CrossFit, the functional fitness movement has been blowing up like crazy, and it doesn't appear to be losing steam. Don't believe us? Well, the numbers don't lie. The CrossFit Games, which began in 2007, grabbed about 150 spectators, however, in 2011 that number exploded to over 8,000. The earning potential for winning athletes has also increased, skyrocketing from $500 to over $250,000. And it doesn't slow down in social media either—CrossFit's Facebook page exeeds 530,000 "fans".
With all this added hype, you get new athletes entering the realm, and with new athletes you get inexperience and increased likelihood of injury. To help those considering exploring the world of CrossFit, we've asked Will Lanier, CF-L1 trainer and competitive athlete in NYC for the six biggest mistakes he sees new athletes make.
1. Going Too Hard, Too Fast
CrossFit is competitive in nature—major lifts and workouts for time would get anyone's adrenaline pumping—but that doesn't come without a risk. Many new athletes in the sport tend to get wrapped up in focusing too much on competing with others rather than learning to pace and challenge themselves first. "It's important to take it slowly over the first few weeks to months and let your body acclimate to the intensity of the workouts," says Lanier. Learn how to perform the movement properly and put your ego to the side, it's not worth the potential for an injury.
2. Not Staying Regular
To progress in CrossFit, athletes must commit themselves to the sport. "I always tell my athletes that 'Rome wasn’t built in a day'," says Lanier. As with any sport, in order to get better at it, it must remain a constant in your life. "If you commit 3 months of 3-4 days per week you’ll know whether CrossFit is for you or not," he says.
Considering the intensity level of CrossFit, and as with any training or activity, the body needs sufficient rest to recovery and rebuild. "I can never send an athlete home, but overtraining can be extremely detrimental and overlooked," says Lanier. The recommended schedule for a CrossFit athlete is 3 days ON and 1 day OFF to ensure an athlete is getting enough rest. "Personally, I take Thursdays and Sundays off every week to allow my body to recover and to rest," he says.
4. Focusing Too Much on Long-Term Goals vs. Short-Term Objectives
CrossFit is the same as any other discipline—in order to become faster and stronger, you've got to put in the time and sacrifice. Many athletes get overwhelmingly caught up in the excitement and their end goal that they lose sight of the shorter objectives that need to get done first and foremost. "You’ve got to think in terms of each rep, each step, and each meal," says Lanier.
5. Not Training Strength Soon Enough
CrossFit is well-known for the insane metabolic conditioning and “intensity” that's shown in videos and on television. Run this far, swing this kettlebell and do these pull-ups. "Strength is needed for all these things, and too often I see fit athletes fail at a workout due to lack of strength, not lack of endurance," says Lanier. Strength training is 100% the difference between a beginner, an intermediate, and an elite athlete so learn the exercises and get liftin'.
6. Neglecting Warm Ups and Stretching
Warm-ups and stretching might not be the most exciting part of a workout, or even exciting at all, but without them you're flirting with the danger of injury. There's no reason at all for an athlete of ANY level, not to warm up with a light jog and dynamic stretching (stretches that mimick actual exercises and movement patterns).