Questions for Chris – DOMS and muscle soreness

“I heat up, the ice cubes. It’s the best of both worlds!”

Q: Hi Chris – certain wods seem to cause an unusually high amount of soreness afterwards (Nicole and arm/back issues for example). What do you think are the WODs to watch out for and what can you do (stretching, nutrition, icing etc) to minimize the pain and speed recovery. Thanks, Sam B.

A: Sam, great question! At first, folks who start CrossFit with no recent physical exertion will be sore no matter what. This makes sense. This transition period might be a few weeks or even a few months before one’s body will adapt and recover quicker. But what about people who have CrossFitting for awhile? Some workouts you can walk away from a bit winded or even muscles on fire, but the next day you’re fine. Other workouts, you feel that DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) 24-48 hours later and it’s painful to even raise your arm to put on a shirt. The soreness is going to occur from tears in the muscle tissue from eccentric movement. Eccentric (vs. concentric) is the lengthening of the muscle fiber, usually by lowering the body in a controlled manner. Let’s take Nicole for instance. In 20 minutes, run 400m and do max rep pull ups (every time you drop from the bar, run the next 400m and go for another max pull ups). Here you are working your body in an eccentric manner (pull ups) to the point of literally falling off the bar. It seems that WODs with eccentric movements plus max repetitions are the usual suspects for DOMS. (max pull ups, max back squats)

Now what can you do to remedy muscle soreness? Reduce inflammation and promote healing. 

Sam, you’re spot on when you say that nutrition plays a big part in recovery. There is no surprise here: stay away from inflammatory foods aka grains and dairy for most/all folks and heavy omega-6 fats like olive oil and nuts/seeds for folks with their nutrition relatively dialed in. Depending on your goals, you may also consider a post WOD snack or meal. Foods with good omega-3 fatty acids (grass-fed beef, fish, etc) will keep inflammation down.

Immediately after the workout, cool down by stretching and massaging the affected muscles. Invest in a good, high density foam roller and/or The Stick. Once you get home get in a cold shower, bath, or if you’re brave enough, ice bath. This will reduce inflammation in the most effective way.

TIP: You can also combine ice and massage by freezing water in little dixie cups. Once frozen, peel away some paper and use the ice to rub any particularly sore spots. “It’s the best of both worlds!”

DO NOT rely on NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen. Although these reduce inflammation, taking them regularly and relying on them can contribute to making tendons and ligaments weaker. Check out this sweet link from CF San Francisco about NSAIDs. Also, things like IcyHot or Bengay may feel like you’re getting that contrasting heat/cold, but they are nowhere near effective as actual contrast showers/baths.

Over the next days, be sure to:
– foam roll/massage
– stretch
– hydrate to promote blood flow
– take contrast showers/baths (the heat will promote blood flow to heal, the cold will reduce inflammation)
– sleep (this is huge as the body uses sleep as a way and time to heal)

*supplements that may help reduce inflammation and muscle soreness include fish oil, L-glutamine, protein powder, BCAA’s (branch chained amino acids), etc. However, don’t take them just to take them. Do your research and see if these supplements are right for you. For instance, if you are reactive to dairy like I am, taking protein powder is probably not a good idea. Here is my post on fish oil and here’s a CF discussion thread on BCAA’s/whey protein. At the end of the day, you can obtain the same benefits from eating real food, but supplements offer concentrated doses of the “good stuff.”

Following these steps will not give you a total cure for muscle soreness, but it will definitely help. I also find that doing a light or scaled workout will help promote blood flow and recovery. A half hour walk, a light jog, some double unders, etc. After the first few minutes of “ugh, I can’t move anything” most folks feel better and looser. Just remember that the adaptation your body will go through is worth being stronger and faster in the long run.

Do you have any tips for promoting healing and reducing muscle soreness?

Quick Meal: Sausage, Peppers, and Onions

bringing out the Jersey Shore in everyone
“I can’t cook.” “I don’t know what to cook.” “What do I make for dinner?” 

Sound familiar? If you’ve ever uttered these words, here’s a really quick and easy recipe to make for dinner and have leftovers for lunches. Get some Italian sausage (1-2 lbs. spicy, sweet, whatever fits your fancy) and fry it up in a pan. Once they are starting to turn brown, add cut up onions (1 large) and peppers (2 bell peppers). Done and done! This is a great format for those of you coming home late from work, the gym, etc. Fry up some meat, add some veggies and BOOM, you have dinner and lunch for the next day.

What are some super easy recipes you’ve used in the past?

Thoughts on CrossFit Open Sectionals WOD #11.6

In 7 minutes, complete:

3 thrusters, 100#/65#
3 chest to bar pull ups
6 thrusters
6 c2b pull ups
9 thrusters
9 c2b pull ups
This workout is an AMRAP of sorts. You basically continue up the ladder until 7 minutes is over. Or, as Tony Budding puts it in the video explanation “the workout never ends.” OOF!
Some people may call this Fran, (21-15-9 thrusters and pull ups); actually it’s anything but Fran. Thrusters for men are 5# heavier and chest to bar adds a completely different element to the workout. Also, the repetitions are a ladder UP, not down. In addition, it’s a time priority workout (time is constant, amount of work done is up to you) vs. Fran which is a task-priority workout (amount of work is constant, time is up to you). 

