In this episode we talk CrossFit Christmas gifts. What do you buy for the CrossFit enthusiast in your life? Did they just get started? Are they a firebreather? Do they WOD in the garage at home? This Christmas wish list has you covered.
Welcome to the BoxJumper Podcast! As always, I’m your host, Jean St-Amand.
Since Christmas is just around the corner, I’ve been asked by a few people – what do i get for the CrossFitter in my life? What would you get for them? What’s a good CrossFit stocking stuffer? What’s a showstopper of a gift for the CrossFitter that’s got a pretty complete gear bag? Well, I of course gave some ideas, but I also decided that would make for a decent topic for the podcast too.
So for this episode, we’ll talk about everything from stocking stuffers to big ticket items that every CrossFitter on your list would love to find under the tree. In 10 seconds, we’ll go through the BoxJumper buyer’s guide for a merry CrossFit Christmas.
Ok, with a week to go before Christmas, let’s talk about putting a bow on a box to put under the tree for someone at your box. This will be the 2018 BoxJumper CrossFitter Christmas wish list. It’s not everything I would have on my list, but it’s a list of the items I would put high on my list across 4 CrossFit categories. Let’s break them down.
CrossFit Rookie – someone who just started. They’re very new to the sport, haven’t yet invested in much of the gear. They like it but they’re not yet ready to tattoo forging fitness on their butt cheek.
CrossFit Sophomore – has some mileage in the WOD, many AMRAPS and EMOMS later… they’re drinking the koolaid and starting to think about what gear might be useful to help promote progress.
CrossFit Firebreather – well this is kinda what it sounds like. The pro. The person setting the time to beat. They’ve been doing this a while, likely have a lot of stuff but there’s always something they’d appreciate to receive for Christmas that they might not already have or might be looking to upgrade.
Garage CrossFitter – this potentially overlaps all three. This isn’t the level of experience so much as the choice of setting. You want to move some of the WOD into your garage, you’re gonna need some gear.
Ok let’s get started. Now I didn’t come up with this list on my own. I did a little informal polling of people at my gym, people at other gyms, a couple of crossfit groups on Facebook I participate in – so i crowdsourced some ideas and tried to organize them into a list i felt make sense. Take it with a grain of salt and think of it as cross training for your christmas shopping mind. If you’re buying for a crossfitter in your life, you’d be hard pressed not to find at least an item or two on this list worth throwing in your cart before checkout.
Group 1: The Rookie
When I started crossfit I didn’t have much gear. There were two reasons: one, I didn’t know what to buy. This was a new sport for me, and when I walked into the gym, I could see that people were wearing wrist wraps, some seemingly specialized shoes and clothing, but what did I know about where to start? You generally don’t walk in the gym on day one with a bag full of gear. Second, even if i had known what to buy, what to prioritize was a bit of a mystery and frankly I didn’t know if I was staying. It was still early. Now that I’ve been in the community for three years and I’ve been asked for advice on this front by many new athletes, I have a pretty good idea what to tell them. So here are some of the things as a beginner you can consider adding to your gear bag early on.
Wrist Wraps – simple, can buy them just about any serious fitness retailer, they’re inexpensive and they’re helpful. What do they do? When used correctly, they provide additional support to the wrist joint when it’s going to be under heavy load. It doesn’t mean you use them all the time, but when you know your wrist is going to be under maximal strain – heavy front squat, clean and jerk, snatch being examples – they can help provide support to the joint. They’re an easy and inexpensive thing to throw in your gear bag. Talk to your coach about how to put them on properly so they provide support but don’t limit the range of motion of the wrist joint. Most of the manufacturers make them in couple of different lengths while they’re usually just one width – 2.5 inches. Some attach with velcro, and some are simple fabric and wrap around the wrist and tuck in the ends to lock on. Lifters will generally develop a preference over time, but the velcro ones are often where athletes start because they’re quick to put on and take off.
Gymnastic Wraps – like wrist wraps, these are cheap though they’re not quite as easy to lay your hands on. These are straps that cover the palm most commonly used for gymnastic movements in which your hand position is somewhat dynamic – everything from hanging knee raises, pull-ups, toes to bar, muscle-ups. They’re normally fabric or even leather, and have a wrist cuff to keep them on while the strip that covers the palm has either two or three finger holes. They’re a line of defence against wear and tear on your hands. Not everyone likes them. I’m not a huge fan of them for my everyday workouts because I like to feel the bar in my hands. I feel like I have more control that way, even if it means I have to manage my calluses more diligently as a result. And no matter how thin they might be, a gymnastic wrap is still adding to the circumference my fingers have to cover to hang into the bar. But I do have a pair. I’ll bring them out if my hands are kind of worn and a workout with high volume gymnastic work comes up that would risk making it worse in the form of a tear. Or I’ll use them in the event that i do have a tear and I still want to workout and not make it worse. You can normally buy these online – Rogue certainly sells them, and there are many other manufacturers, including some custom wrap makers that will build them to specific measures of your palm.
