I think we all can agree that CrossFit is a very challenging sport, almost impossible to master. There are always going to be movements we can do faster, thoughts we can control better and ways to grow stronger. I feel it (and hear it) quite often at the box, women feeling frustrated and confused in their pursuit of a better, healthier body. What about you? After months, or even years, of hard training do you feel like you’re not getting where you want to? Like there’s a secret that the fittest ladies at your gym aren’t telling you? Here’s the secret: there is no secret. Just try to be consistent and learn to limit your mistakes. Keep reading to learn some common mistakes that you can work on improving.
Top 10 Mistakes Weightlifters Make
Here are the most common “mistakes” that we see women CrossFitters make in their health and fitness pursuits.
- Not warming-up/stretching enough:
Warming up is one of the most important things any athlete can do. If your muscles are warm, they’ll perform properly. If they’re not, your performance suffers and you increase the risk of injury. I know that most WODs have a warm-up, followed by strength and conditioning set-up, but if you are like me (very tight shoulders/upper back and stiff neck), I would suggest getting to the gym 10-15 minutes before the class starts and do your own warm-up/stretching. Only you know what areas of your body need more attention. I have adopted this routine of 9 stretching movements that I repeat all the time (before and after a WOD) using a resistance band and they have helped me to improve my mobility and to avoid problems with my neck.
- Not pushing yourself because you don’t wanna be
I don’t blame you for thinking that CrossFit will make you bulky, especially if you are new. I was one of those women. I was afraid of getting big, so lifting heavy weights was out of question. It took me around one year to understand that adding more weight to my barbell will not make me bulky, but a beauty! Look around your gym. Do you see that woman with the body you would love to have? Well she lifts weights and…you don’t. Cut it out! This excuse will keep you from reaching your full fitness potential. The truth is that to look like Annie Thorisdottir (2011 and 2012 CrossFit Games winner) or many other elite fitness women, you’d have to follow a strict nutritional diet (eat enough to gain muscle mass) and train like an elite athlete (many hours per day dedicated to lifting) and that isn’t who must of us are. Every time that this absurd thought comes to your mind while choosing your weights, remember what Annie said to Vogue about the empowering effects that CrossFit has on a woman’s body.
“I’m not preaching that everyone should try to become a CrossFit champion. But I want to show them…that being strong is beautiful.” Annie Thorisdottir
- Not understanding the benefits of weightlifting
This is related to the previous point, but let me be more specific about why lifting weights is such a good idea for women. First, we all want to lose fat and to do so the most important factor is making sure we burn off more calories than we consume on a day-to-day basis, right? Well, guess what, by weightlifting you build muscle, and muscle burns body fat because it requires energy (calories) to sustain itself. Weightlifting has been proved to be more effective than cardio when it comes to fat loss. Second, adding weights to your workout increases bone density and in consequence decreases the chances of developing osteoporosis. This means that our bones will grow stronger with less probabilities of getting fractured in our aging days.
Lastly, you get a massive confidence boost. How awesome is to smash your men colleagues at arm-wrestling without ruining your manicure?! However, all this doesn’t mean you need to load tons of plates on your barbell on tomorrow’s workout. Try starting with a weight that you think tests the limits of your capabilities and build on that.
- “Punishing” & “rewarding” yourself
Raise your hand if you’ve ever used Monday’s WOD as a “punishment” for weekend indulgences? Or maybe it’s the opposite and you’ve used food as a “treat” for breaking your record while doing a benchmark workout. We all have been there before. My advice is to avoid making your rewards too food-focused. Choose rewards like: treating yourself to a spa-night at home with scented candles or getting a massage! Try to stay consistent in your training (this includes your nutrition) and remember that there is a purpose behind your sacrifices and commitment. As my coach says, “You’re not a dog, don’t reward yourself with food.”
- Not eating enough
You might be wondering, “What’s the problem with eating less? Isn’t that good?” For lots of women, eating smaller portions, counting calories, skipping meals, consuming less carbs (and the list could go on and on) has been the go-to method for weight-loss since forever pretty much.
However, under-eating can contribute to excess cravings as well as hindering muscle growth. As CrossFitters, we need the right fuel to power our training. Eating the right balance of carbs, protein and fat at the right time can help with our energy levels and recovery. Good quality food can keep us fit and healthy for the long-term. We believe in a food-first approach, that good nutrition is MORE important than fitness/athletic training. At Barbell Beauties, we also believe that food should make you feel good – mind, body and soul – and it is the optimal way to fuel your performance as an athlete. If you want to know more about the concept of clean eating, read this article. Also, consider talking to your coach or a nutritionist to find out how much you actually need to be eating, so that you avoid this mistake.
