10 Must Haves for New CrossFitters

It’s been only eight months since stepping into my first CrossFit gym, but I’m at the point of where I have my gear bag pretty dialed and ready for any WOD that comes my way.

I wanted to share 10 things that have been vital to my success in the gym.

10. High Quality Workout Clothes

This may sound like common sense, but if you’re dedicating three, four, or even five days a week to working out- you’re going to want clothes that can take a beating. Try investing in clothing that are well made. Look at the materials, stitching quality, and read reviews.

My wardrobe is made up of pieces that came in at various price points. You don’t have to drop hundreds of dollars at high end places like Schmu Schmu Schlemon, but it doesn’t hurt to add some higher end pieces in the mix. I’ve collected some pretty inexpensive items from big box stores, but made sure to try the items on and inspect their quality before investing.

I wash my workout clothes every time I have worn them to the box. You’re spending a lot of time on equipment and flooring that other people have sweat on. It’s also not good for your skin to wear dirty, dead skin riddled clothing.

9. Shoes Meant for Weight Lifting and Cross Training

I started out training in running shoes at the box. They were fine for a beginner, as I wasn’t sure if I would stick to CrossFit, but as I started getting more dedicated I realized I was going to need better shoes for the type of movements we were doing. Running shoes are designed with a curved platform for the forward running motion and have a lot of cushion for the repetitive motion of your feet hitting the ground. Great for propelling you forward, but not so great for keeping you stable during a heavy deadlift.

CrossFit shoes were designed with flat, stable bases for lifting weight. They are made with light materials and often even some type of protection and grip on the sides/mid-soles for things like rope climbs. They also to tend to have good flexibility for agility training.

There are many wonderful options on the market. My recommendation is try on some different brands and purchase whichever feels the most comfortable on your feet. I have some personal preferences on what I look for in a shoe, but I’ll cover that in another post.

8. Grips for Hand Protection

If you are new to weightlifting or doing gymnastic movements such as kipping pull-ups, you will be putting your hands through a lot of stress. It takes time to build up calluses that protect the hands from movement on the bar, so learning to lift and do gymnastics with grips is a good idea.

Your grip strength will improve and you are less likely to create friction and tears on your hands that can be painful.

There are a plethora of grips on the marketplace. Some of heavy duty textured leather, some are a sort of light neoprene. My personal favorites are made of a stretchy almost cut up Ace bandage material that holds chalk well.

It takes time to get used to grips, so it’s a good idea to slowly incorporate them into your workouts. I primarily broke mine in will doing barbell movements and then started using them for gymnastics such as working on the rings and pull ups.

7. A Hand Care Kit

Everyone tears a callus. I would say it’s sort of a right of passage when you become a CrossFitter. It’s something that all of us would like to avoid and if you can avoid it, that’s better than having a painful, open tear on your hands.

Kits can be purchased from a number of reputable CrossFit outfitters. Mine consists of a pumice stone, light hand lotion, some athletic tape, and a stick that can be rubbed on open tears to help heal as well as protect any open tears on my hands against infection.

When grips aren’t enough or if I get a tear, I use tape to cover things up and help try to keep the flap of skin in tact. I also plan on doing a post talking more about how to handle a tear, so stay tuned for that.

6. Knee Sleeves

A good investment if you love your joints. There’s lot of lower body work that is being done in the box. Squats, box jumps, wall balls, lunges, running, lifting, and everything in between.

Knee sleeves will help provide protection during those movements. They may not be necessary for all workouts and some people refuse to use them, but I personally think they are worth the investment to keep your knees healthy and happy.

5. Wrist Wraps

In the same vein as knee sleeves, wrist wraps add a layer of support and protection during overhead movements. There are several different types on the market. Some offer more support than others, but they all serve the same purpose.

It may be a good idea to experiment with a couple of different styles and see what works best for your workouts.

4. Epsom Salt
Anytime you start a new fitness routine, you’re bound to have some aches and pains. Particularly if you are starting from square one and don’t have any base fitness. An Epsom salt bath or scrub down helps ease the pain of sore muscles.

There are many brands available and some offer aromatherapy or additional muscle soothers. Be sure to check if Epsom baths may have any health implications for you before adding it to your recovery routine.

3. Active Hydration/Recovery Aids

When putting your body through the ringer, it is important to stay hydrated. Your body loses not only water, but electrolytes that come out in the form of a salt like substance on your skin.

You may notice that your clothes or skin show a white crystal like residue. That’s a sign that you have exerted yourself and likely need to replenish.

I prefer to use active hydration with electrolyte tablets in my water. That way I know I’m not going to get the sort of workout hangover feeling when I have pushed myself hard. It also helps ensure that I won’t get painful muscle cramps.

Along with that is recovery aids. Some people will use both active hydration a recovery product to aid their body in building muscle and flushing out toxins. Research any companies you are interested in purchasing supplements or recovery aids from.

It may also be a good idea to work with a physician or nutrition expert before deciding to add supplements to your daily intake.

I often will chose what combination of items to use based off how I feel after a workout. I sometimes will use a protein shake with some probiotics as a meal replacement or as a go to between meals on a workout day.

Recovery aids are very personal to your body, so what may work for someone else may not be for you.

2. Mobility Tools

Recovery isn’t just done via supplements. Mobility tools such as foam rollers or pressure point balls help target muscles that are sore or have limited flexibility. Breaking up stiff muscle tissue promotes blood flow and keeps muscles, ligaments, and joints loose.

It’s important to do some research on how to properly utilize these tools, so as to not cause tissue damage. When used correctly, they can do a world of good and help your body feel better between workouts.

It’s not always like getting a deep tissue massage, I will admit it hurts often to use them. It’s still great to have them on hand though.

