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10 Tips For Success For The CrossFit Newbie


Stepping into a CrossFit gym for the first time can be a bit intimidating and overwhelming.
You might see a bunch of half-naked hard bodies showing off their ink and abs, ripping out butterfly kip after butterfly kip. You might ask yourself, “Is that person having a seizure or doing pull-ups? What’s with all the Chuck Taylors? Do they get a group rate? What’s with the guy in the corner wearing only sweatpants, shirt off, all tatted up and muttering to himself? Is he on a work-release program?” Fear not newbie; these people won’t bite. They’re actually pretty darn friendly and overly supportive once you get to know them. It can be a lot to take in at first glance, especially if you’ve had limited exposure to Crossfit prior to stepping into a box. But don’t worry; we’ve got your back. The following are 10 things to keep in mind as you begin your CrossFit journey.

1.) You’re Competing Against Yourself, Not Others

When it comes time to throw down in a wod, don’t feel like you have to do everything RX’d or be able to complete 20 rounds of Cindy right off the bat. Go at your own pace. Let the intensity find you. You need a solid foundation of strength and flexibility in order to progress into more demanding workouts.  Start light, get your form down, and don’t worry about the mother of three who is deadlifting 250 as you struggle with the bar. Chase your own capacity before chasing the person next to you. Which brings me to my next point…

2.) Don’t Be Too Proud To Scale

Sing it with me now:

Ain’t too proud to scale, sweet darling.
Please don’t leave the wod. Don’t you go.
Ain’t too proud to scale, baby baby.
Please don’t leave the wod. Don’t you go.

Tony Budding (of Crossfit HQ) describes scaling as another form of programming. Scaling is such an individualized topic that it’s hard to make sweeping generalized statements. You have to know your own body and its limits. But most importantly, there’s no substitute for common sense.

3.) What You Eat Is More Important Than What You Lift

Nutrition is the key to every aspect of your life. It affects your energy levels, your recovery, and your overall defense against disease. To quote the late Jack Lalanne, “You put junk in, junk comes out. You put good in, good comes out.” When you’re first starting out, the quality of your food is far more important than the quantity. Call it whatever you want: Paleo, Primal, Hunter-Gatherer, Pretentious D-Bag Diet; just eat clean. If you’re eating as clean as possible, you don’t even need to worry about the quantity. You are a Ferrari. You wouldn’t put regular unleaded fuel in a Ferrari, would you?

4.) Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Clarification, Over and Over and Over Again
It’s your time, money, and most importantly, health. If you don’t fully understand something, ask. If you still don’t get it, ask again. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you don’t fully grasp the concept, or you think others in the class will get frustrated with you for taking up too much time. We were all newbies at one point. We’ve all been there. Learning the mechanics of certain movements like the kip, squat, deadlift, or any of the olympic lifts takes lots of practice and critique from a trained eye. If you need help, just ask.

5.) Crossfit Isn’t Everything
Crossfit is a strength and conditioning program that focuses on building general physical preparedness (GPP). It is quickly evolving into a sport of its own, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be your sport or your lifeblood. I Crossfit so that I can do whatever I want: Go out, play sports, learn new things. Having that GPP allows me to take on new challenges. Crossfit is not my life. I Crossfit so that I can have a life…and be awesome at it.

6.) It Doesn’t Get Easier, It Just Sucks Less

The longer you immerse yourself in the suck, the less it sucks. You get stronger, build a greater aerobic capacity, and become mentally tough.  All of these aspects, combined with experience, allow you to know when to push yourself and when to back off, so that you can attack each workout to the best of your ability. Soon, you’ll come to love the beatdowns. Much like Kevin Bacon in Animal House, you’ll be screaming, “Thank you sir! May I have another?” Well, maybe not. But you get the point.

7.) You Won’t PR Every Day

Don’t mistake intensity for hard work. Even if you’re having a bad day and the intensity just isn’t there, you can still get a lot out of your time in the gym through hard work. Intensity and hard work are not the same thing. Don’t skip a planned session just because you don’t think you’re going to kill it and leave everything out on the table. Not feeling too strong that day? That’s fine; scale the weights and/or rounds or time domain back. Something is better than nothing.

