How to properly excel in CrossFit
Gia Tyler-O'Keefe
May 9, 2024

Gia Tyler-O'Keefe


May 9, 2024

As humans and athletes it’s in our nature to be competitive and in a constant state of hunger for more work, progress, and challenge. It’s exhilarating, empowering, and more times than none, frustrating, but at the end of the day we are all better because of it. It keeps us motivated and showing up day after day. 

CrossFit is an interesting beast. I’m sure we can all relate when I say almost every workout leaves us humbled and/or questioning why we showed up, yet we stay up past 10pm waiting for tomorrow’s WOD to be released. Raise your hand if this is you ;) 

In addition to the addiction we have to this unorthodox training methodology, the challenges we face in regard to gymnastics, weightlifting, and overall work capacity, leave us craving the skills and drills necessary to excel in each of these components of fitness. 

The question many coaches hear day after day is, “what can I do to be better at this, that, etc.” First, let me express that I want to see EVERYONE excel and succeed, break down boundaries and overcome both mental and physical obstacles, but there are strategies involved and I believe a way to go about certain things. Before I go into all of the options out there to be a better CrossFit athlete and an overall bad ass (this can literally be a novel), it’s important to acknowledge the difference between doing too much and simply doing more. 

One of the most important factors I consider as a coach when a client asks what he/she can do to be better, more fit, etc. is how old they are in the world of fitness. What I mean is, are you brand new to exercise, or have you been at this for quite some time? My approach is different for both scenarios. 

If you’re brand new to CrossFit as a training methodology the most important piece of advice I can give to you is to show up. Progress will occur every day you step in the gym. There is A LOT to learn and improve on but it cannot be rushed. Have fun, learn, trust the process. We want to be fit for life, not fit for right now. Trying to be the best at everything too quickly is simply doing too much. And you’ll probably get hurt.

For the newbies and my seasoned exercisers, I am a HUGE advocate for prioritizing mechanics, consistency, and then intensity. In that order. First you have to move well and know safe and proper technique, consistently. Then demonstrate that you can execute proper range of motion and body awareness in almost any scenario. Ask yourself, “does my form go down the drain when I’m tired? What happens once the barbell gets somewhat heavy?” If the answer is yes, you need to practice consistent, better movement. If the answer is no and you’re consistent, then we increase the intensity (load or level of gymnastics). In my opinion, no one should be doing a full weightlifting program if their squat depth is barely breaking parallel (just an example). You’d be doing too much of the wrong thing. 

Let’s talk about a general increase in work capacity, or your ability to do work. Here’s where being new to CrossFit or an experienced gym rat does not make much of a difference to me. If you want to be better conditioned you have to train. Come to class as often as you can. When that’s not enough, do more. Put more effort into your workouts, go faster, or get on the bike for an extra 15 minutes after class. Everyone’s favorite, run when it’s raining and your mind is telling you to go home and get comfortable on the couch. Do this as often as your body allows. Training monostructural movements (running, biking, rowing, jumping rope) in appropriate time domains, in my opinion, has a lot less chance of injuring you than rushing strength gains or chicken-winging your first ring muscle up (read everyone is different/can handle different demands and you can get hurt doing almost anything).

In addition to strategically periodizing your progress, the gym has a bunch of fun toys to incorporate into your training if you are looking to add some spice into your open gym time or aux work. There isn’t a piece of equipment I won’t use. I’ll add in bodybuilding to help build strength and stability in muscle groups we don’t isolate in our daily WOD programming, and of course to look jacked and tan. A good pump? Yeah, that’s my favorite. And my warm-ups usually consist of machine work and heavy dball holds or dball over shoulder repetitions. The options are endless. To keep my joints and muscles feeling loose and ready for the next day’s training program I stretch every day, drink a lot of water, and make sure I eat well and sleep enough. I have been consistently training CrossFit for over 10 years (this was my 13th CrossFit Open) and have thankfully only experienced 1 injury. This stuff works. 

Whatever your goal, go after it. 

Be “relentless in your pursuit of progress.” - Justin Sua

The only thing stopping you is you.

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