Cross Training Shoes – flat bottom, little to no cushion. Reebok Nanos, and Nike MetCons were the first in this space to get serious about CrossFit but now many of the shoe manufacturers have entries in the training shoe space. What you need to know about this style of shoe is that they are Not sneakers. They are flat, low heeled, generally fairly hard soled, though they do flex like a sneaker would front to back. They don’t have cushioning system in them. That’s by design – they’re not meant for your long slow run. They’re mean to be a do-all generalist shoe. Climb a rope? Check. Jump over a box? Check. Do some lifting in the middle of a workout that involved other movements for which a lifting shoe would be a hindrance? Check. Like a running shoe is a specialized shoe for running and a lifting shoe is specialized to lifting, a trainer fills the gap in between. I put this on the rookie list because if there’s one show purchase I think a rookie might consider it’s this one. It’s not a so specialized that it would be useless to them if they decide crossfit isn’t for them. It’s a perfectly serviceable shoe for other things. But it’s also a workhorse of a shoe that would be beneficial to every workout – and importantly get the athlete out of a sneaker with cushion and give in the sides that doesn’t offer the stiff stability a rookie crossfitter needs to meet the demands of training – particularly lifting. I’d rather lift in a trainer than a sneaker – hands down. I’d rather lift in a lifter than trainer, but if i had to pick one to add to my gear bag first, it’s a trainer.
Speed Rope – a speed rope ultimately becomes a very personal preference, but you do have to start somewhere and relying on your gym to have a ton of ropes at the length you need is fine at first but this is a piece of equipment you really should have for yourself and tailored to your specific needs. Generally you want the rope passing above your head by 6-8 inches on the jump. Depending on the style of handles, that can change the length of the rope by a few inches in either direction so a decent guide is 3 feet taller that you are without cheating your real height. But as you develop skill with the rope, you may find you can get away with a little shorter and have the rope pass even closer to you as you learn to flick with your wrist and keep your arms stable and pointed downward. You want your won rope to be able to practice on your own and when you’re at the gym, to always be able to use exactly the same rope – you don’t want the rope to be a variable in learning to do double unders.
Lacross Ball – cheap, very effective. And every athlete should get some mobility equipment of their own that can fit in their gear bag and this is as portable as it gets. It’s a great tool to roll out the muscles, target a potted area and help lengthen the fibres of the muscle before and after a tough workout (and on off days too).
Foam Roller – maybe not portable but something else worth having to work on your mobility at home. Roll out large muscles and help work through range of motion issues with major joints.
Shaker Bottle – you’ll never realistically just have one. The order of the day is hydrate. You’re going to need that thing by your side from minute one in your gym so you better have one you love and for god’s sake put your name on it in giant permanent marker.
Group 2: Sophomore CrossFitter
First of all, some of the rookie items still apply here. Not everyone gets too much in the way of gear until they’re pretty committed. And some things wait just a little longer depending on the programming in your box and what you feel you would get the most benefit from.
Weight Belt – you could argue that a beginner would benefit from this one but my approach as a coach has been to recommend getting some experience before considering a weight belt. A belt introduce too early can compensate for and potentially hide bad form that can lead to problems as loading increases over time. It’s a bit like taking aspirin to mask the symptoms before something starts to hurt. If you don’t “feel” a lift fully, then how do you learn to make it the best it can be. Once you get the mechanics right, and you are consistently applying those mechanics properly, then you start adding intensity with load, speed and accessories that help promote those heavier lifts – like a weight belt. A weight belt gives your abdomen something to press against as you fill your belly with air and tighten your core to create tension on the front side of the body to mirror the structural strength you have naturally on the backside of the body in the form of your spine. When your spine is straight up and aligned, it’s damn strong. That’s why strong people can lift heavy loads above their head comfortably. But the abdomen – all due respect to the six packers out there – is still naturally soft. We fill it and hold our breath when we lift to create pressure throughout our core to support the load as we lift. The shaken up soda can effect. Add a belt to the weak side of a soda can, if there was one, and you understand what purpose the belt serves. It doesn’t support the back and much as it allows the abdomen to have something to push against and amp up its ability to contribute to the pressure we’re trying to create to support the load. A lifter with some experience can take advantage of this and make progress with the help of this tool far more effectively and safely than a rookie. Once again, size, width and closure style become a point of preference for the athlete – but you have to start somewhere. Generally in crossfit, we lift for multiple reps at a time, so a leather belt, which is great for one rep max, may not be the right choice. Nylon or other materials will just a bit of give are a good place to start.
