Rest & Recovery by Kortney
Rest and Recovery
Looking around the box in any given class, you’ll see everybody hitting it hard during the WOD, often times training at 100% effort for five or even six days in a row. While this enthusiasm and commitment is fantastic, it’s also important to listen to your body’s cues and make sure you have programmed adequate recovery in to your training schedule. The truth is our bodies adapt and grow stronger during our rest and recovery, not during the workout. While training in the gym provides the necessary stimulus, you will only reap the benefits of big GAINZ if you are smart about recovery.
Recovery refers to more than just a “rest” day thrown in once a week, like on Sunday when the box is closed and you’re relegated to light mobilization at home and a leisurely bike ride or low intensity hike through one of Ireland’s beautiful scenic tourist spots. (Or pints at the pub–whatever.) While these rest days are important, recovery takes into account not only your training load and intensity inside the gym, but also your sleep, nutrition, and other life stressors that may be impacting your central nervous system on a day to day basis. If you notice your workouts feeling sluggish or your lifts feeling heavier than “normal”, take an honest look into your recovery. Under-recovery could be the culprit if you notice general fatigue, nagging aches and pains that don’t seem to go away, and even a slightly depressed mood expressed as a lack of enthusiasm surrounding your workouts. Of course we all have off days here and there, but if you notice your body and your mind are fighting you to complete the WOD with your usual vigor, perhaps you need to address your recovery.
First take a look into your sleep schedule. Many members regularly hit the early classes – have you made time for a proper 8 hours (or more!) of sleep each night? If you are training hard on only 5 to 6 hours of sleep a night, you are not giving your body a chance to fully recover. Sleep is when our bodies repair the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that we stress day in and day out in our workouts. Growth hormone is released during our sleep cycles to build the muscle we train so hard to attain. Inadequate sleep is also correlated to increased levels of cortisol in your body. Cortisol is a stress hormone that negatively impacts your body with inflammation and other adverse effects if elevated levels are sustained for long periods of times. Glycogen and fluids replenish in the cells during sleep as well, which will allow you to train for maximum performance when you are awake. You train hard, so make sure you sleep hard as well! Turn off the TV (there’s nothing good on, anyway) and shut off Facebook (you can catch up at work tomorrow) an hour earlier each night, and your body and mind will thank you.
Second key to adequate recovery is your diet. While nutrition is a very complex topic reaching far beyond the scope of this article, in general what you put into your body is what your body uses to rebuild and repair – if it’s lacking in any vital nutrients you’re going to struggle to get the results you desire. I’m not saying you have to go paleo or follow the Zone to 100% compliance (although, that may not be a bad idea). However, are you fueling your workouts and your recovery? Are you eating enough protein to repair your muscles? Your muscles need essential amino acids from protein that you eat in order to grow. A very general rule of thumb is try to get 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day. What about your carbohydrates? Are you eating enough to fuel the tough workouts you encounter day in and day out? Low-carb diets work for some people, and they become fat adapted – ie. they can efficiently use fat as an energy source rather than carbs. But if you notice you’re struggling through a brain fog to complete a torturous workout and you’ve only had 20 grams of carbs a day for the past month, perhaps you should rethink the low-carb approach, it may not be for you. Carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy for the muscles and the brain. Do not fear them, eat them! Sweet potatoes are a great nutrient dense source for carbs and fit well into the paleo diet if you are avoiding grains. Also, the insulin response from eating carbs helps deliver nutrients into your cells, so that post-WOD protein shake will be best utilized if coupled with some quick absorbing carbohydrates. And, are you getting enough healthy fats — coconut oil, nuts, avocados, olive oil, fish oils? Are you supplementing omega-3s to keep inflammation down? How are the micronutrients in your diet? Have you been hitting the rainbow of fruits and vegetables? (Potatoes and sweet corn don’t count–although, they may have their place in a healthy diet.) Be sure to pick up something green, too. Try kale, spinach, or broccoli. Bubblicity drinks are a great way to get your veggies if you have a hard time stomaching them whole, and we sell Bubblicity on-site for a perfectly convenient post-recovery drink option. It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, junk in equals junk out. Take an honest look at how you are fueling, it directly impacts the quality of your training and recovery.
Finally, what other stressors are bugging you in your life? Exercise is actually a stress on the body, and our central nervous system does not discriminate between types of stressors. If work or home life has been particularly daunting, you may feel that impact inside the gym. While CrossFit is great for relieving stress and getting a nice endorphin high, it is still technically a stressor to the central nervous system – and if your CNS is already overloaded with other life-related worries, you may need to factor in more recovery time. Again, stress leads to elevated cortisol levels which interfere with the body’s natural recovery methods. So if you’re having a particularly stressful week at work, you may find your mind and body depleted, and it may not be the best time to max out on your squats or attempt the advanced RX version of the WOD. Still get your WOD on, but be mindful of your body’s cues, and don’t be afraid to scale appropriately.
At the end of the day, be smart about training. Do your best to optimize your recovery outside the box, and you will see performance gains inside the box. Eat, sleep, and be merry (i.e. relax and have fun) – and trust that your brain and your body know when you need to ease up for a workout or *gasp* take an extra rest day. Grinding through workouts day after day when you are under-recovered is a sure fire way to injury. We’re not all Rich Froning or genetically blessed to beat our bodies down constantly with little to no time off. Everybody is different, some people can handle higher loads and less recovery than others—it’s very individual. Just remember, if you want the big GAINZ you’d better not under-recover.