CrossFit is intimidating, there’s no denying that. Even the best athletes are scared to dive in at first. However, by trading your gym for a box and solo workouts for a group environment, you’ll open doors to new friendships and opportunities.

But, as there are risks to starting any new fitness routine, there are some potential risks involved with doing CrossFit if you’re inconsiderate of your own limits.

Below are a few steps you can take to make the first few CrossFit classes go by just a little bit easier.

NEVER Skip the Warm-up

Every class starts out with a warm-up. Specific exercises used in the warm-ups may vary, but the goal of the warm-up is always to get your heart pumping and your body ready for the upcoming WOD (Workout of the Day). You should never skip the warm-ups, even if you are late to a class. Mobility and flexibility are required to get through the intense workouts. Without a warm-up, you’re hindering your body’s mobility and risking an injury.

Proper Form is Critical

The best way to avoid an injury when exercising is to take it slow and practice proper form. Ease into the movements and learn how to do each workout properly before going all out on your WOD’s. If you try speeding up or lifting more, only to start feeling pain, back off from the exercise and try modifying it so it’s less intense. The great thing about CrossFit is that each exercise can be adjusted for various fitness levels. 

If you don’t know the proper form for a workout, or you need to modify an activity, your CrossFit trainer will be able to assist. Each CrossFit box has a certified CrossFit trainer who is an invaluable resource of information and is willing to help you correctly perform every exercise. The trainers are just as dedicated to your overall health and well-being as you are, so don’t be afraid to ask them for exercise tips and modifications. By focusing on your form and taking the time to adapt to any increases in weight or speed, your body will be stronger and more prepared for any challenge.

Prepare for Cross-Training

CrossFit is not a typical sport, nor should you underestimate how tough the workouts can get. CrossFit combines functional and intense exercises from a variety of sports, including gymnastics, powerlifting, running, and throwing. Because of this high variety in workouts, there is no set routine – every WOD is a combination of different modifiable exercises. By adding variety and randomizing workouts, CrossFitters learn to adapt, and aren’t likely to get bored mid-workout.

Within your first few months of doing CrossFit, be prepared for changes in weights, speeds, and distances as your fitness level progresses. You’re not just doing cardio, and workouts aren’t as simple as “go with the flow” of the group. There will be exercises you’ve never done before, at loads and speeds you didn’t think were possible.

Prioritize Rest & Recovery

Don’t underestimate the importance of a day off. Plan your rest days between training days to give your body a chance to recover and restore itself. Generally, CrossFit boxes will recommend you train five days per week with two rest days somewhere in between. However, you don’t have to abide by the recommendation, and the amount of time you should take to recover all depends on the individual. Your workout goals, nutritional habits, and existing levels of fitness all play a role in determining how much rest you should get between training days.

One great way to boost your recovery while taking a rest day is to use a foam roller or lacrosse ball on any sore or tight muscles. These tools can smooth out most uncomfortable knots, relax muscle tightness, and even provide fast pain relief. Your body will be sore, especially during your first few weeks of CrossFit classes, so keep a foam roller handy to help boost recovery and avoid unnecessary pain.

Achieve Your Fitness Goals with CrossFit

CrossFit’s workouts are designed to help you get stronger, not leave you weak and injured. However, if you do feel pain that persists or worsens over time, visit your doctor or a sports injury specialist. Your primary care doctor can help you rule out any serious injuries and guide you through treatment options to promote healing and recovery.

Don’t let your first impressions and fears fool you. CrossFit is a fun fitness program that can be scaled to any level of fitness, and you don’t have to be a hardcore athlete to enjoy your time in the box and get the most out of this new experience. Follow these tips and you’ll be doing your WOD’s pain-free.

About the Author:

 Dr. Casey Crisp Dr. Casey Crisp serves as the Director of Clinical Quality Assurance at Airrosti, a nationwide healthcare organization specializing in musculoskeletal pain injury treatment. His primary role is educating and developing new doctors and managing clinical teams to meet clinical requirements in documentation, clinical assessment, and quality care assurance. He currently serves as the lead instructor for the CEU (Continuing Education Unit) program for Doctors of Chiropractic.