CrossFit: an endurance sport

30-04-2016 Nolan Mooney

What can I do to best prepare for CrossFit?

How long does it take to get “good” at CrossFit?

When does it get easier?!?

In June I will celebrate my 10 year CrossFit birthday and while running a box, teaching Level 1 Seminars and just talking about CrossFit to random people, I’ve heard these and similar questions quite often. These are usually some of the most common questions I have heard from “newbies” in the last couple of years and it may be helpful to some of you when faced with these questions or if you have them yourself, to have some answers.

The short answers are: nothing, forever and never. However, that may not be the best way to convince someone to start with CrossFit or to stick with it. Even though it may be true, it does not really help to relieve some of the hesitation someone may have with starting.

What can I do to best prepare for CrossFit?

The first question is quite common with people enquiring about starting CrossFit. No matter what an individuals sports background is, how often they currently train or how much they have read about CrossFit, there is no amount of preparation you can do that will make your initiation into the world of CrossFit any “easier” or less hard. My personal introduction to CrossFit occurred after 4 years of active military service and 2 years working as a fire fighter. I trained at least 5 times a week, had done sprint distance triathlons and had participated in a number of different sports while growing up. I went in to my first CrossFit workout with as much confidence you could expect a 24 year old male to have. Let’s just say “Diane” didn’t care and refused to give me a break. Education and research are excellent ways to understand the concepts and perhaps even become acquainted with the methodology of CrossFit but as our text writer Malik most elegantly wrote, “Reading a recipe is very different from tasting a meal.” You may be able to understand something intellectually but the first time your lungs are screaming for air, your hart is beating out of your chest, and the rest of your body is screaming for you to stop; all that logic and intellect flies right out the window. The bottom line is that people just need to get started; that first step is by far the best way to prepare for CrossFit.

How long does it take to get 'good' at CrossFit?

The second question is pretty common with the more experienced “newbies”. To clarify, I consider anyone that has been doing CrossFit 2-3x a week for up to 2 years, a newbie. This may seem a little excessive and some of you may even be offended but let me explain. Let’s take an athlete that trains 3 times a week and lets assume that they train an average of 46 weeks a year. With some pretty intense mathematics that equates to 138 training sessions per year and 276 sessions in two years. So in a two year period we’re talking about 276 training hours. In CrossFit we broadly group functional movements in to three different groups: mono structural metabolic conditioning, weightlifting and gymnastics. Let’s keep the math easy and let’s just say that over a two year period of programming we see an equal distribution of modalities which gives us 92 hours exposure to each monostructual activities(run, row, jump rope, etc), weightlifting and gymnastics. (Before my inbox fills up with math hate, take a breath and think about this as a broad brush overview). Now with that in mind, let’s take each sport individually and analyse what it takes to be “good” in them and we also need to define what good means. Personally, I would say that to be good in a particular sport you have achieved a level of proficiency which allows for a level of independence. You know how to prepare for each movement you may perform, properly execute each movement and you are most likely familiar with technical faults unique to yourself. furthermore your starting to separate yourself from the rest of your peers as an individual with some capacity.

If we take a sport like weightlifting, that would be an individual that is familiar with the main liftsn and accessory lifts, proper execution of the lifts and an understanding of the concepts of weightlifting. If I were to train weightlifting exclusively 3 times a week, 92 hours would bring me to 7 months. Is 7 months of weightlifting, gymnastics, or running enough to check all those boxes? Of course there are always those individuals who have an affinity with a certain sport and they may excel rather quickly but most of us, probably don’t fit in that category; and that’s fine. The things we do in CrossFit are physically and neurologically challenging and it takes time to develop them. For many of us, it will be our first exposure to gymnastic rings or the barbell snatch and we need to spend time learning them before we even get a chance to apply any kind of intensity. Along the way we are going to be confronted with all the challenges that come with attaining proficiency in ANYTHING! No one was born an elite athlete, world class surgeon, or formula 1 champion. Give yourself a break and be patient. The pay off in the end is totally worth it.

When does it get easier?!?

For the third and final question, I think the short answer may actually be the best answer: never. The further I advance my fitness, with each PR and deeper understanding of a certain technique, comes an insatiable hunger to become even better. In order to be better, I must work tirelessly attacking my weaknesses with fervour. I will be confronted with weights that don’t move and rooms seemingly devoid of oxygen. I will swear to you and others that the seconds on the clock were too fast or too slow and there will be days where it seems nothing works. Those days are tough and most definitely not easy, but the days when it all comes together and you crush your old PR, you look your goat straight in the face and say “you’re going down!”; when you stand on top of the mountain of wods, beaten and bloody, yet victorious; will make it all worthwhile.

So, in closing, what do you tell a newbie? Probably the best thing is to invite them to the box for a WOD. Tell them that even though the WODs may be minutes, it takes years to really get good. Oh and maybe they should buy a helmet and strap themselves in cuz it’s gonna get rough.

Be patient, take your time, and enjoy the process.
Although the proverbial “light” at the end of the tunnel may be in sight, I will never reach it. And that’s fine by me. 

Nolan Mooney

About Nolan Mooney

Nolan Mooney has been doing CrossFit for 9 years which doesn’t mean he's any good at it, it just means he is thoroughly aware of what he’s not good at.  He's Head Coach and co-founder of CrossFit FSF in Driebergen and and spends his weekends as a Flowmaster for the L1 and L2 CrossFit Seminars throughout Europe and the rest of the world.  He also has a risky addiction to ice cream and tank tops.

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