CrossFit 101: The Ultimate Guide For Beginners

So, you’ve decided to take the leap and sign up for a CrossFit membership. You have probably just finished your beginners’ course and are now looking forward to moving on to the ‘real deal’. Oftentimes, our first few CrossFit classes are packed with all the emotions – excitement, nervousness, and fear of failure just to name a few. You might even think ‘What the heck did I get myself into’ as you are watching YouTube videos of fit-looking specimens throwing enormous weights overhead in one flawless motion and effortlessly performing burpees right after.

We’ve all been there, and it’s normal to feel nervous. But we can assure you that once you walk through that door and start your first WOD as a new member, you will never look back. Our coaches will make sure that you have everything you need to succeed, and our friendly members will make you feel like home. To make the transition from beginners’ course to daily WODs as smooth as possible, we decided to put together this guide packed with tips, gym etiquette, and CrossFit glossary.


9 CrossFit Beginner Tips

1. Scaling Is The Way to Go

A lot of people are under a false impression that you have to be fit to do CrossFit. However, the beauty of CrossFit is that you can modify (scale) each workout to fit your ability and skill set. Scaling allows you to maintain a higher intensity whilst keeping your form on point. This will result in improved performance, and you will soon see yourself becoming faster and stronger. 

Just be patient and trust the process. Scaling is nothing to be ashamed of, don’t let your ego get in the way of the progress. Every WOD has an intention, whether it is to move as fast as you can through the workout, or to work on strength; Therefore, it’s important to scale the workout to fit your current ability AND WOD’s key intention. 

For example, you might be able to do heavy front squats, but aiming for the same weight during a WOD that’s focused on performing the exercises as fast as you can, is a recipe for disaster. Always listen to your coach, and don’t be afraid to ask questions for when you’re not sure. 

2. Form Is the King

Ion Crossfit Cardiff 0004

We don’t expect you to perform all the technical lifts perfectly on your very first day. It takes time and practice to learn new moving patterns. Therefore, you should never sacrifice your form for speed or weight you put on your bar. Slow and steady wins the race. Take your time to practice the technique with lighter weight until you feel more confident performing it. 

Working on your form from the get-go is what will enable you to progress faster and get stronger in your key lifts. Quite often athletes get stuck and don’t see progress in strength until they address their technical issues. Focusing on your form will also enable you to stay injury-free and enjoy your training more. 

3. Ask questions

Part of being successful is about not being afraid to ask questions and listening to your coaches’ answers. We were all beginners at some point and understand how overwhelming it can be. You should NEVER feel bad for asking questions and/or help. There is no such thing as a silly question. Our coaches are there to help you reach your goals, so by asking them questions you are enabling them to get you where you want to be. 

We’ll go one step further, and give you some ideas on what to ask your coach in the next few weeks…

  • What is [exercise you don’t remember or aren’t sure about]?
  • How can I scale this exercise?
  • How fast should I go? 
  • How many caloriess/kgs/reps should I do? 
  • How can I improve my [exercise]? 
  • Can you run through the [exercise] form again, please? 
  • Am I doing this correctly? 

In addition to the above questions, make sure to communicate any change in your daily life such as any niggles you are feeling, your energy level (tired, didn’t have enough sleep, feeling cold coming up) to your coach and ask for advice. 

4. Don’t Compare Yourself To Others

Yes, CrossFit does have a competitive vibe, however, the only person you should be competing against is YOU, not the person next to you. At the end of the day, you are there for you, not anyone else. 

Fuel your competitive nature by striving to get one extra rep next week and polish your technique until it becomes your second nature. Set small, achievable goals for yourself to keep the motivation going and focus all your attention on YOU. 

Speaking of goals… Are you trying to finally do that first non-assisted pullup? Or increase your strength? Speak to one of our coaches about your goals, and what you would like to work towards, and they will help you to reach them in no time! 

5. Feed Your Body (Nutrition)

wholefoods bowl

Stop depriving your body of the nutrients it needs and fuel for performance. Whatever you do, PLEASE don’t fall for fad diets or under-eat to lose the weight fast. Here are some quick tips:

  • Aim for a balanced diet and don’t cut out a whole macro-nutrient (e.g. carbs, fats or proteins).
  • Opt for whole, unprocessed foods as they contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals your body needs to stay healthy and perform at your best. 
  • Eating foods that have simple carbs, immediately after intense workouts like CrossFit, will be beneficial. At this point the muscle cells are in an anabolic state – i.e. actively engaged in protein synthesis refuelling, rebuilding and growing!

Learn more about the importance of carbohydrates for your health and fitness. 

Short on pre- or post-workout snacks? We’ve got you covered! Our reception area is CrossFitter’s heaven with various protein bars, coffee, BCAAs, yoghurts, overnight oats, beef jerky and more!

6. Sleep

Often people sacrifice their sleep to squeeze in a gym session before heading to work. However, if your body hasn’t had a night of adequate sleep, it will be hard to perform at your best. It will also lead to a decrease in motivation, as it’s so much more tempting to just stay in bed or ditch the workout all together when you are feeling tired. 

Quality sleep is essential for post-workout recovery, as it helps with muscle recovery. On the other hand, when you don’t get enough sleep, you limit the body’s ability to recover after an intense workout AND inhibit the body’s ability to build muscle strength. 

So, yes, you will get to that early AM class, but you won’t be able to lift as much as you did last week, which will only lead to further frustration and demotivation. Learn more about the importance of sleep and major factors impacting our shut-eye quality. 