8.) Have Fun

Let’s face it, some of the workouts are not fun. Frankly, some of them just plain suck. I’m looking at you, Hero wods. But when it’s over, you feel a sense of accomplishment and maybe a little queasy. You shouldn’t be pissed that you didn’t get as many reps as the person next to you. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Smile. Laugh. Introduce yourself to people you don’t know. If you’re not having fun, why are you here?  Do you enjoy your overall time spent at the gym? Do you enjoy the people, the community, the knowledge and support that it provides? If so, then don’t be too concerned with your competitive nature until you have a strong grasp on the 9 Foundational Movements.

The things you’ll learn in a Crossfit gym are fun: gymnastics, olympic lifts, new swear words. You can’t do this stuff in a globo gym. The attitude is different too; no one is going to get in your face and cheer you on as you knock out those last five minutes on the elliptical. And the feeling you’ll have the first time you get an unassisted dead hang pull-up or full squat snatch is an amazing sense of power and accomplishment.

9.) You Are All Firebreathers

The term “Firebreather” comes from Crossfit legend and bad ass Greg Amundson, and he defines it as such:

Firebreather –Fie-r-bre’-th-er: (n) 1. One who faces the triumphs and tribulations of great physical opposition with an indomitable spirit. 2. An optimistic energy associated with the heart of an athlete.

You don’t have to be an “elite” Crossfitter to embody the essence of a true Firebreather. It’s not your Fran time, it’s the spirit you bring to Fran that makes you a Firebreather. Don’t forget that.

10.) Respect Rest and Recovery

Too many newbies (and even those of us who have been doing this a while) get caught up in overtraining. Don’t be afraid to schedule in a deload day once per week, or a deload week every 4-6 weeks where you cut the weight, rounds, and intensity in half. You have to think about this from a longevity standpoint. If you’re killing yourself every time you step foot in the gym, week after week, month after month, year after year, you’re going to eventually break down. You need to respect your time outside of the gym. There’s an old weightlifting adage that goes something like: “You don’t get bigger and stronger from lifting weights, you get bigger and stronger from recovering from lifting weights.”

Proper nutrition, hydration and sleep all play their part in recovery, but you also need to listen to your body. If you continuously beat yourself down, you’re going to get hurt, injured or worse. Stay on top of your mobility work. If you haven’t done so yet, pay a daily visit to Kelly Starrett’s MobilityWOD. The information there is invaluable.

So, what now? You’ve signed up for the Elements class. You’re about to start eating like a caveman. And your vocabulary will soon include words like burpee, thruster, and snatch. Welcome to Crossfit Delaware Valley. Have you tried the Kool-Aid? Don’t worry, it’s Paleo.

Larry Palazzolo likes piña coladas and getting caught in the rain.  He also has a mighty fine blog over at ScrawnyWOD.  Check it out!


  • Rockstar
    January 27, 2011

    Nce article. Will share it with our CFW peeps.

  • Bill
    January 27, 2011

    Larry, that is a fantastic piece. It’s all true, from the heart, and well put. We all need a little CrossFit nostalgia every now and again. Thanks.

  • Tom C.
    January 27, 2011

    These points are great reminders for all Crossfitters, new and experienced. Thanks Larry.

  • January 27, 2011

    Bravo! Well said!

  • Sheldon
    January 27, 2011

    Larry, that was helpful and hilarious! Like Tom said, some of those points are true for all of us – like taking adequate rest and checking our egos. Looking forward to more articles by CrossFit’s next Best Blogger.

  • Helen
    January 27, 2011

    LOVE this Larry!!! My favorite….#2…ain’t too proud to scale!!!

  • Meg
    January 27, 2011

    Awesome article Larry! Thank you for reminding us why we do this everyday.

  • Ally
    January 27, 2011

    Great post!!

  • MJ
    January 27, 2011

    Fantastic article…sent it to many of my mates who are thinking of joining. Cheers.