- Sacrificing Form for Reps
CrossFit is, by nature, competitive; we all get that. But that doesn’t mean you should sacrifice your form to get more reps than the girl in front of you. If you are rounding your back during deadlifts, doing a cobra pose to get another push-up or your knees are going inward while squatting, you are sacrificing form for no good reason. What’s worse is that, by neglecting technique, you will cause all sorts of problems with your body and, in the worst scenario, get injured. Be smart, work on your progressions and technique, and most of all listen to your coach!
Take the words of Holly Mata (3rd on the CrossFit Regionals of 2013) as an inspiration
“I have put more time into improving my Olympic lifting technique. I have learned that my raw strength will only get me so far. I have to improve my technique to really capitalize on my strength.” Holly Mata
Move properly and you will benefit exponentially. If you don’t, that stubbornness will only lead to injury.
Can CrossFit be addictive? I’m not talking about the kind of addiction to buy cute outfit to dress to kill in every WOD, but the one that can make you mentally and physically sick. It’s a fine line between wanting to better yourself and causing yourself harm through overtraining. Carleen Matthews (3-time CrossFit Games athlete) talks in this intimate article about her addiction to CrossFit.
Like any training regimen, CrossFit needs to be done in moderation because overtraining can lead to burnout and injury. Every athlete is different. Some can endure doing two training sessions per day, 5 days per week, but maybe the right amount for you is one WOD, 3-4 days per week and that is totally fine!
So, how do you know if you’re overtraining? Fatigue, anxiety, depression, disturbed sleep, irritability, change in appetite, lack or irregular menstruation and loss of motivation can all be potential signs of overtraining. To avoid crossing that line, schedule rest and active recovery days in your week. Foam rolling, gentle yoga, light bike riding and massages are all great way to spend a recovery day. Listen to your body. You have the freedom to adjust your workout routine to your own needs.
- Not taking care of your hands
Who among us doesn’t like to look polished? You are not going to tell me that you don’t have a skin-care routine, that you don’t love creams, adore facial oils, and always choose foundations that had “hydrating” in the description. Now, take a minute and look at your hands, what do you see? Probably raw hands with calluses that tear off. Eww, not sexy at all!
For CrossFitters like us, aesthetics is not the only problem. Allowing your calluses to grow to much can slow your progress/performance and, if they rip, can cause a lot of pain or even lead to infection.
Start taking care of your hands by adding this to your daily skin-care routine: gently scrub and moisturize your palms and shave thick calluses or rub them down with a pumice stone. Eventually you want to have a thin, soft layer of calluses on your hands to have more grip and avoid tears and blisters. For a complete guide on hand repair, check out our hand care article here.
- Not having a training log
Keeping track of your weights and scores can have a huge impact on your performance. Why do you think your coach is asking for reps at 60-70% of your 1 Rep Max? Why are those numbers so important? Depending on the workout, those percentages are chosen to help improve your strength or stamina or other goals! And be honest, do you know your 1 Rep Max Push Press? How about your 5 Rep Max Front Squat? To truly know these numbers, you should have them recorded somewhere. Plus, how will you ever know when you break a PR (personal record)? If you are just guessing at your numbers, you are wasting time not reaching the full potential of the workout. Plus, you may be missing opportunities to celebrate and have that lifter’s high! Not tracking your weights, scores and times means that you won’t be able to see where you’ve improved. Unless you have a unique brain, you will never be able to remember all of your numbers. If you are old school like me, go get yourself a cute journal to write down your numbers and add some inspirational quotes to your entries. Or get an app for your phone. Many gyms use a program that you might have free access to or ask the Barbell Beauties Facebook group to figure out which one is the best fit for you.
- Not getting enough sleep
Sleep is the most underrated key to fitness performance. We need a solid amount of quality sleep to ensure that our bodies fully recover. But getting good sleep is more than just sleeping more, and it does a whole lot more for you than make you feel fresh during the day. Athletes who sleep around 10 hours per night improve their strength, speed, agility and reaction time, plus they develop a better muscle memory for movements learned the day before. If you are interested in getting more out of your rest time and improving your sleeping habits, you should read this fantastic article published in the CrossFit Journal.
Learning from your mistakes does not happen automatically—it requires thinking and reflection. The truth is that your performance at the gym is the result of small decisions you take in every workout. You are what you do every day. Choose to work on one mistake at a time. Start with the one that will have the greatest impact on your life as a badass CrossFitter. And what if you keep making mistakes? Don’t get fixated! Just make sure you are always moving forward and aim to do 1% better every day.
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Giuliana works in social development and empowering women is one of her ultimate goals. She is passionate about health, fitness and traveling. She loves CrossFit because of the variety of the workouts and the community, but also does yoga and runs with her dog, Nazca.