7. Don’t Forget To Rest

So how many days per week should you do CrossFit? Well, it depends… If you haven’t done any type of exercise for a long time, it’s best to start off slow and aim for consistency in attendance. If you know that realistically you can only get to the gym 2 times a week, then do that. 

In general, we advise to start off with 3 days a week and then build up gradually. The way you spread those training days is up to you – you can do all three in a row, or have a rest day in between. 

However, whatever you do, make sure that you have at least one full day of rest per week. You have to give your body a chance to repair and recover from all the work you’ve put in during your CrossFit classes. This brings us to our next tip…

8. Mobility


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Mobilization is a movement-based integrated full-body approach that addresses all the elements that limit movement and performance including short and tight muscles, soft tissue restriction, joint capsule restriction, motor control problems, joint range of motion dysfunction, and neural dynamic issues. In short, mobilization is a tool to globally address movement and performance problems.

Due to our sedentary lifestyle, we often end up with different mobility restrictions that are holding us back from performing at our best. Therefore, by working on those mobility issues, you can increase your performance during the class whilst also staying injury-free. 

Do you have chronic aches and pains? Mobility exercises will help you to address these and live your life pain-free. Try out our ION Mobility class with Coach Rich of In Motion Method, or talk to one of our coaches about different mobility exercises you can do at home. 

9. Keep Track of Your Workouts

There’s nothing more motivating than seeing how far you’ve come since starting on this journey. Set yourself small, achievable goals and attack them day by day, week by week. 

Much like with body composition, where you would track specific metrics such as your weight, body fat percentage, and waist measurements, in CrossFit, we track workouts and strength numbers. We periodically test certain workouts and lifts to make sure we are on the right path.

We use a whiteboard system called Wodify, which enables all our members to log into the class and track their progress on key lifts and workouts. Marking down your score after every CrossFit class can help you reinforce your fitness goals, whether it’s getting that first unassisted pullup, or increasing the weight on the bar. Seeing this data before your eyes serves as a reminder that you are moving in the right direction towards achieving your goals. Celebrate your small victories, and be proud of everything you’ve achieved on a given week!

Find out more about Wodify and its benefits here. 



Gym Etiquette

Navigating the chaos of a CrossFit box as a beginner isn’t easy. So, to bring some order to the mayhem and help you feel more confident here at ION, we’ve put together some easy but important things you can do to keep everyone, including yourself, safe and happy.

1. Punctuality Matters

We understand that sometimes life gets in the way, and it’s hard to get to the class on time. However, for your own benefit, please make sure that you don’t make it a habit of always being late to the class. Our sessions are structured in a very specific way, where every minute is geared towards maximising your performance during the WOD. So, if you are always late to the class, you miss out on the benefits of mobility and warmup exercises.

2. Tidy Up After Yourself

We all take pride in our gym. So, if you use it please put it back where it belongs – there is a place for anything and everything.
If you are using whiteboards to mark your reps – make sure to wipe it off after the workout, and put it back.

Before leaving the gym make sure that you’ve taken all your belongings with you. Trust us, you won’t enjoy digging through our ‘Lost Property’ bin in search of a jumper or a water bottle…

3. Respect Your Equipment

Please, please, PLEASE don’t drop the weights! It should only be a necessity to avoid harm to yourself or others. Otherwise, reserve this for the strictly heavy lifts and refrain from dropping your weights during every rep of Fran. Also, make sure not to drop an empty barbell, as it can cause damage to the bearing/bushing inside the bar.

4. Respect Other Member’s Space

This is essential for safety purposes, as well as member’s focus on the WOD. Make sure that you and members close to you have enough space to perform a lift, and don’t get blocked by equipment that is lying around.

5. Listen to Your Coach

Save the conversations for before and after workouts. If you are talking during the WOD, then you’re not trying hard enough. During the workout, you should pay attention to your coaches’ instructions and ques, as it will enable you to perform your best.

6. Adopt a Positive Mindset

Delete ‘Can’t’, ‘Never’ and ‘I hate [running, burpees, etc.]’ from your vocabulary. We truly believe that anything and everything is possible with hard work and determination. So, rather than focusing all your attention on the aspects of the workout you don’t like, get excited about the ways you get to improve today. No one said this would be easy, but that’s what makes it so special and rewarding.


CrossFit Glossary

AMRAP who? Whenever you’re in doubt, check this list to clear up any confusion…

AMRAP: As many rounds as possible. 

C&J: Clean and Jerk.

DU: Double Unders

SU: Single Unders

GHD: Glute Ham Developer

HSPU: Handstand Push up

MetCon: Metabolic Conditioning Workout

Rx’d: As prescribed; as written. WOD done without any adjustments/scaling

Set: A number of repetitions (e.g. 3 sets of 10 reps or 3×10; reps, rest, reps, rest, reps)

T2B: Toes to Bar

WOD: Workout of the Day

EMOM: Every Minute on Minute

Rounds for Time: a workout structure where you have to complete X rounds of a prescribed set of exercises as fast as you can.

WB: Wall Balls

Reps or Repetitions: the number times a movement is to be performed/repeated at a time

C2B: Chest to Bar

GTOH: Ground to overhead

STOH: Shoulder to overhead; moving the bar from the front rack position to the overhead position.

KB: Kettlebell

DB: dumbbell

MU: Muscle Ups.

Scaling: modifying or adjusting either weight and/or movement in a WOD

If you have any further questions about training, nutrition or recovery contact our coaches or publish your question in our friendly Facebook community group. Happy CrossFitting!

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