The Importance of Recovery: Are you Thriving or Surviving?

You have probably heard of the phrase over-training right? Some people think there is no such thing, but if you never rest, how do you recover? Recovery is an area that can often be overlooked in terms of its importance in making progress....especially in Crossfit!

ARE YOUR THRIVING OR SURVIVING?

Undoubtedly there are going to be sessions where you feel less than 100%. But this shouldn’t be a regular occurrence. Ask yourself these few questions:

  • Do you feel like you need a stimulant (coffee or pre-workout) to get you through your session?
  • Are you excited to train?
  • When was the last time you trained without any muscle soreness?
  • Are you improving as an athlete? More weight on the bar, better WOD times or PR’s?

Training should be enjoyable, you should be making progress (no matter what area) and you shouldn’t need “a boost” to get you through. Some muscle soreness is inevitable but training through pain won’t allow your body to grow and regenerate.

female crossfitter ring muscle up eating right importance of recovery
Eat right, perform well

Now ask yourself these questions about things outside of the gym

  • Are you sleeping well? Are you falling asleep quickly, staying asleep and waking feeling refreshed?
  • Are you performing well at your job?
  • Is your family / social life negatively affecting by your training?
  • How many times have you been ill in the past 3 months?

Life outside of the gym is often an area that is overlooked when talking about performance. Everyone talks about how much they snatched or how they smashed a hero workout. The gym is maybe 4-8 hours of your week? How about the other 160? If the negative aspects of training start to become a regular occurrence then you need to listen to your body. Lets identify some strategies to help guide you on improving your recovery.

CONSTANTLY VARIED

This is an essential part of Crossfit. Everyone loves chucking some heavy weight around but mixing up your sessions and including some ‘active recovery’ can help. I am not saying that you need to stop going to the gym but maybe talk to your coach and mix things up. Do some low intensity mobility or skill work.

NUTRITION

Nutrition can be a double edged sword. Get it right and you can accelerate your recovery allowing you to train more often and at a higher intensity – boom…more gainz – or it can prevent you from ever reaching your goals. Remember everything you eat is either taking you closer to your goals or moving you further away. Number one thing to do – FIND OUT WHAT WORKS FOR YOU. This is essential. Protein porridge is my go to breakfast but for some of my clients it makes them feel bloated. Don’t follow someone else’s plan – evolve your own.

nutritional principles fruit veg wooden table importance of recovery
fruits and vegetables are essential for a healthy diet

‘Some simple advice that you can follow is keep protein intake consistent, increase carbohydrates on training days and increase fats on non training days. Carbohydrates to replenish muscle and liver glycogen, fats to help cellular regeneration and lower muscle soreness.’

For further info check out these articles on 5 world class basics of CrossFit nutrition, 10 superfoods for CrossFittersNutrition for morning training & Nutrition for evening training.

MUSCLE SORENESS

Feel like you need some rope to get out of your chair or go down stairs? Muscle soreness is something that everyone has experienced. It is not conditionally essential for making gainz but a little is always good to know that you are constantly trying to improve.

If you keep training even when sore you do not allow the muscle cells to repair. If you do not allow for this regeneration you can become that person who trains everyday but doesn’t get any better…you know that person? Is that person you? This can be due to not allowing for any growth and repair. If you have to go to the gym or train everyday then speak to your coach and mix things up. For example do some strict upper body work if you have smashed your legs the day before. Although I would recommend taking a day off and do something outside the gym that you enjoy. This will help you to come back thriving, wanting to train hard, opposed to just surviving the session and slogging through.

NERVOUS SYSTEM

Understanding how the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) work in unison will help with improving your recovery.

The SNS is the “fight or flight” system and is catabolic. It mobilises the body’s resources to deal with stressful situations. The PNS is anabolic and helps the body rest, digest and recover.  What we would like is to spend the majority of time in the PNS, ideally only using the SNS for true life-threatening emergencies (and some Crossfit). However, the body interprets all stress (mental and physical) as a reason to activate the SNS.  If we continually bombard the body, pushing it to become SNS dominant we are not allowing for growth, repair and regeneration. Our environment outside of the gym can be a huge contributor to this. It is imperative you try to strike a balance – work hard, play hard but structure in some down time. Low intensity activities that you derive real pleasure from. This will shift the body to a more PNS dominant state.

male crossfitter lifting well importance of recovery
A healthy Athlete = better performances

THE IMPORTANCE OF RECOVERY

If the questions above highlighted some negative issues then you need to start being more aware of your recovery strategies. As with anything you can’t expect to just ‘wing it’ and achieve great results. There needs to be some structure.


female crossfitter ring muscle up eating right importance of recovery © Stevie D Photography

nutritional principles fruit veg wooden table importance of recovery ©

male crossfitter lifting well importance of recovery © RX'd Photography

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About The Author

I am a performance nutritionist with over 9 years experience working in elite sport. My experience ranges from working with elite footballers, CrossFit athletes and power lifters to helping the general public reach their goals through nutrition coaching. Greg Glassman put nutrition at the base of the CrossFit pyramid, this shows you how important nutrition is!

Having originally trained in Sports Therapy, I completed an MSc in Exercise and ...

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