4 Tips for Starting CrossFit (Part 2)

(Read Part one HERE)

By T.J. Murphy

The movement assessment and learning the fundamental exercises in a CrossFit introductory program is of value to an endurance athlete. Any athlete really. At it’s essence, CrossFit is a general fitness training program that targets weaknesses across a broad spectrum. For the sport-specific athlete, working on these fundamentals is a potent way to expand one’s athletic foundation. Rather than just an aerobic foundation, you’ll have an even stronger, broader platform on which to build.

For someone up for it, first find a good CrossFit gym. Ideally, one that works with a healthy number of endurance athletes, like Mountain Strength CrossFit, where they are experienced in helping runners, triathletes and especially obstacle-course racers.

A few tips to get the most out of the experience:

  1. Arrive early and warm-up. The coach will almost certainly have some warm-up time and mobility work in the (typically) one-hour on-ramp session. The more warmed up you are the better. Take it from me: There’s no clunkier uncoordinated feeling in the gym than being an immobile-runner-type and like trying to learn, for example, an Olympic lift. You will be learning this kind of dynamic lift, like a snatch or clean, with nothing more than a nearly-weightless section of PVC pipe. If you’re anything like me, it will boggle your mind at first. The more warmed up and fluid you are the more fun you’ll have and the more you’ll get out of it. Get there early and use the foam rollers and lacrosse balls to wake up your muscles and joints.
  2. Be excited and invested in learning new movements. Even those that are frustrating. Some warn endurance athletes about Olympic lifts. Stay away, we’re told. You’ll get hurt.  For sure, it’s not something you want to be doing for the first time a week or two out from a race, at least not with any sort of load. As a training tool, however, consider the athletic values that training with Olympic lifts can bring. Olympic lift training unleashes all sorts of athleticism that translates into performance. One of the reasons it’s hard for a veteran endurance athlete to tackle an Olympic lift are the demands made on capacities in the body that have been atrophying for years. And what does that mean? It means there’s a performance gain to be had. Possible gains: More quickness, more speed, more explosive power, more strength, more mobility, more coordination, better efficiency and simply turning on muscle patterns that have been dying by the way side. Should you be cautious? Absolutely. If you’re a beginner at a CrossFit gym and they have you pushing yourself to get a PR, it’s time to find a different coach or change gyms. At Mountain Strength CrossFit, I was basically told not to even think about putting significant load onto the bar for a back squat let alone an Olympic lift. At least not for the next two or three months. And even then I can sense that I’ll be advised to be take it slow. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be doing the movements.
  3. Make movement quality the focus. Don’t let your competitive nature get the best of you. Especially if you’re in a group. Keep your focus laser-locked on meeting the standards taught by the coaches. Finish the session with improvement in mechanics and mobility. Conditioning will take care of itself down the road, so don’t worry about it. Movement quality is the true and valuable religion to follow. Key point: This stuff all translates into making you a better all-around athlete, which translates into a richer base for your endurance training and racing.
  4. Leave your ego at home. I’m in danger of being repetitive, because this is integral to tips 2 and 3. Being humble and adopting the beginner’s mindset is critical. I think an interesting disparity between the image of CrossFit and the actual practice of CrossFit is related to ego. You might imagine hot shot CrossFitters having huge egos, but this tends not to be the deal. An ego wrapped up in itself will not serve you well in a program that is virtually endless in regards to athletic challenges.  For the newbie, if you don’t have the ‘beginner’s mind’ martial arts-mastery sort of approach, you’ll actually retard the learning curve. Also, a high-performing endurance athlete will do some things well right hour one. Yet much will be frustrating. For example, the overhead squat can be a killer. I can’t think of a CrossFit coach I’ve met who hasn’t watched a triathlete or marathoner come in thinking they’re going to crush the workouts easily, then watched them fall apart. Humility is probably inevitable, now that I think about it. So being humble about it, having a sense of humor, supporting others, and keeping a beginner’s mindset are all good things to bring with you.

(Read Part one HERE)


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