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6 Lessons Anyone Can Learn from CrossFit

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    Master Form First

    First and foremost, the key to staying safe during CrossFit-style (or any!) workouts is to ace each movement. "A lot of times, people invest more money and focus on their equipment and how they look rather than their actual movements," says J.D. Alex, head coach at NorCal CrossFit in San Jose, California. "It's always smart to make sure we are doing movements correctly and safely instead of just throwing on a weight belt and performing the ugliest deadlift just because we want to lift a certain weight—that usually leads to injury." That's why CrossFit has its "on ramp" program, which teaches you all the fundamental moves with proper form.

    Takeaway tip: Study up on videos online, like these, before you add more weight.

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    Aim for High Intensity

    What sets CrossFit apart from other exercise methods? "The focus on variety and high-intensity routines," Alex says. The average CrossFit workout burns 37 more calories than the average workout, according to Texas Woman's University—which adds up to an extra pound and a half of fat lost over the course of a year.

    Takeaway tip: Try incorporating sprint intervals or short bursts of burpees (à la Tabata) into your cardio and strength routines. Same goes for your elliptical or pool workouts if your joints don't enjoy high impact.

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    Set Clear Goals—Then Track Your Progress

    When you're going solo instead of attending classes, it's often hard to stay motivated or give yourself props for your hard work. Grab a journal or track online, "then revisit the same workout in 12 weeks, doing it exactly the same way, to see if your time has improved," says Abi Reiland, trainer at CrossFit 8035 in Des Moines, Iowa. "Doing something measurable is key to stay inspired along the way."

    Takeway tip: Try this workout: Run 1 1/2 miles, do 150 burpees, and run 1 1/2 miles. Record your time and try to better in three months.

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    Dip It Low

    Aim for full range of motion when your muscles and joints can handle it. "If your arms bend, they then need to straighten. If your knees and hips bring your butt close to the ground, they should open all the way up as you stand," Reiland says. "When you see gym goers pumping out push-ups, but they're only moving up and down a couple inches, it's cheating the muscle cells and restricting development and functionality."

    Takeway tip: Performing a push-up? Lower your chest to the floor. "It's OK to drop to your knees to keep good form," Reiland says.

    Related: 7 Push-Up Mistakes You're Probably Making

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    No Gym, No Excuses

    You don't need a gym membership or fancy equipment to improve your overall strength, mobility, and wellness," Reiland says. "Basic movements like air squats and push-ups can be pieced together in simple 10- to 20-minute home workouts that scorch calories and build muscle."

    Takeaway tip: Next time you're tempted to skip your morning workout, give this speedy routine a go before hopping in the shower: 10 push-ups, 10 sit-ups, and 10 air squats; repeat that 5 times. (Then record your results.)

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    Combine Cardio and Strength

    Benchmark WODs are named after women, so you'll frequently see Angie, Diane, and Fran on the calendar if you join a box. Many require little equipment but an awesome mix of cardio and strength, which plays a huge role in fat loss and blood pressure improvement.

    Takeaway tip: Incorporate a "girl" into your gym routine at least once a week. Two of our experts' faves: Annie (50, 40, 30, 20, 10 each of double under jump ropes and sit-ups) and Angie (100 pull-ups, 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats).