I don’t consider myself a “girly girl” – though my usually painted nails may tell you otherwise. I’m willing to dive in to the dirt, get dirty and not whine about it (much).
But there are a few things I’ve learned over the past five months with regard to starting CrossFit that I hope will help you avoid some of the unnecessary pain I’ve put myself through.
Protect your hands.
They will get beat up, blisters, callouses – the whole nine. This is what my hands currently look like, including some just now healing wounds from muscle-up practice and from thrusters.
Every workout brings harder callouses, but I finally ordered some gloves to help stop the manly roughing up. I type all day. I don’t need “tough” hands for any reason. They feel crusty and dry; they look messy and unkempt.
Specifically, look out for the following:
- Remove your rings before every workout. Yes, every one. Rings lead to a lot more pain, blistering and callouses by pinching up your skin. Especially when the WOD involved pull-ups or really anything using a barbell. Which is pretty much every WOD ever. I didn’t learn this until about a month in, regrettably.
- Tape up your thumbs anytime the WOD involved overhead pushes (shoulder-to-overhead anything). I ripped up the insides of my thumbs pretty badly after a WOD that involved 50 push-jerks. They didn’t heal for almost 3 weeks, and I had to tape them up for every single workout after that. Use simple athletic tape you can find at any drugstore. Even if you wear gloves, the tape is a good idea for overhead pushes.
- Buy gloves and use them. I finally broke down and realized I didn’t need to beat myself up any more, and bought a pair of $11 gloves on Amazon. I assume they’ll fix all of my problems. From the blisters from muscle-ups to the near-tears on my palms from bench presses this morning. There’s a lot riding on those things.
If your box publishes the workout ahead of time, plan for it accordingly. For me, that means wearing running shoes when there’s a good deal of running involved, or non-running shoes when we’re doing more lifting.
It also means bringing a water bottle and towel with me to hydrate and wipe down my sweaty brow before my eyes start stinging unbearably while I’ve got 70-pounds of steel pushed over my head.
For you, this might mean stretching, icing or massaging sore muscles that you’ll be using again. It may mean knowing what your limits are and starting weights should be. Plan these things to get the most out of your time at the box.
I’m a total geek for recording things, which is one thing I totally loved about marathon training. Posting my long distances, faster times, watching graphs and charts of my progress.
For almost every WOD, you’ll need to know what your max weights are for a specific lift. If you need to know for pushing your PR or just for scaling for the repetitions, it’s good information to have.
Our box has a huge whiteboard in the hallway where a lot of folks have claimed space to record their PRs, but I keep mine in an iOS app called MyWOD. It’s not the best looking app (perhaps we should design a better one?), but it does what I need – which is record my PRs, max weights and WODs. I won’t do a full review, but my point is this: use something. A notebook, a note on your phone, an app. Whatever.
Save yourself 5 minutes of trying different weights before a WOD and know where your limits are by tracking your weights and workouts.
I’m really bad at this, and so for the first month or more of my CrossFit journey, I ended every WOD with a fast time and felt cheated. One of my coaches finally started seeing that I needed to push myself, and he continues to push me to add 10 pounds (or more); to finish my set unbroken, to pump out just three more …
Now that I’ve seen myself succeed under his oversight, I’m able to tell myself more easily, when I think I’ve found a goal WOD weight, to add more. And he knows when to push me and I know how to tell him no if I’m sore or injured or resting something.
Ask for help.
This is related to pushing yourself. If you want to avoid broken ribs from a dumbbell smashing your chest in, ask someone to spot you. Work with a partner whenever you’re able. Know that everything (except burpees) is scalable to your ability – so ask for help in scaling if you don’t know where to begin.
Make sure your coach knows if you don’t understand something expected of you. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions. If it feels wrong, if it feels too easy or too hard, ask for help.
So there you have it. I hope you’ve found some helpful tidbits as you get started on your CrossFit journey, or are considering joining a box near you. Let me know how it goes and if you’re writing about it anywhere – it’s been an interesting internal journey for me – much more so than marathon training – so I’m eager to hear about other’s trials and successes.