Recently, a discussion started on MyFaceSpaceBook about taking a week off from CrossFit. Some people loved it because they felt like they came back stronger, while others hated it because they were sore and winded the first day back. So what’s a CrossFitter to do when it comes to rest and recovery? For most CrossFitters, you do an ok job thinking about short term rest/recovery, but a crappy job thinking about long term rest/recovery.
First, why is rest important? Well, you don’t become stronger or faster IN the gym. Wait, what? Yes, you are lifting weights and running around like a looney tune lifting barbells and doing pull ups (kipping or butterfly most likely), but your body actually becomes stronger/faster OUTSIDE of the gym. Your body adapts to the stressor of working out and adapts to that stress. Another word for this is hormesis, and can apply to any adaptation your body makes when encountering a stress. Ever get a flu shot? That’s hormesis. A little exposure to a stress can create a positive adaptation, while an acute or prolonged stress can be detrimental. Waaiiittttt a minute, if working out is a stress, and a prolonged stress can be detrimental, then why are you working out 5 days a week, 52 weeks in a year, year after year? Probably because you just didn’t realize you need longer rest than you thought. Or you like socializing at the gym and showing off your butt in those Luluapples.
What You’re Ok At
When it comes to immediate rest and recovery you’re usually pretty good. After a 25 minute metcon, this may include lying down on the floor panting, stretching, foam rolling, a proper meal, massage, etc. It will also include sleep (you’re getting 8+ hours, right?) and again, proper nutrition throughout the next day. Maybe you’re blasted after a particular WOD and you need two or even three days off. We’ve all been there. CrossFit.com even programs a 3-on/1-off schedule so that you can hit workouts with maximum intensity. For some, this might be a 2-on/1-off or even a 1-on/1-off schedule depending on your needs. If you like your weekends, maybe you do 5-on/2-off. The point is, day to day, CrossFitters are generally ok with getting the rest they need.
What You Suck At (and what you should be doing)
You don’t think in the long term. CrossFitters tend to be pretty myopic and can only see the sexy metcon in front of them. Unfortunately after a year of this, suddenly they plateau, don’t get stronger, faster, better, and then blame people like me for not getting them better. Hold the phone!
You need to rest long term FOR the long term. Taking a week off from high intensity training every 4-6 months is a GOOD thing physically, psychologically, and physiologically. Now, this doesn’t mean you should order Pizza Hut and go on a week-long Charlie Sheen binge. Instead, feel free to go for walks, skip some rope, foam roll, work on mobility, work on your goats, and keep being active. Just resist the urge to do those 20+ minute metcons that deplete your glycogen, hammer your neuroendocrine system, and generally just drain you, even if you feel that “CrossFit high” afterwards. Yes, you might come back a little winded, but many people find they are actually STRONGER and definitely feel better with a vacation from CrossFit.
In addition, you should build some lower intensity weeks into your schedule. So every 6-8 weeks, do a week using half your usual weight, or half the distance, or half the reps, etc. This way, you can still feel like you’re getting a good workout, but not constantly taxing your system the way it’s used to. Remember, if you’re experiencing the same high levels of stress, your body will adapt and plateau. You need to change it up. (keep it…constantly varied)
Long term rest is going to depend from individual to individual, primarily because of two reasons: workouts and lifestyle. If you are primarily strength training and have low stress in your personal life, you may not need to take an entire week off. However, you SHOULD be fluctuating your intensity over the months. This is a very common thing for athletes and those in competitions: cycling through an off-season/in-season, all with the intent of peaking at a certain time. Even if you are not competing, train like you do.
Those who do your classic 20+ minute metcons and have a busy personal life can definitely benefit from a week off every 4-6 months. Again, it doesn’t mean that you’re doing nothing, but it means you have to stay away from the glycogen-demanding workouts.
Lastly, I think there’s something to be said about taking a break to do other things. I’m sure there are hobbies you like to do, or family to spend time with. This is the ideal time to hone those skills or spend quality time with loved ones. Or if you’re bored, you can come cook me dinner. So, are you ready?