Because I believe that finding balance in our lives is probably the most essential form of health insurance we have, I thought I’d share a little about finding balance with your use of exercise today. Before I start I should mention it is important to recognize the type of sport CrossFit is and how to approach it accordingly.
It is surprisingly easy to over-do exercise and to suffer the negative effects of over-training. This is especially true with our sport, CrossFit. Pushing the limits of your physical potential is great and definitely necessary for progress, however “redlining it” every training session makes no sense. Why? Because when we exercise our bodies, we naturally damage muscle proteins, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and a wide variety of other cells. If we accumulate more catabolic (tissue destructive) stress than we can recover from via anabolic rebound (tissue healing), we encourage imbalance and injury becomes certain.
Among those that over-train, there are two general groups: A. Those addicted to exercise, and B. Those that are ignorant of how to use exercise effectively. Nagging injuries that never go away are a sign that something isn’t right and should be addressed by reconfiguring either your program or your movement pattern. A component coach should be able to address those types of issues before they become problems. If this sounds like you, be sure to see any of our experienced coaches here at the gym.
Tips For Recovery Management
Total Rest: Sleep. Everyone knows this is the most important part of exercise. You make your muscles while you are sleeping, so be sure you are getting enough.
Active Rest: Performing your normal exercise activities at a significantly reduced intensity, and equates to an effort of 60-70%. Active rest exercise must be managed carefully. There is a real tendency among the CrossFit Community and those that are athletic to be infected with the “more is better” virus. Maintaining your ability to carry on a conversation without gasping for air is critical on active rest days. Running is the easiest way to conceptualize this example. For those that run regularly, an active rest day should be carried out at a pace about 1:30-2:00/mile slower than their most recent average mile pace in a 5K or 10K.
Passive Rest: Performing any exercise activity other than your chosen method of training or specific event training that doesn’t tax your primary working muscles.
Swimming is one of the most effective means of passive rest, but really anything other than your primary form of training would work. Exercise intensity on passive rest days should be low enough that you can comfortably carry on a conversation at any time during the exercise.
The 1-3% Rule of Progression
As a general rule-of-thumb, if you are unable to honestly meet and exceed your last workout performance by 1-3%, you are probably over-exercising. Signs that indicate you are exercising with too much volume or intensity for your body to handle include:
- Fatigue: First you feel a general sense of fatigue. This often results in significantly increased use of stimulants (pre-workout stimulants, more coffee, etc…) then you may find that your sleep quality starts to diminish, which further increases fatigue.
- Decreased sex drive and/or sexual performance. Nobody wants that.
- Feeling like it is taking longer and longer to warm-up. I’ve seen people take 45-60 minutes to warm-up for an 8 minute WOD. What have you been doing for an hour?
- The onset of old injuries, or nagging injuries that won’t seem to heal at a natural pace. This should be a giant red flag, if your shoulder injury from 8 months ago starts to act up you are over-reaching.
- Mood swings. Hearing “get it together” more than usual.
- Food/drug cravings. More often than usual you are craving garbage.
- Decreased mental concentration. Sometimes feels like a brain fog.
- Elevated resting heart rate.
- Elevated resting breathing rate.
- Progressively becoming more closed-minded; resistant to trying new things. Sometimes this one can go unnoticed if you have other stuff going on, like E.D, but is very closely associated with fatigue and over reaching.
How to Find Balance
We must always consider the quality of our exercise experiences as our guiding principle. The very worst way to determine how much exercise you should be doing is by measuring yourself against someone else, or reading programs from books and magazines and trying to emulate them. Most athletes suffer from a lot of “junk” training or training that is poorly thought out and is usually a product of the pack-herd mentality. It is far better to do less high quality training than it is to do more than your body can handle just so you can keep up with the Jones’s.
On days you can’t meet the criteria of the 1-3% rule, take advantage of the chance to facilitate your anabolic rebound (healing/rebuilding) with some relaxed, rhythmical movement. Pump and clean the body. See it as an opportunity to participate in an active meditation. Exercise is not only a natural function of the human body, it is an essential function.
Being aware of your body-mind balance allows you to use exercise intelligently in order to meet your individual needs. Exercise done effectively not only enhances your physical beauty, it enhances your physiology and your psychology. Learn to give yourself what you need in order to wisely meet your conditioning objectives. As a result, your whole life will feel more alive and more fulfilling.