I have been doing Crossfit for a long time, not the longest mind you, but long enough. And as I am sure you have heard me say at least once that I have been sore since I started. I mostly mean this as a joke; to make light of the fact that everyone is hurting and it never gets better (wow, that got dark…). But there is some truth to the matter. I really have been sore since I started Crossfit, and that is the beauty of it, and what really drew me to it in the first place. The constant variation means that you are constantly working different muscles and gives you a workout that is like no other resistance training program. One thing that took me a while to understand, and even longer to appreciate though, is the importance of recovery.
The biggest takeaway here is that muscles are built outside of the gym. In the gym we actually cause damage to our muscles. As we exercise, we stretch, contract, and apply force to and with the muscles, and we cause little micro-tears of the muscle fibers as a result. After the exercise is done, the body goes into a state of remodeling in which the muscle fibers are repaired with proteins and grow in number and in size. With time, the muscle itself will get larger and as a result will be able to produce more force – but only if we give it enough time and fuel to do so.
This is where recovery comes in. I’m sure many of you have been very sore before, or have come in for 10+ days in a row, or done multiple workouts in a day for several days in a row, and have just felt bad. Like zero energy, tired, cranky bad. This is called overtraining and is detrimental to our health and athletic performance. Basically, it means that your body is not able to recover quickly enough from your last exercise session to prepare you for your next. Over time, this leads us to feeling burned out and results in poor performance in the gym. Our goal is not to get to this point.
Instead, focus on proper nutrition and getting enough sleep so that your body can recover. This is not the place for nutrition and sleeping advice as those are very individual specific, but the gist of it is: eat enough food, eat the right foods, and make sure you get enough sleep. Food is where we get our energy to exercise, but it is also where we get the building blocks to build bigger muscles. Sleep is where the body repairs itself and recharges your “battery” for the next day. If you are not eating enough protein, your body will not be able to make bigger muscles. If you are not eating enough carbs, you will not have enough energy to workout. If you are not sleeping enough, you will not recover completely or have enough energy for your day. It’s not rocket science, but it is biology science, which some might argue is more complex.
Your mindset this month will be to focus on recovery, and eating and sleeping enough. Recovery occurs outside the gym, and conveniently enough (inconveniently? Depends on how you look at it I guess) we are forced to be out of the gym right now. Use this time to practice and build good habits so that moving forward you are able to recover optimally once we do get back into the gym!