June this year saw my one year anniversary as a crossfitter. After scoffing down cake, giving myself a pat on the back I thought it might be worth reflecting back, see what I have learnt, gained and overcome.
A quick background: I trained as a dancer (all types of dance but mainly modern/contemporary dance) for four years. After working as a dancer for 18 months I then retrained in aerial circus art forms: trapeze, rope, silks etc. Since then I have been working as a freelance dancer/aerialist. Because of these skills I started CrossFit with some advantages.
I had good upper body strength, five pull-ups were relatively easy. I had good core strength. Toes-to-bar etc. no problem and my flexibility and body awareness were also pretty good.
I started CrossFit because I felt my endurance and stamina was poor, running for a bus sent me into a dizzy state and had me wheezing like a 20 a day smoker. Even though I was strong, I wanted to be stronger. I also wanted a six-pack… but let’s not mention that.
So I watched a few videos of the CrossFit games and with the dream of that six-pack, hot pants up to my armpits, and being handed a cheque for $250,000 on the podium, I found CrossFit London.
When I realised I could barely even squat correctly I reassessed how easy I thought CrossFit is. The first few months were a bit of a blur. Keeping up with the vocabulary, wide range of movements and quick-paced classes was a challenge. However, all the coaches were great and I quickly found I was hooked planning my life around when I could do classes.
Looking back there are certain things I found out along the way. Some things that I wish someone had told me and some basic common-sense that I seemed to ignore. So below are some of my suggestions if you’re new to all this crazy CrossFit malarkey.
Don’t be in a rush
My first few months I got carried away with wanting to lift as heavy as other people and get a good score on the metcon. Instead of focusing on my specific needs I found I was comparing myself to every other female in the gym.
I would go as heavy as them. I’d try to whizz through a metcon without always completing proper range-of-motion. What did this achieve? Not much..
Don’t be that person. While it’s great to push yourself and regularly challenge yourself to be quicker etc. your first few months will be about figuring where you are. What colour band on pull ups will get you the best results, what the hell EMOM means and what weights are most appropriate.
Also good technique will go a looooong way! The coaches don’t just repeat basic drills because they like the sound of their own voices. Drilling good movement patterns will make you more efficient, build better technique that will create the PBs and help you improve performance.
Get involved in the community
One of the best things for me about CrossFit, and especially at CrossFit London and CrossFit SE11 is the community. Take advantage of it. Nothing makes a horrific WOD better than knowing you are sharing the unpleasantness with eight other people.
Over the past year I have made genuine friends through CrossFit (some of whom I actually talk about non CrossFit Stuff with too!) I love the fact I can share a WOD with someone who works in the city in his suit all day with a so-called serious job who I probably wouldn’t know otherwise. But at the gym no one cares about that stuff, we are there just sharing a determination to be fitter, better, stronger and live healthier lives. And get six-packs of course.
The CrossFit Open competition this year was a great experience for me. I felt I got to know lots more people and the support that was around for everyone involved was incredible. Not many other environments have that. So for anyone new to our community make sure you come along to the next social/barbeque/competition and say hello!
Attack your weaknesses
I spent the first few months using my poor squat as an excuse. ‘I’m rubbish at the snatch because I have a bad squat’, ‘well my squat is poor so you know I can’t go as heavy as you’.
What I should have done is go away and spend time addressing the issue.
Recently at SE11 we had a 30 day challenge to improve our weaknesses. So I tackled it head on and I definitely made improvements. I found dropping into the squat much easier. Just five minutes per day and a little research gave me the knowledge of drills, stretches and mobilisation exercises to improve my squat.
So whatever you perceive your weakness to be it will only improve if you do something about it. Negative pull-ups, five minutes skipping every day, shoulder mobility whatever it is for you. All of the coaches will be able to give you homework if you ask. Plus YouTube is a great resource for this sort of thing. Forget your social life, (except at CrossFit) and get after your weaknesses.
Don’t just do the WODs
As a coach, I see the biggest gains in those clients who not only do a consistent amount of regular WOD classes but those that also attend our great accessory classes. If you suck at the gymnastic elements in CrossFit, guess what? We run gymnastic classes where you can learn properly how to handstand and develop strength and control of your own bodyweight.
Maybe you are a new Level 2 member and can’t get your head around double-unders or kipping pull-ups? We run a weekly skills class devoted to all the skills you should be spending more time on but don’t always get the opportunity.
I have a particular hatred of running. Therefore, I need to start running, (taking me back to attacking your weakness). O god, I really do hate running
All in all (and I’m sorry this is going to sound soppy, which is not like me, I prefer sarcasm and avoid hugs if I can) CrossFit London and SE11 have changed my life. I’ve found something I’m passionate about, that keeps me learning, has taught me cool tricks and introduced me to some cool people.
Everyone has their own journey with CrossFit, but hopefully yours is as fun (and at times frustrating) as mine has been so far.
P.S. I still don’t have a six-pack, but that’s another blog post!