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Optimizing Recovery

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by Taylor Gerlach

Whether you’ve reached the halfway point of the 2021 CrossFit Games Open or just logged another week in the gym, let’s take some time to focus on recovery.

By creating some intentional practices, we can help our bodies recover faster and more fully to help prevent injury, reduce soreness, and have the energy to crush the next workout with intensity.

This week, I spoke with some amazing, knowledgeable people in our CFL community to hear what their top tips for recovery would be. Sara Sheridan (CFL’s On-Staff Registered Dietitian), Bobby Hines (Physical Therapist at Horizon Physical Therapy), and Dustin Valenta (CFL’s Yoga and stretching guru) are here to share the ways you can feel and perform your best.

5 ways to optimize recovery: 

Give your body the time and resources it needs. 
Recovery is simply giving your body the best chance to heal, recharge, and recalibrate. We have a couple natural processes that do that for us if we allow it. We have to allow muscles, the central nervous system, and energy sources time to replenish.

Check-in and fuel your body adequately
Make sure to eat a meal or snack with protein and carbs within an hour or so of working out. Outside of that window, make sure you’re eating enough over the course of the day as well. Carb, fat, and protein needs vary from person to person, but adequate carb intake is super important for CrossFit athletes.

To test if you’re eating enough throughout the day, listen to your body. Are you going to bed hungry or waking up in the middle of the night hungry? Are you having crazy intense food cravings? (Usually constantly craving sweets means you could likely stand to eat more carbs/food in general) Do you have mood or hunger swings throughout the day? Do you constantly feel like you’re hitting a wall during workouts, feel dizzy frequently, or get injured a lot? If so, start to eat more throughout the day.

Shoot for 8 hours of sleep if you can. Sleep is our body’s time to turn off for a bit while natural healing processes can be prioritized. This is when muscle repair, anti-inflammatory processes, and CNS recovery can happen. A brain that is well rested and communicating with your nerves well is a brain that can regulate movement better, translating to more efficient and enjoyable workouts.

Implement a wind-down stretch routine
Start a simple stretch routine that you can complete every night to release physical tension and signal to your body that it is time to calm down and rest. This could be something just 5 minutes long that you even do in bed. Some great poses and stretches to start with include wind-removing pose, lying twist, happy baby, and waterfall. You can find countless instructional videos online demonstrating how to practice these poses and start setting yourself up for success in getting more quality sleep and rest.

Utilize rest days
Be strategic with rest days, especially if you’re participating in the Open and redoing workouts each week. High-intensity workouts are taxing on our bodies. From a recovery standpoint, you don’t give yourself a fighting chance to perform at your best doing the same workout two days in a row. Recovery days are important throughout the year of course, but keep in mind how important recovery is as you test the limits of your fitness in the coming weeks of the 2021 CrossFit Open. Take at least a day or two between attempts if you’re giving these workouts multiple tries.

Generally, it’s helpful to think of the body as though it’s a bank account. Think about workouts as withdrawals. If you don’t deposit enough money (aka recovery in the form of food, sleep, mobility, stress reduction, etc), you’re not going to have any funds to draw from, and you won’t see the progress and performance you’re hoping for.

Use these tips and practices to optimize your performance any time of the year, but especially when you’re testing your fitness during The Open!