  • Aimee
    January 27, 2011

    You are an amazing writter. I enjoy reading your material. It is funny, and HONEST!!! Thank you so very much for giving us yet another meaningful piece, and for being part of our gym family!!! Keep um comming brother!!!! :)

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  • January 27, 2011

    Very awesome!!! I posted it to our FB page. Well done

  • Maura
    January 27, 2011

    Wow Larry, now everyone knows how awesome your blog is. Nationwide and Global.. I saw it on CrossFit Waterford in Ireland too. Congratulations and keep em coming!

  • January 27, 2011

    Thanks to everyone for all of the great feedback. I owe a lot of the credit for this post to my good friend Joe Trinosky, a trainer at Indy Crossfit. I picked his brain for a few ideas to go off of for this post. Thanks, Joe. And thanks always to my wife, Kara. She’s my editor and grammar nazi.

  • Sherri
    January 27, 2011

    Couldnt have said it better just AWESOME!!!!!!

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  • Andy P.
    January 27, 2011

    Great article Larry! This is getting mad love on Facebook with re-posts by CF HQ and the CF Affiliate pages! Well done!!

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  • January 27, 2011

    Good article. I was a newbie Jan 10 and lots of excess pounds when I began to take control of life at the den in Medford, OR. In alot of areas, I am still a newbie and learning from the members each time I do a wod. Gpod point that everything is scalable. No need to go to the global gym and have Oprah cheer me on when I got crossfitters as support. Do get some strange looks when working out at a hotel gym or spa when traveling. People give you plenty of room.

  • Juli
    January 27, 2011

    That was a great article and reminded me why I love crossfit so much. This will be a great re-read during those tough mental weeks that come every blue moon! I love the crossfit community, there is nothing like it anywhere else!!

  • January 27, 2011

    Excellent approach to both veterans and newbies. I don’t know much about your affiliate, but I’m glad you’re taking a responsible and proactive approach to CF & GPP. Great stuff and thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts to your readers.


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  • stamper
    January 27, 2011

    dude .. right on the money. Hammer Down CrossFit in Chantilly, VA already has it. Will make sure the authors get their due.

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  • Tara
    January 27, 2011

    Awesome post and thank you for pointing out some major points that needed to be refreshed in my mind as a Crossfitter regaining my confidence.
    CF is a pretty awesome place and I am so glad to be a part of it.

  • Dan
    January 27, 2011

    WOW!!! Fantastic article, Larry!! This should be posted to the entrance of every Crossfit gym. Excellent read for newbies and veterans alike!

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  • Noob #1
    January 27, 2011

    There are some bits here that the noobs can’t understand. PR, Mary Martin… !!

  • paleomomrx
    January 27, 2011

    I absolutely love this article! It’s titled for the “newbie” but I think even the veteran crossfitter can gain knowledge from this. I will post the link on my blog. http://www.paleomomrx.com

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  • Lisa S
    January 27, 2011

    Great article! Thanks for the encouraging words. Wish I had read it a year ago. I still feel new in a lot of ways though, always something good to take away from others experiences. Definately the support and encouragement you get from other crossfitters is amazing, Medford, OR has a real gem at CrossFit The Den.
    Thanks for writing!

  • January 27, 2011

    An AMAZING article! And Oh so true! Thank you! I am going link this in my next blog!

  • January 28, 2011

    Very good and inspiring article, shall ensure that all our new athletes read these when they come to our box.
    3-2-1 Go

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  • January 28, 2011

    I have been weight training for years, in some of the toughest Detroit gyms. I may be pushing 70, but anybody that dares pushes me….will be tossing my salad and they might want pack a lunch. This article was excellent loved it, and I am in there for me, not to see what others think and do.

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  • January 28, 2011

    Great article Larry. This is an outstanding contribution to the CrossFit community my friend. Keep up the strong work!

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  • January 29, 2011

    Way to go Russ!! This can be done at any age, and a very effective program. I’ve been involved with it about 6 years now and what a difference. Just keep with it. Good points mentioned here.

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  • John
    January 30, 2011

    I have to compete! Damn that person next to me! (Only during the WOD). A lot of good advise.

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