Thursday, October 6, 2011

Recovery Pt. III - Rest

I'm kind of going out of order today, as I felt like this topic should cap the whole recovery series (there are still several editions to come), but it's too appropriate, as I've opted to take a rest day after three days in a row of hardcore WODs.  It's 8:30 AM and I'm already feeling the benefits of rest...a bit of a tingle body-wide as my muscles reset themseves from three days of all-out explosive power output.  It is truly amazing that what amounts to an hour of work among the three days has put my body in a state of necessary rest, to stave off potential over-training and/or injury.

Embarrasingly enough my decision to rest was guided by the choice of upcoming WODs today and tomorrow, more than the absolute need to rest that I'm now recognizing and embracing.  Today's WOD amounted to 250 air squats and 500 rope jumps.  But tomorrow is ten rounds of Cindy, with a Clean & Jerk added to the beginning of each round.  Now THAT's what I'm talkin about.  Not to take away from the training benefits of today's WOD but anytime I can combine a cool lift like the clean & jerk with a benchmark like Cindy, SIGN ME UP!

Anyway...back to rest.  In no way does "rest" suggest taking out the daily routines that maintain and support your body.  Ideal nutrition, sufficient protein, electrolyte maintenance (more on this very soon!), icing muscles, stretching & mobility work, foam rolling, good posture and of course adequate sleep...  All of these elements combine to provide your body with a collective rest...truly an abbreviation for the restoration that you're providing your body in the wake of the blaring intensity of Crossfit.

I read a brilliant blog article about the stages of Crossfit which addresses the absolute WOD addiction that kicks in.  Earlier this year I couldn't imagine doing 4-5 days a week, especially in a row.  But I've put a few 5-day weeks behind me in recent months. Often those result in a pretty poor performance on the Friday, as the aggregate effects of days 1-4 just do not allow for the same strength and explosive performance that your average WOD requires.  So I've learned to balance out my need to get to the gym with the recognition of my body's need to rest.  Take last week for instance...
Last week was probably the most demanding week of Crossfit I've ever experienced.  Monday was Fran, Tuesday was 75 handstand pushups & 150 walking lunges, Wednesday was Helen, Thursday Crossfit Total, and Friday Filthy 50. So when would YOU rest? It shook me to the core, and I was in disbelief as I decided, but I knew that even if I powered through and showed up for the Crossfit Total I would not have come close to hitting a PR, and that's really the essence of that WOD.  Right now my Total is 890, but with the strides I've made in recent months it's realistic that on a good, strong day I can get my Total toward 1000.  But I knew it was time to rest.  And because I did I was able to PR my Filthy 50 on Friday by over 4 minutes.

And by no means should rest always take the form of sleep or relaxation.  Get out and ride your bike.  Play with your kids / friends / family.  Go out for a walk or a jog.  There are thousands of articles on active recovery, and many interviews with Crossfitters about "applying your fitness".  These are huge things to consider when making the most of your rest.  So don't think of this as boring or something to avoid.  Make it the rewarding, fun part of the process that it is.  Eventually you'll look forward to it as much as the WODs.

So the moral of this story is that we are in this for the long haul.  It's just another WOD.  Crossfit is a lifelong pursuit.  Balance in your training is as important as balance in everything else in life.  Rest is as necessary as hitting a PR on your back squat or improving your Fran time.  You must give your body what it needs in order to live to fight another day with every ounce of the fight that is in you.  Glassman was onto something when he came up with the 3 on 1 off concept.  There is profound truth in it, and while only you will know when you can push that envelope, sufficient rest needs to have a place in your training if you're going to be successful in the long run.

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