Knee Sleeves – the reason for making this a sophomore choice is similar to the weight belt. You want knee sleeves as a support not as a crutch or to mask a knee joint deficiency. There are different types of knee sleeves and they serve different purposes, so you have to be clear what your objectives are and that sometimes take a little time to shake out as well. Some are for warmth and a bit of compression, like cloth sleeves. Neoprene sleeves are available at multiple thicknesses – the thin ones allow for more movement but provide less compression or support, while thicker ones offer a lot of support and compression but are very warm to wear. Neoprene is a common multifunctional sleeve for a crossfitter to wear – a little protection, a little support for lifts but not so much to get in the way of a body weight workout with a lot of squatting. And knee wraps are commonly worn for performance lifting and offer considerable compression. Of the weights commonly available in neoprene varieties, I usually tell athletes to start in the middle, in around 5mm. They’re often happy staying there.
Lifters – by now, you may have a trainer shoe. It’s fine and dandy but now you want to take it to the next level when you’re doing some serious lifting. A proper olympic weightlifting shoe is what you’re after. Why? There’s a few features that come into play. They have a raised heel which allows you to squat just a bit deeper with just bit of additional ankle range of motion. The have a rigid undersole and quite a bit of firm support around the edges and top of the shoe – if a running sneaker is a pillow, and a trainer is a board, a weightlifting shoe is a cinderblock. It gives you a rock solid stable foundation for your lifts. That’s it’s sole purpose. You’re not going to use it for anything else. Which is why in terms of priority – at least as a crossfitter – I put this in the next but not first to buy. You’ll use them, but expect them not to get nearly the same kind of mileage as your trainers.
Callus Shaver – nobody likes to talk about it, but once you’ve done pull-ups and barbell work for a while, you calluses are gonna start to develop. It’s good. you need them, but you don’t want to them getting out of control. Why? It’s not just because your handshake starts to creep people out, it’s because your next trip to the pull-up bar or the barbell may result in a tear. And a tear isn’t a right of passage it’s a hindrance to your training to be avoided at all costs. Tears are painful, they can take a while to heal, especially if you tear at a really inconvenient crease in your hand, and while you’re waiting for it to heal and Not doing pull-ups and barbell lifts, your classmates are getting stronger. By now, you know that isn’t going to fly. So why risk it? Get a callus shaver and take the top several layers of those puppies off and pumice stone the edges so you don’t leave yourself open to those tears in the first place. They’re cheap and available in just about any cosmetics department where you find nail files and so forth.
Gymnastic Balm and/or Liquid Chalk – these are nice to haves – they’re certainly not necessary. Depending on your gym – not every gym has a liberal chalk as much as you want policy. But these are two things I have in my bag that I appreciate when it comes up. First, gymnastic balm is to your hands what lip balm is to your lips. It hydrates and moisturizes and therein helps sooth and protect against tearing. It tends to be a little greasy so it’s absolutely not a pre-workout treatment. Liquid chalk is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of living in a cloud of white dust that gets everywhere, you apply a little of this liquid to your hands and spread it where you need it and your hands feel dry and tacky – ideal for no-mess pull-ups.
Shin Covers – either in the form of long socks or honest to god shin guards, these are great for deadlifts, box jumps and rope climbs. Be prepared for how warm the extra leg covering will make you in the heat of a WOD, but if they save you taking the skin off your shins, you’ll appreciate you had them on.
Lifting Tape – this is different than athletic tape. It’s about an inch or more wide, breathable, flexible and stretchy and different brands have different levels of stickiness. But wrap this stuff around your thumb for your next heavy snatch session and you’ll wonder how you went without before. It really does offer some comfort to the inner edge of your thumb for that lift. You can use it for other lifts as well, but that’s when you’ll really appreciate it. Brands like Genie Tape and Monkey Tape are two of my favourites.
