How to Get the Most Out of CrossFit

As with most other CrossFit gyms in the world, we see a variety of people walk through our door– all shapes, sizes, ages, the list goes on. One shared quality among all of these folks is the desire to improve upon something. Improve on what you might ask? That list can be extensive as well. But this desire is the common denominator connecting everyone that pays money to New Era CrossFit for the service we offer.
I used the word and idea of “connecting” on purpose. More than anything else, the community created in boxes across the globe is what keeps people continually coming together. The workouts written on our whiteboard are not easy. Some hurt really bad and then leave us sore for a number of days. However, we all keep coming back. And for the most part, it is because there is a group of people to suffer with. For some it is the particular group present that make it enjoyable to suffer with. Don’t get me wrong, some athletes out there are content to perform difficult WODs on their own in the privacy of their garage or in the gym during off hours with nobody else around, but I would argue that those athletes are missing out on something big.
Coach Glassman was once approached by a U.S. Army captain that said he noticed a camaraderie in the CrossFit space that he had seen in different branches of the Special Forces. The best way he could explain this camaraderie was “agony coupled with laughter”. Renowned longevity researcher Dr. Peter Attia tells a story of his medical school residency being the hardest part of his education because of the never ending stress of working in the hospital and small amount of hours of sleep at night. This residency lasted for years, but in the end Dr. Attia remembers it as the best time of his life. The reason? The people he went through it with. Isn’t this also why many of us got so much out of high school and college athletics?
Anecdotally, I can tell you that there was a time when I could only workout by myself right before I coached or at odd hours between long EMT shifts. I did the work, stretched, ate well, but my fitness did not improve. In a couple of ways, it got worse. And much of the reason comes back to not what I was doing wrong, but what I was missing in these sessions. Since giving birth to my son and being on maternity leave, my wife has made a habit of attending a class multiple times a week. And it struck me a couple of months ago that this is also a great opportunity for me to workout. And suddenly I was seeing things from a different perspective. I’ve been reflecting on this for a fair amount of time now, but I have also been noticing trends while I coach classes myself.
For years at New Era, we have sold our classes as including a warm-up, skills review/instruction, the workout (WOD), and a cool down…all led by a qualified coach. Yet many are missing out on the class experience as a whole. My argument here is that not only are some athletes missing out on the best reason to be involved with CrossFit (the community), but by missing out- one’s fitness takes a hit.
I’d also like to point out a few other details and trends I’ve noticed. The first is arriving late, departing early, or a combination of both. Somewhere in here, something gets missed by the attendee. Arriving late or even tuning in late to the class and/or brief creates confusion. If you have ever gone to the theater for a movie and your friend sits down next to you after it started with questions about what they missed, that’s more than irritating. Something similar happens inside our walls. Sometimes it’s as simple as catching up with somebody for a while in the lobby, or worse- being consumed with what’s on your cell phone. Almost every class there are one or two people who end up asking questions about what is going on or what they are supposed to do, and in turn hold up other members or disturb the flow of equipment prepping. So come in on time and be present. You will enjoy class more.
Leaving early is something we all have to do sometimes, but the members that do this regularly are those that are missing two crucial pieces to finishing well: mental recovery and physical recovery. For one thing, the brain needs to come down from all of the hectic happenings of the workout. And secondly to stretch or mobilize the tissues after an all out effort is just plain healthy. Life is stressful…treat yourself to a few minutes of slowing down before you pick up your keys. Try to stay until the end of the hour. You will enjoy class more.
Lastly, I have heard people say in conversation with others and to me in person that they do not require coaching like everyone else. This has disheartened me in the past, but now I think there is more to be lost with this point of view than just my caring efforts. I understand that there are those members that do not want coaching, but I think this is a mistake. The monthly fee includes coaching! At $100 or more a month, it seems wise to take advantage of what’s offered. Unless the athlete is an expert at each movement or can see themselves outside of their body, I believe there is a chance to improve and perform well under the guidance of somebody leading the class with that goal in mind. We want all of our members to move well. We want your skills to be improved upon and risk of injury to be very low. This goes for coaches and competitors alike. What happens when a skill isn’t performed well? Two things in particular take place. The first is that risk of injury goes up and the second is that performance takes a nosedive. With high skill gymnastics and Olympic lifting considered, the basics and attention to detail should be held at the forefront of thought. Not only are you increasing your fitness by honing your skills, you are also looking out for the welfare of the members around you. So be open to coaching and guidance. You will enjoy class more.
I think we can all agree that when you get through a tough class surrounded by people going through the same workout, it feels good. There is a sense of accomplishment. And even if you feel like you have been beat to the ground by an AMRAP or a hero-WOD, chances are that you feel better once that high five from your partner comes. Or when somebody you just met picks up your barbell clips for you. The class structure is set a certain way for good reason and if you are missing an element of class, you are missing more than just that one element. You are missing the experience. You are missing out on community. We become fitter individuals together. And that’s what makes us better.

by John Hall