Don't overlook recovery! here's why

Gepubliceerd op 12 oktober 2020 om 13:39


Often overlooked but a vital step in the process of getting better at any sport is recovery. After putting in a lot of work your body needs so rest to actually adapt to the overload and stress. CrossFitters tend to neglect this step only focusing on volume.

After working out what happens within your muscles you create microscopic tears (this is what we feel the day after a hard workout) when you rest cells called fibroblast restore your muscle tissue and adapt, creating stronger muscles. 


What happens when you don’t recovery 

While it may be very cool to say you workout 7 days a week, this way of training will not be very sustainable in the long run. The effects of not properly recovering will be very notable after a couple of hard days at the box


Glycogen stores deplete

Your glycogen stores will be depleted leaving you feeling weak and without energy, decreased glycogen stores may contribute to lowered lactate responses. Making your muscles fatigue quicker than normal. 


Corticosteroids increase

Cortisone and cortisol (also known as stress hormones) are not good for weight loss, and some studies even claim it aids in belly-fat retention. 

Elevated levels of these stress hormones are also known to depress the immune system making you more vulnerable to becoming sick.


Your performances will decrease 

Because you don’t give your body the time to recover you will eventually see a decrease in performance where weights or movements that feel light will feel much heavier. 

If you look at training at a basic level after a workout your muscles will be broken down if you recover properly, your body will adapt to that strain and increase its ability to take on strain. On the other hand if you continue to put more stress onto your muscles, you will be in a constant state of breaking down eventually decreasing your ability to take on strain. 


Resting heart rate will increase


Your sympathetic nervous system is more active during recovery than when you’re well recovered. If your resting heart rate stays on a higher level than usual it may be a sign you are overtraining and not recovering enough. Usually within normal people the resting heart rate tends to swing between 50-80 BPM. 

Note that if your cardiovascular fitness increases your resting heart rate tends to drop (this usually takes years of dedicated training though)


Very important step within Recovery is your diet and hydration, it goes without saying that out training a bad diet isn’t possible. 2 very good CrossFit games athletes have spoken about this numerous times. Rich Froning and Matt Fraser were both notorious for having a bad diet in their early years at the Games. After cleaning that up they both admitted feeling much much better during their training. I'm not saying you can’t have a cheat meal, but doing a hard metcon and eating KFC right after isnt going to help you recover faster. Same goes with not drinking enough water. Drinking water helps to prevent the breakdown of muscle proteins and increases nutrients absorbed from food, both key factors in building strength and maintaining high energy levels during a session. 



The most underrated way of recovery is having a good sleep, often because we are so busy with other things like Netflix or video games (which exposes us to bluelight and further inhibits your ability to fall asleep) many people tend to complain about having a hard time falling asleep. Creating a good sleep routine is essential to fall asleep

  • Like stated, limit the exposure to blue light. Blue light comes from devices like your phone or television telling your brain it to not produce melatonin (the hormone that helps you fall asleep) limiting blue light exposure 1-2 hours before sleeping will aid your ability to fall asleep
  • Make sure you get some sunshine during the day. Our circadian rhythm and our sleep-wake cycle are closely connected. Exposure to sunshine during the day will help the brain understand that it’s supposed to sleep when it’s dark. 
  • Limit naps during the day except for short power naps (max 20-30 minutes).
  • Watch what you eat and drink. Avoid going to bed with a full stomach or drinking lots an hour before going to bed. Stay away from caffeine
    or similar stimulating substances from noon onwards.
  • Try not to have your final training session close to the time that you are planning on going to bed.
  • Create a bedtime routine! Where you give the body time to relax and get into the mood to sleep.

Most athletes know how to recover well, eat healthy, drink enough water, sleep enough, limit the caffeine intake etc. focus on the things you can control to get the best out of your workout sessions. Recovery is a very lengthy and detailed subject with a wide array of possibilities. While the basis will always be nutrition, hydration, sleep and not over training. Many other ways of recovery are being used every day by athletes. 


Rob Scharff

CrossFit trainer/coach

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