How to Recover from CrossFit the Right Way? Your CrossFit Recovery Guide!

Jeff Baldelli
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Why YOU Need Recovery from CrossFit

CrossFit (also known as CF) is one of the most popular workout routines these days. The high-intensity and extreme variety of moves has attracted many people who love the challenge it provides.

Unfortunately, this popularity has also attracted those who are not so much into CrossFit and are more into abusing it. Because CrossFit is a high-intensity routine, the amount of training you do per week is very high, your energy spent per session is high, and the intensity of exercise is very high.

So what happens when you put high intensity and high volume of training together is that you risk pushing through the red line and overtraining. This is what you have to avoid to prevent injuries, overstress on your body, and increase your risk of developing a stress (or mental health) disorder.

Exercise is a great way of improving your health in many ways:

It improves your cardiovascular health by improving oxygen levels in the body and helping the heart pump faster blood to the muscles. Exercise helps keep the blood flowing with the recommended amount of oxygen. Oxygen-rich blood increases your metabolism and provides a better environment for your body to help remove toxins and wastes from your organs (boosts your immune system). Exercise also can protect you against heart attacks and strokes by improving the quality of your blood.

B>Regular exercise helps prevent diabetes by lowering your blood pressure and improving blood sugar levels.

Exercise also helps prevent disease by building strong bones and muscles.

Exercise boosts your energy levels.

Exercise helps you sleep better by reducing stress.

Exercise can help you recover from an illness or improve you general well-being. Depending on the kind of exercise, you can get this from activities like swimming, cycling, jogging, cross-country skiing, and so forth.

Now CrossFit is an excellent way to improve yourself by promising all the above and more. The only catch is that you have to do it right to get all the benefits out of it. Your body needs rest and recovery to achieve the maximum potential.

The following are ten signs that you may be pushing your body too hard for recovery:

Pain in your joints such as your knees, hips, wrists, and hands.

Can “Overtraining” Hurt Performance?

Let’s not beat around the bush here:

CrossFitters can get overtrained.

You can, in fact, do too much CrossFit.

But how?

How can so many different exercises and a wide variety of movement patterns mean that you can do too much of it?

You can avoid that pitfall by not doing too much of it.

Are there any symptoms of over-training specific to CrossFit?

Before we get to the symptoms, let’s first take a look at what “overtraining” entails.

The textbook definition of overtraining is that the body is stressed to a point where the demands made on it are too high for it to recover. Think of it as taking damage in an RPG game.

Just like in a video game, the human body can be damaged, so doing too much can result in you becoming “overwhelmed” and even “broken” like the game could make you look.

Common overtraining symptoms include:

  • Greater potential for injury
  • Fatigue and general lack of energy
  • Slow recovery from workouts
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Stiff and painful joints
  • Change in diet (eating more or less)
  • Lowered libido
  • Depression or mood swings
  • Cognitive difficulties (trouble focusing, problem solving, remembering)
  • Fluid retention
  • Fever and swollen lymph glands
  • Thinning hair
  • Weight loss or increased appetite

The one thing that sets overtraining apart from simply being exhausted is when you take a break from training. Rather than feeling refreshed from the time off, you get even MORE fatigued as time passes.

Different Types of CrossFit Workout

There is a logical explanation to the phenomenon, and, fortunately, there are preventative measures you can take to stop it from happening to you.

The initial human response to training is that your body adapts to it. When you do CrossFit, you’re stressing yourself with new movements, so your body begins to adapt to them.

How to Know if You are Overtraining

When working out, it can be easy to get carried away and do too much, often pushing yourself beyond your limits. You may easily recognize that you need to take a break from working out when you feel even the slightest discomfort or experience an injury.

However, sometimes it can be more confusing to know when to stop. It’s especially difficult when everyone around you seems to be working out non-stop, especially if you’re in a CrossFit class or belong to a CrossFit gym.

While you may want to achieve the same results as others around you, or even what your workout partner or trainer has, you should avoid this at all costs.

The best way to know if you’re doing too much is to listen to your body. This is especially true when working out with some frequency or intensity. When you feel pain or fatigue, you are most likely pushing yourself too far.

When training, you want to be able to eat enough, sleep enough, and rest when it’s needed. If you add up all of the hours you spend at the gym and the hours you do at home to prepare meals, you’re not getting enough of those in return.

Training is supposed to give you energy, not reduce it.

Although it tends to be more prominent among CrossFit and other intense workout enthusiasts, overtraining can strike anyone, even regular gym-goers and beginners.

When you overtrain, you feel fatigued most of the time. Muscles ache when getting up or lying down, and are simply painful to move. The most common places to feel this are the back, shoulder, and elbow areas. I’ve also found that side-to-side rotation of the shoulder is a good indication, as well as the upper and lower back.

