Hindsight is a beautiful thing, isn’t it? And so is learning from others’ mistakes – or at least it would be, if we actually did. We humans are far too egotistical, always thinking we know best and that the mistake won’t happen to us. Maybe that’s just me, but I’d be surprised if it was.
I still think I’m very new to CrossFit, but I’ve been doing the sport for nearly two years now, and yep, I’ve made mistakes – despite coaches and peers warning me. I’ll probably make a lot more mistakes, too, but hopefully not the very same ones again.
I’m going to drop some knowledge bombs from my two years here: if you’re anything like me, you’ll read and ignore, choosing to do your own thing. But maybe you’re a newbie CrossFitter who’d really like to do things right the first time, in which case this advice might just benefit you – but either way, read on to hear about my mistakes at least!
Newbie gains don’t last.
You hear this one so much, but it’s so true. It seemed like my first couple of weeks of CrossFit I was hitting a new PB each week, then this slowed down after a year, and now I consider it a very good day if I match one of my PBs in a training session. This is like your body finding its limits, then you have to work really hard on technique and accessory strength in order to progress.
I’ve actually taken a step back from PB chasing lately to enjoy the process and work on a few weaknesses, and ended up getting a few PBs accidentally – hello, 50kg hang power snatch! It’s all about what you want from the sport –
Remember your why.
When I first started training more seriously around four years ago, I was doing it to feel healthier, live a longer life – and yes, get a better butt. Upon beginning CrossFit I became very competitive – albeit mainly with myself – wanting to be the very best athlete I could be, forgetting that I have a very busy life outside of CrossFit with work, travel, relationships and family. It frustrated me that I couldn’t spend the time and energy becoming the athlete I wanted to be and took me to the point of burnout where I wasn’t enjoying CrossFit anymore.
If you want to be the very best, then that’s great – just remember that involves sacrificing a lot of different things in your life. I’ve re-focused back onto my original ‘why’ and am seeing the benefits not only mentally and emotionally, but physically too: I’ve lost some fat that I’d been saying I wanted to lose for over a year and I’m moving so much better.
Maybe when you plan your week, or even at the start of each training session, have a think about your why and who exactly you’re doing this for. If the answer isn’t always yourself and your health, then maybe your ‘why’ needs reassessing.
Ripping your hands is not big or clever.
We’ve all done it – ripped our hands on the rig for the very first time, then posted about it on social media exclaiming “I’m a real CrossFitter now!” whilst coach rolls their eyes. Then you do it again… And again, and again, until it becomes very much less cool and very much more a hindrance, sometimes causing you to take a day off or at worst keeping you up at night with the horrendous stinging pain. It doesn’t have to be like that!
Nowadays, I religiously use gymnastic grips and thumb tape for the rig to cover the parts of my hands that rip normally. Sometimes I’ll still get a blister, so I make sure I stay off the rig until that’s gone down. I keep an Inbitz hand care kit in my living room near where I sit, so I have absolutely no excuse not to shave my calluses down once a week. This little bit of effort has saved me a lot of pain and downtime in the long run, and I really hope I never have to rip again!
Just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.
Wow, did I ever learn this one with a bang. I’d do this a lot – choose the highest weight barbell or the hardest scale in a workout because I could do it, and not because it fit the energy system in the workout, meaning I’d struggle through what was supposed to be a gassy workout, doing one lift at a time then having to stop to rest for thirty seconds. The most prominent time this happened was when I decided I could do butterfly pull-ups in a workout, despite being warned that my shoulders weren’t strong enough to do it, then damaging my rotator cuff – only for the injury to carry on for months after being exasperated by the Open (it’s pretty much only just healed now!).
Lately, I’ve been scaling things back – potentially further than I should be, but that means I can get the full benefit of the workout as intended when it was programmed. This takes me back to my why. If I wanted to be the best athlete ever, I’d probably mentally bully myself through the struggle, but is that really making me healthier?
Don’t neglect your engine.
When I first started CrossFit I was a big runner (I even ran a marathon and helped manage the Nike Run Club, remember?!) so I just assumed that my engine would tick along while I worked hard on my heavy lifting. Boy, was I ever wrong. Nowadays I dread running WODs and burpees gas me out badly – all because I rested on my laurels and totally neglected my aerobic system.
It’s frustrating, but something I’m trying to work on now. I do endurance classes on a Saturday morning, which are a lot like track sessions, and I’ve added a couple of runs per week to work on upping my endurance. Whilst I don’t exactly look forward to burpee workouts now, they don’t fill me with such dread, and I think it’s all starting to work – my resting heart rate has gone down to 50 from 60 a couple of months ago, so I know things are going in the right direction.
I realise this post is getting rather lengthy, but honestly it’s been cathartic for me, and reassuring to realise that I’m getting a healthier attitude towards CrossFit! A few more points that could easily be elaborated on – and maybe will at a later date – are that mobility is significant for injury prevention and health, that more training volume does not always equal more fitness, and that treating yourself well with different recovery techniques is just as important as training. For now, I’m just sticking with remembering my ‘why’, and knowing that will keep me on the road to where I want to go.