CrossFit Survival Guide

Finding the Right Pace

CrossFit Survival Guide: Part 2
When I finally decided to give CrossFit a try, I was pretty nervous. As I said in my last article, I've got a lot of experience working out. However, my biggest exposure to CrossFit before joining the gym was probably watching the Reebok CrossFit Games on TV, and few select Youtube videos of intense CrossFit workouts. I think we can all agree that the guys that make it into those competitions are just plain freaks. They are literally some of the most "fit" people on the planet. They're strong, fast, and have incredible endurance. I had the impression that if you couldn't keep up with them, then CrossFit probably wasn't for you. I am here to tell you that I was DEAD WRONG on that. Because of the nature of the workouts, each set is highly scalable. You have the option to either reduce weight, or modify the movement in a way that makes it easier to do, allowing you to complete the reps required for the workout. 

With that being said, my first piece of advice when starting CrossFit is to PACE YOURSELF.  You will be tempted to do one of two things - 1) You will want to try to keep up with everyone else in the class, and try to do way too much, or 2) You will think, "Holy crap, this is way too intense" and not push yourself hard enough. The key is to try to find the middle ground between these two extremes.  In order to get the most out of CrossFit, you have to give it your maximum effort, but you also have to be smart so that you don't end up with an injury.  You cannot be scared of pain, whether it is in the form of post workout soreness, exhaustion during the workout, or even getting a few bumps, bruises, and blisters from some of the workouts (I guarantee that these will happen!). On the other hand, there is real danger in pushing yourself too far.

One of the risks that has been associated with CrossFit in the media is Rhabdomyolysis. Just Google "Rhabdomyolysis and CrossFit" and you'll see what I mean. I have studied this condition both in school and in personal research, but I am by no means claiming to be an expert, so bear that in mind. Rhabdomyolysis is a condition that can result from numerous factors, the one most closely associated with CrossFit being extreme tension on muscles1. Basically what happens with this condition is muscle breaks down so much that the cells cannot recover, and they actually are destroyed. This causes toxins to be circulated through your blood stream, eventually leading to the kidneys. In extreme cases, this condidtion has been known to cause kidney failure. Obviously, this is something that we all need to be aware of when working out, but based on most research that I have read, this condition really only occurs in VERY EXTREME and VERY RARE circumstances. It is my personal opinion that most people cannot physically push themselves so hard in a workout to cause this if the muscular strain is the main cause. The main situation where I can see this being a risk for most people is if several of the factors are combined, such as dehydration, illness, and then extreme muscle strain on top of that. In short, as long as you are hydrating properly (a topic I will cover in a later article) and not working out when you have the flu, this is not something that you need to be paranoid about. Aware - Yes; Paranoid - No.

So where is the happy medium between these two extremes? Simpy put, I encourage you to give the workouts everything you have. You will be under the instruction of trained, professional coaches who are far more concerned with your safety than the amount of weight or reps that you can perform. Focus on doing as much as you can, while maintaining proper form. As much as you want to load up the bar to impress everyone in the gym, realize that you are a beginner at CrossFit, and come to terms with the fact that you have to progress at your personal pace. I will go into more detail on how to keep this mindset in a future post, as well as what kind of progress you can realistically expect with CrossFit.
I hope this helps, and thank you for reading! Come back soon for more info on how to survive your transition into the world of CrossFit!
[1] WebMD article on Rhabdomyolysis