The following are ten universal rules that you MUST do your best to follow if you want to get the most out of your CrossFit experience; ignore any of them and you will regret it. This is not opinion or my ideal reality; this is merely my observation from five years of training and three years of coaching. It doesn’t matter if you like the truth. The truth does not care.
1. Recovery needs to become part of your life and has four critical components to it.
(a) Food is fuel first and enjoyment second. Training starts in the kitchen. If you do not get enough animal protein, you WILL NOT recover from workouts and make fitness gains (your bodyweight in pounds is the bare minimum in protein grams); if you do not avoid starch, sugar, and alcohol 90% of the time, you WILL NOT lose weight. Period. Base your diet on lean meat and vegetables, and eat in accordance with your goals if you ever expect to achieve them.
(b) Sleep as much as you can. Get to bed at a reasonable hour, preferably long before midnight, and try to get 7-9 hours every night. Scientists still don’t know why exactly we need to sleep; what we do know is that it’s vital for immune and nervous system repair. Building muscle is an immune function, and the nervous system controls everything in your body. Therefore, sleep.
(c) Drink plenty of water, at least 2-3 liters per day. You may need more due to a variety of factors, but one rule that always works is to watch your pee. Clear pee means you’re drinking too much, deep yellow means you’re dehydrated, and a hint of yellow is just right. Soda does not count. Soda will give you the diabetes. Especially diet soda.
(d) Mobilize. More on this later.
2. Strength is absolutely vital to health and to fitness, and you must frequently lift things that feel heavy to make your muscles grow. Unless you are strong to the point of a double-bodyweight squat [one-and-a-half-bodyweight for women], your muscles must grow if you are to achieve your aesthetic goals; therefore, if you want to get results you have to get better at lifting heavy things. This is assuming you want to look healthy, strong, and sexy; if you want to look like an emaciated stick figure, the best way to do that outside of a concentration camp is to become a vegan distance runner.
3. No matter what happens you MUST stay consistent with your training whether in or out of the gym. Doing makeshift workouts on your own when you can’t get in the gym is a legit and respectable way to maintain your fitness. Your body reflects how highly you prioritize your training and nutrition. The sky is the limit with CrossFit, but you get out of it EXACTLY what you put into it. [I managed to work out three to five days a week for two months in Europe while subsisting on a diet of meat, cheese, carrots, and beer, with my only equipment being a 30# backpack and racing flats. I still gained 15 pounds, but a month after coming home I was back to normal.] No excuses, and no exceptions.
4. Mobility is extremely important, so make sure you work on your trouble spots at least once a day. Closely tied to this is your posture; if it sucks, you are automatically weaker, have less sex appeal and are WAY more likely to get hurt in training than you would be with good posture. Be mindful of your posture throughout the day. Shoulders back, chest up, chin back, butt in, always.
5. If you don’t care about competitive exercise, you have no reason to kip on anything. If you just want to get stronger and fitter for life and not for sport, there are several high-risk-high-skill movements that aren’t worth bothering with, like kipping pull-ups, ring muscle-ups, snatches, and jerks, and all three of those require good strength and mobility even to learn. However, if you do plan on competing you need proficiency at all the skills of CrossFit (especially the silly ones like kipping and double-unders) before you throw your hat into the ring.
6. Over the course of your training, your muscle tissue and fascia will get kinked up due to overload/trauma/dehydration/under-recovery, and you need to work out these kinks to release tension. If you don’t, you will constantly be achy and sore and eventually the excess tension will wreck your connective tissue.
7. No, if you have to ask you are NOT going to win the CrossFit Games. Only the top 0.1% have a chance and at this point they pretty much all know who they are (save for a few genetic freaks coming from sports that are actually, y’know, sports). Even making it to Regionals now is an impressive feat requiring great genes and an extensive training history.
8. Be coachable and open-minded. There is no place for ego in any worthwhile endeavor. Anytime you want to improve on something, first you must accept what it is that needs improving and embrace the process no matter how frustrating it may be. When your ego gets in the way you are cursing yourself to mediocrity or worse.
9. Master the squat and the pull-up. Every human should be able to sit comfortably in a rock-bottom squat and be able to rep out strict chest-to-bar chin-ups (palms in). If you can’t, you need to practice every day until you can. It might take years but believe me, it’s worth it.
10. Set long-term and short-term goals, and as you achieve your goals set new ones. Never ever stop fighting for progress. This is your life now. Live it, love it, and see the mind-boggling places your fitness goes.