The charter for fitness instruction presented by CrossFit is as follows:

  1. Mechanics—Ensure an individual knows the points of performance of the movements they need to execute. Make sure the individual can display these points of performance in all movements.
  2. Consistency—Ensure the individual performs multiple repetitions of movements well without instruction. Also, confirm that he or she has been in the gym long enough to develop a tolerance for intensity.
  3. Intensity—Once an individual consistently displays sound mechanics and acquires a suitable training history, coaches can introduce intensity with appropriate loads and speeds.

If you are new to CrossFit, and for that matter exercise in general, this graphic and associated explanation may be new to you. Stay tuned, we will explain in detail. 

If however, you have been CrossFitting, or exercising, for any significant period of time (let’s say 6 months or longer) then this should look and sound familiar. If it does not then there are some red flags here we need to discuss. Stay tuned we will explain in detail.

CrossFit, and common sense, teaches that in order to have success with any new skill you must first develop the necessary mechanics to execute a novel task. Not many of us will remember learning to walk, but I can guarantee that you did not just pop up on two feet and start running around. 

You started by learning to balance on two feet. Then you learned to shift your weight and balance from one foot to another. Then you started moving, but you kept falling down. Eventually after repeated practice, and countless falls, you figured it out. Once you learned to walk, next you learned to walk faster and finally you learned to run. Along the way you continued to fall, but each fall was less and less significant. 

The same learning process applies when it comes to exercise. Especially when it comes to functional fitness. You cannot simply walk in and assume you will conquer every aspect of each movement overnight. Although the exercises we emphasize are based around functional movements — meaning they are movements inherent in our DNA make-up — these exercises often require time and practice to fully develop. 

Yes we all know how to jump, but perhaps we never had the need or courage to jump up on a 20 inch plywood box before. That is ok! We can learn to perform a box jump properly and safely if we study the various elements — identifying the power position (takeoff stance), a two foot take off, a two foot soft landing on top, and a subsequent step down — and then put these elements into repeated practice. We all know how to run, but perhaps we can learn to run better and safer by implementing some Pose running techniques into our warm-up and cool down. After all, reducing our incidence of injury is always helpful and can make running even more enjoyable.

If the basics take practice imagine what goes into some of the barbell movements people typically encounter in CrossFit and functional fitness. Many people may have had some experience with the basics of a bench press, squat and deadlift. Just the same, let us assure you, there are endless ways to refine and improve the execution of these movements. However, this takes practice. 

The videos we all see on the internet are there for a reason, they have entertainment value. Who wants to watch a person struggle and fail over and over again? Thats no fun! Watching someone perform a world record clean and jerk, now that can be impressive. The problem with these internet videos is that we only get to see the success at the end of a long journey. A journey  that involved countless hours of practice, instruction, stretching, technique work, missed attempts and small little increments of progress along the way. 

Perhaps the single biggest mistake we have seen in fitness, especially CrossFit, is a rush to add intensity. It makes sense. Early on it was suggested that intensity is the short cut to fitness. Sounds like a life hack to me. However, the intensity in question is relative. 

If you have not exercised in quite some time, then adding just about anything to your fitness routine is going to be intense. If you want to successful you have to make sure you do not go too hard too fast. Your body is going to need to time to adjust to the new workload. It is often  better to leave a little in the tank so to speak for tomorrow, then to burn out today. We are all in a rush and there can often be a mentality that more is better. The opposite is often true. Doing less work but making sure it is better targeted and aligned with your goals is a better route to success in your fitness journey. 

This whole process requires proper instruction and often an investment of time and money. In the end, a few extra dollars spent up front can help you avoid many of the pitfalls previously mentioned. In addition it can keep you safe and happy along your fitness journey and ensure success in your efforts.

So where should you start? 

Find a functional fitness facility, or CrossFit gym, in your area that has qualified coaches and staff. Reach out, or drop in, and find out how you can try a workout to see what it is all about. Generally speaking, this should be a free no sweat trial. Assuming you like what they offer, you will want to find out about their introductory process. Make sure they offer you some sort of Foundations or On Ramp program where you will learn (our preference is one-on-one) the fundamentals of the key exercises you will want to incorporate into your routine. From there we suggest considering either a class based membership or even continuing with your one-on-one coaching. The key decision there is where you think you will learn best and have the most enjoyment form your experience.

Learning is a process! It takes patience, diligence and virtuosity in the pursuit of perfection. Chances are very few of us will ever achieve perfection, but if we set the bar high enough we can certainly come close.  

We hope this article was helpful in dispelling some of the misperceptions about CrossFit. CrossFit is not inherently dangerous. It would not make sense for us to pursue a fitness methodology that was predicated on hurting people, right? That would not be a very successful program. The only activity that can guarantee you will not get injured is being a couch potato. And that comes with its own assortment of issues and health consequences. If you are active and participate in sports, or other physical activity, there is always a chance you will get hurt or injured. The key is to minimize this possibility by ensuring that you are instructed properly, challenged appropriately and progressed only when ready.