Group 3: The Firebreather
Weighted Vest – in a word: Murph. If you’ve been at the CrossFit game a while, you’ve got most of the gear you need no matter what comes up in the WOD, one of the things you might consider having for yourself is a weighted vest. Lots of options. Some use sandbags (but these tend to be fairly bulky so be prepared it you intend to do pushups or bar muscle-ups in them)
Lifting Straps – when you’re going for a max lift, particularly deadlift, and you want to supplement your already ferocious kung-fu grip, lifting straps anchor your grip to the bar. I think of these as being a pretty advanced training aide myself and I don’t recommend them for anyone without considerable experience. Beauty is, they’re cheap as dirt and lots of performance sports equipment stores that cater to the gym around carry them.
TENS Machine – you could absolutely use a TENS machine before becoming a firebreather. I just think of fire breathers being the ones that benefit from them the most and talk about using them. What is it? A transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator – a pair of sticky pads per target location attach to the skins over a muscle and a mild current passes from one pad to the other in a pattern to elicit a response from the muscle. It can be used as a mild form of massage, for example. It can help relieve muscle aches and pains. Generally the electrical current promotes a small amount of contraction in the muscle – sometimes small enough to feel like a light buzzing in the muscle, while other times the muscle will contract more substantially. The patterns of current that go through the pads are determined by a control unit that the pads are connected to. Physiotherapists often use TENS machines with their patients, but there are models of these machines the are available to anyone to buy. Firebreathers may be the ones benefitting from this kind of device more frequently simply because they might workout to a level that would benefit from this type of muscle therapy – but really anyone could use a machine like this following a tough week of workouts.
Group 4: The Garage Crossfitter
Some actual gear to add to your garage workout environment:
Moderate Kettlebell – versatile
Heavy Kettlebell – a bit more specialized but allows you to progress on strength
Same thing on the dumbbell front.
Medball – all you need is a wall high enough and you can be doing Karen at home, outside or just maybe inside.
Pull-up Bar – I know they sell door mounted pull-up bars, but unless you get the new Rogue one that has a strong support plate that gets bolted into the studs above the door, a door mounted one is only going to get you to strict pull-ups. Which is great – don’t get me wrong, but when you’re looking to get the best bang for your buck for your home gym, you want something that isn’t a one trick pony. So some form of wall-mounted seriously strong pull-up system is best.
Rings – either for dips or if you have a high enough ceiling and a joist to attach them to, ring gymnastic work.
Barbell and Some Plates – when you want to bring some lifting home, you can’t go wrong with a barbell and some plates. Unless you’re getting petty serious, you don’t need a lot of weight for this to be a useful purchase. A nice barbell will set you back a couple hundred bucks. Plates are often anywhere from 1.50 to 3.00 per pound, so be prepare for it to cost you a bit if you want to have much weight. But think about what you want the bar at home for. Are you going to be one rep maxing at home? Or are you going to be perfecting your form, working on your stability or practicing your cycling? There is tremendous value in prioritizing the latter, and when you do, the gains you’ll see under load in the gym will be noticeable.
Squat Rack or Rig – folding or fixed, variable depths and heights to meet your space needs. I have a 12 foot rig in my garage – I have 14 foot ceilings so I was able to get away with it – and I love having the ability to work on all the amazing things that brings with it – pull-up bar built in, I threw some rings on it for dips, I have a rope attachment, a wall ball target – it’s a pretty great multi-function platform and they’re not, in the grand scheme of things, terribly expensive. You can generally get started with a home squat rack or rig in the $400 range. Your last phone probably cost you twice that. Just something to think about.
There you have it. That’s the 2018 BoxJumper CrossFitter Christmas wish list. Are there items you think I missed? I bet there is. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and set me straight and tell me why you think something you thought of should have been on my list. But be kind – it’s not like i didn’t think of many more to include but did you really want this episode to be Lord of the Rings long?
Christmas is just a week away so you don’t have long to add items to your cart for the CrossFitter in your life. And if none of the items on my list spoke to you, well the next best thing I’m sure would be a gift certificate for their Box. I’m sure they’ll spend it wisely at the affiliate they call home.
Please subscribe on your favourite podcasting platform so you get upcoming episodes automatically as I’m joined by more guests to talk about fitness and health.
If you liked this episode, please write a review on iTunes – ratings and especially reviews help others find the podcast and let them know what to expect and why they too might like it.
Thanks for tuning in. My interviews with interesting folks from the fitness world have been coming fast and furious so there’s more episodes to come soon. Until then, stay healthy, WOD happy and WOD often.