A while back I wrote a post called 25 Ways to Become a Better CrossFitter. When it comes to CrossFit (and most other sports) most people understand that to become better athletes they must train hard, train weaknesses, and train often. But the time you spend in the gym is only one piece of the puzzle that represents your development as an athlete. Without putting thought into things like nutrition, sleep, recovery and the other factors I list below, reaching your full athletic potential becomes a far off task.
1. Not mobilizing
Mobility, not to be confused with flexibility, is one of the most underutilized tools available to CrossFitters. It requires little to no equipment and just a few minutes before or after class will help you work through tight muscles and develop your range of motion. Better range of motion = better technique = better, more efficient workouts. Check out MobilityWOD or talk to one of our trainers and start making mobility a regular part of your workout regime.
2. Not scaling appropriately
Rx is the ultimate endeavour for the average CrossFitter. Being able to do the workout “as prescribed” brings with it a sense of accomplishment and pride. Even so, Rx’ing the WOD should not be the priority. Doing the movements with good technique and range of motion, should. Going Rx for the sake of going Rx is the opposite of smart and sets you up for injury down the road. Bottom line is: if you aren’t using proper form in the WOD you’re not really doing it as prescribed. Period.
3. Nutrition: Not prioritizing quantity
It’s a given that quality of food matters. A whole foods diet based on unrefined ingredients is second to none. But no matter how pristine, organic, straight-from-the-earth your diet may be, you still have to pay attention to quantity. And by quantity I mean your macronutrient ratios; fat, protein and carbs. Most people don’t eat enough protein and too many people eat excessive amounts of fat and carbohydrates. Quantity is unique to every individual but the general recommended guidelines for active adults stands at approximately 1g per pound of bodyweight in ingested protein, 40-50% of calories from carbohydrates and 25-30% of calories from fat. Take a good hard look at your diet and ask yourself these questions: How are your energy levels throughout the day? How do you feel during workouts? Do you get sick often? Do you struggle with sugar cravings? Do you have trouble losing weight? Often the solution to these and other lingering problems lies in being more conscientious of how much you are eating, not just what you are eating.
4. Not cross-training
CrossFit was originally designed as a strength and conditioning program not just to improve overall fitness, but to improve athleticism in other sports as well. There is only so much that can be learned within the walls of our gym; and for that reason it is highly recommended that CrossFitters take part in as many different sports and activities as they can. Applying CrossFit to other sports builds your general physical preparedness and greatly expands your skills and strengths. Simply said, doing CrossFit makes you better at other sports and doing other sports makes you better at CrossFit. Schedule one or two days per week to take part in another sport or activity. Go for a run, swim, skate, do yoga, whatever it is get out there and move!
5. Neglecting gymnastics, strict strength and skill-specific work
When people hear the word “gymnastics” they think of high-level Olympics type skills, impossible to the average gym-goer. At its core, gymnastics really refers to exercises that develop physical agility and coordination. By far the best way to build strength is to work the strict versions of movements. This means strict pull-ups, ring dips, core work, pushups (handstand, hand-release, regular), even squat variations. Start slowly, with modifications if needed, and practice a few times a week. Add weight as the movements become easier and you become stronger.
6. Not scheduling rest days
We live in a “more is better” world, but this statement has little bearing on CrossFit. CrossFit workouts are short and intense (less is more!) and although it may only take you 15 minutes to get through a workout, it takes a big impact on your muscles and nervous system. During rest your body repairs muscle tears that occur during exercise. Neglecting rest and recovery practices has some pretty harmful effects in the long run, specifically poor performance in workouts, poor mental focus, decrease in metabolism and adrenal fatigue. Schedule 2-3 days per week for rest. Active recovery is great, usually in the form of some light cardiovascular exercise, but days of complete rest (some light stretching at MOST) is by far the most beneficial to your workout routine.
7. Not getting restful sleep
It is pretty common knowledge that sleep is important, especially when we’re talking about how it affects our workout recovery. But what about quality of sleep? You may go to bed on time but have trouble falling or staying asleep. Nothing is as rejuvenating as a night of deep slumber, but all too often we are faced with restless nights, crappy tired days and repeat. Aim to shut off all electronics 1-2 hours before you’re planning to go to bed as blue light emitted from these devices affects the hormones responsible for making you feel sleepy. Try having a snack, some kind of carbohydrate and a moderate amount of fat before bed. Adding supplemental magnesium in your diet (in the form of epsom salts or capsules) also has benefits. Keep stimulants such as caffeine for earlier in the day.