1. Look for a tailored workout.
Most CrossFit gyms, called boxes, post their workouts online, providing a window into how their trainers think. Look for one that offers two or three different daily workouts (WODs) for different skill levels. It shows that its coaches care about adjusting to individual abilities.
2. Pick a coach who teaches.
Before each workout, a good coach should clearly explain the movements and take the class through slow-motion practice, ensuring everyone has the basic idea and competency. "It's natural to feel overwhelmed, but you shouldn't feel like you're being left in the dust," says Brooklyn coach David Osorio.
3. Check your ego.
Master your form first, using lighter weights at a slower speed. Heavier loads and greater speed will come later. The end goal is to get fit, not to win a workout. "It should feel uncomfortable but sustainable," says Osorio.
4. Don't skip what you're bad at.
The best protection against injury is to make sure you are uniformly strong. Whether it's cardio, pull-ups, or squats, "chase your weakness. Get good at the things you suck at," says Osorio. But don't hesitate to modify a high-impact movement that could exacerbate a chronic problem. If you have, say, ankle issues, swap high-box jumps for stepping up and down.
5. Don't ignore the small pains.
Because they tend to stem from technique problems, minor tweaks and pulls are often a prelude to a bigger injury, says L.A. trainer Andy Petranek. Common offenders include box jumps, which put your full weight on the Achilles tendon, and maneuvers involving coordinated joint movements, like sumo dead-lift high-pulls.
6. Keep your focus.
During a tough workout, CrossFitters reach what's known as the "mess you up" moment – when the heart pounds and muscles tremble and going forward seems impossible. Don't quit, but don't get sloppy. Just focus on the next rep. "It shouldn't become a blur," says Osorio.
7. Settle for second best.
Striving for new personal bests, a key motivator for many CrossFitters, is a leading cause of injury. Dusty Hyland, co-owner of Culver City-based DogTown CrossFit, coaches his veteran clients to attempt personal bests no more than once every four to six weeks.