Make sure your lats and overhead position (thoracic spine) are in check. Get that foam roller and work your upper back and lats. Then get a lacrosse ball or tennis ball and roll on that for a bit. Good overhead position is going to help you not get a “no rep” for locking out overhead in the thruster. Working the lats will also help with the front rack position so you’re not holding that bar with only your arms. Speaking of thruster, let’s focus on your squat. Open that hip capsule with the foam and ball and then get yourself up against a wall in a squat 90 degrees (lay on the floor, butt up against a wall and pretend the wall is the floor in a squat).

Barbell must start on the ground, no racks. You MAY squat clean it and you should. From the bottom you should go into a steady, but rhythmic set of thrusters. At the top of the thruster, be sure to get that bar over the heels. It is not enough to just get the head through the arms as is the case in other standards. In going fast, judges must be sure the arms are completely locked out at the top as it is easy to move quickly and not fully extend those elbows. At the bottom, hips must be below knees, aka below parallel. Try your best to hang on to these reps and not drop the bar; dropping will cost you precious seconds in this short workout. Thrusters take a lot out of people, so these will get heavy and breathing will get hard.

For those that may not know, a chest to bar pull up is where you pull violently and touch your chest to the pull up bar. Anything below the clavicle will count in this case, but it MUST touch. Judging will be tough for this, especially if the athlete is wearing a loose shirt. Judges will have to hold onto the attached pull up bar and feel the vibration from contact; as an athlete, make it easy for the judge to count, don’t come close and cause them to have doubt (again, nothing worse than a missed rep even if you know it touched) By adding chest to bar, many people with butterfly pull ups will need to revert back to kipping. Those that have butterfly chest to bar will prevail over those that don’t, simply by the fact that it takes less time to cycle through pull ups butterfly style. If you have butteflies, (not the nervous kind, the pull up kind) but are not confident in your butterfly c2b, stick with kipping. Better to stay in rhythm and lose a second or two rather than lose your rhythm and having to drop from the bar to reset. If you don’t have chest to bar at all, get that big kip going and pull with all your might! 
7 minutes is not a lot of time. However, doing these two movements may make it feel like a long time. You want to move consistently and steadily. The trick here will be to get through the 3s, 6s, and 9s and then focus on not breaking the remaining thrusters. (this number may be less or more for you, depending on strength and lungs) If you do feel the need to drop the bar, try to instead rest in the front rack position standing up. From here, take a couple of breaths, front squat, and go into the next thruster. This is a way to rest while keeping the bar up off the ground. (High elbows help in the top position!) 
For pull ups, make every rep count. Again, a missed rep takes just about as energy as a true c2b, so try not to waste that energy. For those with weaker pull ups, come off the bar and reset yourself, then get on and get a big kip going. The more efficient you are at kipping, (tight, hollow gymnastic body instead of loose, flailing spastic one) the better you’ll be in the long run.
GRIP will be a huge factor in this workout. You should know this if you’ve ever done regular Fran. Be prepared from some tight forearms. This might be a reason to go into that front rack position for just a beat.
The best in the world can do Fran in sub 2 minutes; c2b Fran in under 3 minutes. Knowing this, combined with the fact that the ladder for this WOD is going UP, makes me think that top athletes will get around 180+ repetitions. Athletes will score themselves as having 0 rounds and a total amount of reps. Below, I added each round after each thruster and pull up.  “3s” means the round of 3s. The first number is the total after completed thrusters, the second number is total after completed pull ups. (assuming you complete each part of that round)
If someone reaches 180 repetitions, they would have done the same amount of reps as a double Fran (which is a total of 90 reps). This will have the person doing the first 12 thrusters in the round of 24. Do I think it’s possible for someone out there to get into the pull ups of that round? Yes. We’ve seen some really amazing performances (at least on the scoreboard) and seeing videos of some of these guys and gals doing regular Fran is scary. I haven’t predicted particular people before, but my money is on Dan Bailey out of Ohio for this one. I first saw Dan last year when I was judging Regionals and he is a monster who literally will put everything on the line for a WOD. Thrusters and c2b are right up his alley (along with most other movements). For women, I think top reps will be around 150. 
The goal of HQ was to include as many people as possible in the sectionals workouts. Over 24,000 registered which I would call a success for that goal. The pros of this format was to be as inclusive as possible and allow flexibility in getting the workout in. It also was cool to compare yourself to others around the WORLD, let alone your region. As for cons, some people would say it was too long or drawn out. I know some people’s training has suffered due to scheduling their week around the sectional WOD. I’m not sure what next year will bring, but I can imagine HQ sticking with the goal of inclusion and openness. The CF community is reliable for providing feedback, so I’m sure the higher ups are already thinking of how to proceed next year. With the popularity of CF and how much it has grown, I can see regions such as “Asia” or “Europe” expanding to have their own continental regionals. As for the US, who knows how they’ll format it. All I know is that I need to get training for next year!
UPDATE: Josh Bridges came in first with an incredible 169 reps. Want proof? Here you go:
Any advice for WOD 11.6 you have if you’ve already done the WOD or foresee anything we should keep in mind?
What are your thoughts on the entire sectional format? Like? Dislike?