate some areas of strength in your game, and some imbalances.
For example, athletes who come into the gym with a swimming background, or a baseball background might have some shoulder issues that need to be straightened out before diving headfirst into an overhead squat.
The key is to get a full assessment of your movement patterns and address those imbalances as soon as possible. If you do that, the sky is the limit!
Rule #6: Always talk about Crossfit.
There is only one rule of Crossfit that you need to know before starting, and that is you must always talk about Crossfit.