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Box 101

CrossFit Starter Kit: 5 Essential Tools to Jumpstart the Beginner WOD

Five game-changers I wish someone had told me about when I started doing CrossFit.


When I walked into my first CrossFit box, I did so on a dare. I didn’t know much other than what I’d heard: it’s intense, it’ll transform your body and your mind, it’s intense, it’s competitive, it’s intense, it’s fun, it’s INTENSE.

All of these things turned out to be true. Did I mention it’s intense? If you’re reading this you know that already. So let the workout be intense. It’s supposed to be. But everything else doesn’t have to be brutal. I want to make everything outside the workout a little easier on the newbies…

These are the things I wish someone had told me I needed on my first day:

1. Supplements

CrossFit and Paleo have a … how should I put this? … loud relationship. It seems like they go everywhere together, hand-in-hand. It can be kind of a lot. There’s all this PDA, they’re always tweeting at each other, regramming each other left and right. They’re definitely a power couple. And to the uninitiated, they can be kind of intimidating. But here’s the thing not everyone knows: they’re not exclusive. CrossFit and Paleo are in an open relationship.

Which is all by way of saying: Don’t worry. If you’re just getting into CrossFit, you don’t have to reinvent your fitness and your eating habits overnight.

On the other hand, with all your burpees and cleans and squats, you’re probably working out at higher intensities than ever before, which means you need to start thinking about the way you eat. I was a vegetarian for 10 years before CrossFit and now I need red meat. I needed to eat more. I needed iron. I needed more fats.

Which isn’t to say you can’t be a vegetarian and do CrossFit, but you have to listen to your body. Your diet might need a little supplementation.

You’re putting so much intense pressure on your body, that you’re probably going to be dealing with nutrient deficits. I definitely did, so I concentrated on healthy fats. MCT oil is like jet fuel, the multi-chain triglycerides give you focus and sustained energy. I love to blend some into my coffee to jumpstart my day.

During your WOD, you’re building your body into a modern architectural miracle… but you can’t build anything if you don’t have the right materials.

Which brings us to …

2. Protein

Especially if you’ve gone from a sedentary lifestyle to an athletic one, you’re going to need a lot more protein in your diet to give yourself the basic building blocks of muscle.

You may ultimately want to get your protein from natural, organic, unprocessed (Paleo-friendly) sources, but it might take some time for you to figure out how to plan, prepare and time your meals.

In the meantime, you need protein now.

My suggestion: find a good all-purpose protein powder. While you’re spending all your spare mental energy trying to figure out how to attack your next attempt at a muscle-up (you’ll get there eventually, I promise. Hopefully I will, too!), you might not have any mental energy to spare on meal prep. So just make sure you’re getting enough protein without worrying about the rest.

A great protein shake before or after the workout should do the trick, as long as it’s the right protein shake.

That means you need a good blend of fast- and slow-acting proteins, and something that actually tastes good so you’ll want to drink it. While you’re beating your body into sweaty, blissful submission, you don’t want your protein shake to be a chore. You want it to be a reward. Quest has some great options with a really high P/Cal (protein/Calorie) ratio, a potent mix of proteins, and most importantly, they taste pretty great. Peanut Butter is my personal favorite. Mix it with the Chocolate Milkshake powder and it’s like peanut butter cup heaven!

3. Sleep

Yes, sleep. Everyone is telling you to work harder, work longer, to get up at dawn and conquer the day, to take no prisoners.

Well, sure. OK, fine, yeah, do that if you want.

But that means you have to go to bed earlier.

That also means you might only be able to watch one episode of House of Cards each night instead of binge-watching the whole thing.

If you’re just getting started, your body is going to be absolutely destroyed after a few weeks (or let’s be honest, a few days) of AMRAPs. I’ve been doing them for more than two years now, and if I really commit to my workout, I’m still wiped after every one. That’s a big part of why we love it: you have to totally give in to your tenacious animal nature.

But that fatigue means you have to give your body time to repair itself so you can go even harder next time. That happens while you’re sleeping.

The process of transformation is a yin and yang of rip and rebuild. Obviously, the skyscraper never gets built if you don’t rip the old shack down, but it definitely won’t get built if you don’t actually allow the new iron struts to fuse.

You really want to make progress? First: show up at your Box. Second: Go to bed (earlier)!

4. Hand Care

I hesitated to bring up this point because yes, I’m a girl, and yes, I do CrossFit, and yes I’m proud of my calluses, but I don’t want man hands. And for the guys reading this: there’s a difference between man hands and tattered bloody messes.

And guess what? After a week of kipping pull-ups, your hands are going to be wrecked. Even if you came to CrossFit from lifting. even if you’ve got callouses on your palms the size of Rhode Island, chances are you haven’t been doing this much functional, rapid, high-intensity movement before and you’ll end up ripping those calluses right off.

More importantly: if you wreck your hands, you’ll wreck your workouts. If your grip goes, so do your PRs. It’s sort of the most stupid injury to get, really, because it’s preventable.

I really don’t want you to show up at your Box wearing bitch mittens (gloves), but there’s no shame in taping up, shaving or grinding down those calluses. Pumice stones and callus scrapers are going to be your new best friends.

And use hand salve. It won’t make your hands too soft. In the long run, it’ll toughen them up enough to make it through Murph unscathed (…mostly).

5. Mobility

If you aren’t flexible enough to perform a movement, your form will fall apart, you’ll injure yourself, and you’ll be back to square one.

While your Box might be bursting with foam rollers, lacrosse balls and resistance bands, if you really want the mobility to squat like it’s hot, then how about some yoga?

Yes. I said yoga. I know the serenity of yoga might seem so far from the grit of CrossFit, but it’s actually the reason I was able to fall in love with CrossFit as much as I have. I have the mobility to do things the right way. I didn’t injure myself trying to do a deep squat without the necessary hip flexibility.

Related:WOD Recovery Yoga

Yogis and CrossFitters may seem like polar opposites, like Wildlings and Men of the Night’s Watch… but we all know they’re gonna end up fighting on the same side eventually, right?

So grab a good protein powder, get a good night’s sleep, power through Warrior 2, and then get back on the bar.