Even if you never step foot in a box, adopting a few CrossFit principles can help you take your fitness to the next level

By Jessica Matthews

Whether you wake up every morning and do your workout of the day (WOD) or it takes you 20 minutes to realize your friend is referring to CrossFit when she talks about "Fran," everyone can benefit from the WOD mindset. Use these "box" principles the next time you hit the gym, and you'll grow stronger, slimmer, and fitter faster.

Set a Goal Before You Start


Whether your workout calls for a certain amount of reps or "as many as possible" during a set period of time, always have a number in mind for each exercise, says Sabrena Merrill, master trainer and CrossFit coach in Kansas City, MO. Doing so will help discredit the voice in your head that tells you to stop and instead allow you expand the limits of your fitness by safely and progressively challenging your body. Be realistic, selecting a goal based on your previous experience with the exercise, Merrill adds, so you don't push it too far too soon.

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Be Mindful of Mobility


CrossFit movements utilize a full range of motion that requires athletes to be flexible-something that most exercisers overlook, to the detriment of their workouts. "Increasing your mobility through foam rolling, trigger point release, and banded stretching will lead to huge improvements in your performance," says Sarah Pearlstein, CrossFit Level 1 certified trainer and yoga instructor. [Tweet this tip!] Spending time during your warm-up focusing on the areas of the body that are designed to be most mobile-specifically the ankles, hips, shoulders, and thoracic spine-will help keep injuries at bay. Do more foam rolling and deeper stretches post-workout, which will also relieve tension, increase blood flow, and enhance overall movement quality the next time you sweat it out.

Expect a Lot from Your Trainer


One of the greatest benefits of CrossFit is access to a coach who can help ensure that you're performing each movement efficiently and safely. In any class or when working out with a trainer, "if you don't understand a cue or movement, be sure to ask for clarification until you do," recommends Matt Scanlon, a CrossFit Level 1 and movement and mobility trainer. Pearlstein also advises that those working out on their own consider scheduling a one-on-one session with a certified personal trainer from time to time to check in on your form in order to help you stay injury-free.

Keep Record of Your Performance


In order for CrossFitters to get the most out of each WOD, Scanlon expects his box members to observe and record their performance and weights used every day. "Daily record keeping provides a real-time feedback loop on the efficacy of workout program," he says. When it comes to strength training, seeing where you started, how much you've improved, and where you are presently will not only enhance your motivation to adhere to a consistent workout routine, it also will give you to have a clear picture of how to systematically tweak each workout in order progressively overload the muscles being worked, ultimately allowing for even greater strength gains.

Scale Your Workouts


Diehard CrossFit fans know that the recommend weights and reps for a WOD aren't set in stone, so if they can't do a movement as prescribed, they scale accordingly. "In order to move more efficiently and get more out of your workouts, that might mean dropping the weight down on your shoulder press to gain the full range of motion or maybe placing a wall ball underneath you to reach the full depth of your squat," says Abdulkarim Al-Rashed, CrossFit Level 1 trainer at Stay Classy CrossFit in San Diego. Before you let technique take a backseat to the desire to complete a certain number of repetitions or lift a specific amount of weight, keep in mind that getting the most out of any exercise starts with learning and mastering movements first in order to stay safe and reap the greatest benefits in the long run. Adjust as necessary-even if that means slowing your pace or resting. [Tweet this advice!]

Embrace Some Friendly Competition

You're against the clock and your fellow exercisers when you're in a box. "Competing, whether it's against yourself or someone else, can give you the edge you're seeking in your workout," Pearlstein says. Try to finish your next workout in less time than it took you last time, or sign up for a race or obstacle course challenge to get a little taste of the kind of competition, motivation, and incredible community that CrossFitters thrive on.

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