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Proper Recovery, Why It’s Necessary

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It’s just another day at Crossfit Liberate. You arrive for your hour-long class a little early to get some extra stretching in. Class begins and you listen as Head Coach Ellie goes through the warm up and preps the class for the workout. You add your workout weight to the barbell, ensuring you’ve got plenty of space and all the equipment you need. Then the timer goes off – 3, 2, 1 GO! And just like every time you step into the gym, you push your body to the max. 

You may have completed five rounds of 20 wall balls, lifted four sets of heavy power cleans, swung the kettlebell bell for 100 repetitions, or box jumped for what seemed like eternity. But what you may not be thinking about through all of the workout madness is one of the most important parts of being an athlete: The aftermath and how you’ll be recovering from the intense workout you’ve just completed. 

In fact, according to the experts, the better we’re recovering from these workouts, the more we can get out of our training and the more progress we can make as an overall athlete. So, for this month’s blog, we’re going to review some of the simplest and most effective ways that you can help your body properly recover from an intense, Crossfit workout. 

Water, Water and More Water 

When we workout, we sweat. And when we sweat, our body loses its storage of water. So, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that proper hydration is important for recovery. Truthfully, it’s pretty important for basic, day-to-day life. 

Maintaining good hydration ensures our cardiovascular system is functioning at maximum capacity. As our body is made mostly of water, good hydration will also contribute to the repair and growth of cells. 

So what’s one really easy way to ensure proper recovery, especially as we approach these hot, summer months? Drink plenty of water! 

Take Care of Your Nutrition 

Most CrossFit athletes understand the importance of post-workout nutrition – that’s why there are so many people walking around, drenched in sweat and drinking a protein shake! Talk to any experienced dietitian or nutritionist and I’m sure they’ll tell you that food is a big piece of recovery (not to mention your overall health). 

For starters, let’s talk about protein. It’s not only essential for recovery after an intense training day, as it refuels the body, but it’s also a great way to help our muscles get bigger and stronger. Out of the many options of protein out there, the experts recommend lean protein as a great option. And let’s face it, most of us could probably benefit from increasing our intake of lean protein. 

In addition to protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals are also important recovery tools. Consuming quality carbohydrates as soon as possible after training is a great addition to your recovery routine. And other vitamins and minerals are essential for the proper functioning of our cells and muscles. It’s important that we eat a balanced diet that includes healthy sources of fats.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the food consumed before your workout can play a key role in your performance and your recovery. If you’re unsure where to start from a nutrition standpoint or you’d just like to pick the brain of an expert, Crossfit Liberate is lucky to have the support of Registered Dietitian Jennifer Price. You can schedule a time to meet with Jennifer through MINDBODY or by speaking to someone on Liberate staff. 

Make Time for Active Recovery 

We’ve all seen them: The athletes who walk straight into the turf room right after a grueling workout, grab a foam roller or a resistance band and get to work. Well, as the old saying goes, if you can’t beat, join them! And from a recovery standpoint, actively stretching – or active recovery – is a great idea if you’re looking to properly recover after a tough workout.

In fact, the fitness experts and professional athletes out there agree that properly stretching those tired, exhausted muscles can not only jump-start the recovery process, but it can also help build the flexibility that allows for your body to gain more muscle – a win-win. 

When we workout, our muscles become tight and restrictive, and those tight muscles can lead to injuries. By maintaining good tissue length and joint mobility, however, we can ensure good functional movement (and adequate recovery). 

One simple active recovery option is foam rolling. It’s probably the most popular, and it’s a cheap and accessible way to smash out any of those tight spots and knots in your muscles. Stretching and mobility exercises are also easy ways to work through those tight muscles – if you need some suggestions, check out last month’s blog post (Mobility: Why You Need To Do It In Crossfit). 

It’s Okay to Take a Rest Day 

Muscles that have been torn down by extensive work need a few days every week to repair themselves. And experts agree that the professional athlete standard of no rest days or only one day off per week isn’t always enough recovery from the Crossfit training sessions we’re doing. Instead, we should be aiming for two or three days off per week from all intense exercise.

Although it’s essential, rest days are often unfortunately overlooked. In the early days of CrossFit, most athletes followed a three-day-on, one-day-off, two-day-on workout schedule. That usually meant working out Monday through Wednesday, taking Thursday as an active recovery or rest day, and then finishing the week with a workout on Friday and/or Saturday. 

This norm is still pretty common. It’s often why you may see less people around Crossfit Liberate on Thursdays and why Comptrain, the company that programs our gym’s workouts, typically has longer, recovery workouts scheduled each week on Thursdays. 

Regardless of when it’s done, our rest days are when real progress is made. Without rest, we will never truly recover physically or mentally, which makes good quality rest by far the most important part of the recovery process.

If you’re just itching to do something on a rest day, think about adding in some leisure exercise, like mobility stretches, a yoga class or maybe a nice walk around the neighborhood. But most importantly, make sure you’re giving your body some much-needed time off and help yourself re-energize for the week (or workout) ahead.

Get Some Good Sleep 

Have you ever heard of the saying “Train like a lion, sleep like a baby?” Well, this applies to Crossfit athletes too. And the right amount of sleep can make the world of a difference for your recovery. 

Of course, the “right” amount of sleep typically varies from one individual to the next. But regardless of how much your body needs, it’s simply important to ensure to get adequate sleep. Sleep is a natural process with remarkable benefits for the human body. It helps to recover your muscles, it consolidates learning and memorizing, and also helps manage stress and emotions. 

Find Your Own Tools for Recovery 

Understanding what you are trying to achieve with recovery can help it to be much more effective. This blog is just a glimpse into the many different methods available out there for recovery.

Of course, not all of these recovery tools are always practical given our busy schedules and lifestyle. But by understanding what you need and want to achieve, you can make it more effective.