1. High Quality Jump-rope

Double Under Wonder make great starter jump-ropes that can be customized to your style and height!

Using the jump-ropes provided at your box isn’t the worst thing to have to do, but it’s nice to get a jump-rope tailored specifically to your level of skill and your height.

There are many a speed-rope on the market. I decided to go the custom route and purchase a rope that I could get at an exact length. Having messed around with adjustable ropes left me frustrated with setting the hardware. I also had to fuss with it to get the length just right and if you have too much excess rope or cut the rope too short, you are SOL.

There’s not a lot of opportunities to try different rope models unless you maybe go to an expo or an event like a CrossFit competition with vendors on site. I recommend doing some research online, reading reviews, and getting a feel for what type of rope suits your needs. You can graduate to an extremely high speed and high quality model once you have mastered the art of the double under. Usually you can find a decent quality rope in the $20-30 range to start.

That’s it for my list and I plan on elaborating on each of those items in future posts. I’ll discuss the products I have chosen, why, and do some reviews. It can often be confusing or difficult to know what exactly you need when you step into a CrossFit box, but hopefully this will help guide you.

Starting any new sport or activity is always in investment, but it’s an investment in yourself and your health. If you think about how many times in a year you use a particular item, you will often come to find it is literally pennies a day you are spending per use of that piece of gear.

Remember that cheapest is usually not going to be the best option, but buying the best of the best isn’t necessary either. Try to find items that fit your budget and will perform to your standards.

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Disclosure: While I always encourage people to buy products locally and support small business. If you see something linked in an article, it’s because it’s something I’ve used myself and approve of. Purchasing from any of the embedded links helps maintain the website and keeps me producing regularly scheduled content.

Picking Up a Damn Barbell

Practicing strict presses. Photo courtesy of CFBD

Never in my life would I have thought that I would call myself a…Cross Fitter. It sounds so pretentious and often when I talk to non-Cross Fitters about Cross Fit, I can see there eyes sort of glaze over.

I know, you’re probably either thinking I joined a fitness cult or you too are a Cross Fitter and will completely relate to what I’m about to say. Either way, I’m just glad you are here to read my ramblings.

I have my friend Mary to thank for getting me to, as my title states, pick up a damn barbell. Mary and her husband joined a Cross Fit gym (aka box) roughly two years ago. Actually, let me back up a bit. I met Mary through working in the cycling industry. We worked for the same company and our departments were literally right next to each other.

We got along almost instantaneously. We had similar taste is beer, music, dogs, food, and also had a love of cycling. Duh, why else would you work in the cycling industry, it’s not like you make millions doing that!

It was no surprise that she also tried to convince me that I would enjoy this Cross Fit thing. I was the person that made fun of Cross Fit. All the YouTube videos of people doing “pull ups” in the air looking like they are doing the worm- no thanks. I had also seen so many Cross Fit lift fail videos that it was easy to say I wanted nothing to do with it.

Fast forward to March of 2017. I had been at a new job for about five months. It was still winter, I was unhappy, and realized I had let myself go. The previous year had been rough. I had started it off thinking I was hitting a nice point in my career in the cycling industry (different place of employment from where Mary and I met), had just been awarded a scholarship through a major cycling company to attend United Bicycle Institute to hone my mechanical skills.

I then came back to then lose my job after being home for only two weeks or so after my training program. Luckily I was able to get a job at a new shop, but my self esteem and my finances had hit an all time low.

I had always struggled with depression, weight that yo-yo’d, getting in and out of shape, and frankly needed to do something about it.

Mary had convinced my partner to finally join the Cross Fit box. She had been putting it off as she had been the primary bread winner and to pay for two people to attend Cross Fit classes is fairly expensive. Once our finances stabilized, we did a two week On Ramp program. I had done personal training in the past, but had never done an Olympic style lift in my life. Deadlifts, OK, I got what those were. Jerks? Cleans? Presses? Split Jerks? Snatches? What? I had no freaking clue what I was doing.

I was glad to see that a woman was teaching the On Ramp. Not that if a guy had taught it, it would have made me change my mind, but there is a sort of bro stigma that comes with working out in general.

Samantha was the coach who was going to get us up to speed with what exactly Cross Fit was and how to properly and safely do the necessary movements. She introduced herself as the fiance to the box owner, Barrett. She also let us know that she did occupational therapy as her full time job. This help put my mind at ease. Clearly she wasn’t going to let us do things that would injury us, as it’s literally her job to help people prevent injury or address injuries they have sustained with movement.

I could not believe how sore and out of shape I was. “I’m a cyclist damnit! Why is this so hard?!” I kept thinking to myself and possibly saying out loud over and over again. While cycling was a great cardio activity, the fact that I often followed it with eating burritos and drinking after doing it was probably cancelling out the benefits of the activity.

Getting instruction from coach Tyler. Photo courtesy of CFBD

After our two weeks, we decided that even though we were the most sore we had ever felt in our lives, Cross Fit would be something we could see doing on a regular basis.

I’m happy to say that eight months later, we are still at it! I personally average 3-4 classes a week depending on my work and school schedule. I’ve seen changes in my physical abilities and appearance. It’s been absolutely incredible and I continue to still really enjoy the challenge that Cross Fit provides me. I also attribute a lot of my success and dedication to the coaches and people who I attend classes with.

Hitting a dead lift PR. Photo courtesy of CFBD

It’s a nice, tight knit community that is welcoming to new people. I plan on writing more about my experiences, specific goals, and personal achievements within Cross Fit, but I thought for starters I would just tell the story of how it was that I got into the sport.

Considering picking up a damn barbell? I’d say give it a try, you may surprise yourself!