This is one of the first times you should really be concerned about working out too much. If you don’t stop, you’ll eventually break out in a cold sweat, with a sensation similar to being hot, then you’ll begin to have a headache, joints hurt and stiff, and you’ll lack motivation to do even simple things like eating.

Want to Know How to Recover from CrossFit? Focus on These 3 Areas

CrossFit is an intense fitness program that can put a lot of stress on your body, which leads to regular recovery in order for you to perform at your best.

From chemical processes to emotional needs, there are many factors that go into post workout recovery. Recovering from a workout properly is just as important to the success of your fitness program as is the workout itself.

There are three important aspects of post-training recovery you’ll want to consider.

FULL RECOVERY

Scientifically speaking, full recovery is when the body returns to homeostasis after a workout. This leads to improved athletic performance and the ability to recover faster.

Despite the benefits of post workout recovery, fully recovering from a workout is not always possible.

This is because it depends on the duration and intensity of your workout, as well as your fitness level. Compound this with the fact that recovery is a very personal thing (individual changes often occur as a result of age, diet, gender, fitness level, and genetics) and it’s clear that fully recovering after a workout is difficult.

Still, if you’re just getting started with CrossFit or a new to an intense workout routine, you’ll want to make a conscious effort to recover fully.

RECOVER ASAP

Recovering quickly not only helps you to maintain peak athletic performance, it also keeps overuse injuries at bay and actually speeds up the recovery process.

As mentioned earlier, recovery is an important part of the CrossFit community. This is because training at an intense level could put a lot of stress on your body which needs to be recovered from.

RECOVER WELL

In the end, though, it’s not all about how quickly you recover from a workout, but also how well you’re recovering, i.e. how good of shape you’re in. Healthy habits that promote recovery, such as nutrition and sufficient rest, are just as important as fully recovering post workout.

That’s why it’s important to work on improving your recovery along with your training intensity. After all, in the world of CrossFit, recovery is just as important as the workout itself.

The two most important aspects of recovery are nutrition and rest.

The Best FOOD for CrossFit Recovery

If you engage in some intense physical activity, be it weightlifting or running, your body needs to replenish the energy sources it just burned. You also need the correct nutrition in the form of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

In many cases, weightlifters and other athletes follow a common practice of drinking some form of protein shake directly after their workouts. CrossFitters may even do a similar thing during their workout.

Now, let’s assume that you do work out and run like a regular CrossFit athlete, and are on a restrictive diet. Your post-workout nutrition is going to come with some tough choices. That’s because athletes are often required to consume lots of different vitamins and minerals in their diet, which can be difficult on a restrictive diet.

Depending on your eating habits, there is a chance you’re burning calories rather than consuming them. If you’re also consuming very low amounts of fat or carbohydrates, then your body will start to cannibalize its own muscles for energy.

How to Recover from Working out or Running when You’re on a Restrictive Diet

If you’re going to workout, you have to do it knowing the recovery plan you will take afterwards. You also need to plan ahead to make sure you choose the right food options.

Essential amino acids are broken down by your body during an intense workout, which means that your body will require an extra supply of them when recovery commences. Without enough essential amino acids, your protein levels will not be sufficient for the repair of muscle tissue.

Essential amino acids are also responsible for the synthesis of proteins. If your metabolic levels are low, you will struggle to rebuild and replenish your muscles after a workout. It’s very common that low-carbohydrate diets do not contain enough essential amino acids for your body to create the proteins required for muscle growth.

This is where generous amounts of protein powder may be required for the low-carbohydrate dieter. The protein can be included in the post work-out meal, as well as in the pre-workout meal.

There are several different types of protein sources, each one of them bringing different nutritional perks to the table.

The Best Supplements for CrossFit Recovery

A lot of people who are serious about CrossFit first learn about it through a friend or neighbor who does it, usually while they train side-by-side at the gym. At the beginning, when you're just starting CrossFit, there may be a little learning curve. But for the most part, you'll be cramming your friends with information about this fantastic new workout you decided to try out.

As a beginner, you should experiment with what supplements you should take during your new CrossFit regimen.

This may be simple – you may already be taking an anti-inflammatory or a vitamin D supplement – or you may still be on the fence.

Whatever the case, we have compiled a short list of some of the top supplements you should have in your CrossFit nutrition plan to ensure you're not only training safely but also recovering quickly. Here are the top five CrossFit supplements that every CrossFit enthusiast should take.

Creatine

Creatine is the most well-known of the recovery supplements.

There are more than enough studies to prove that creatine helps CrossFitters and athletes perform. That being said, aside from for gym rats or other athletes, creatine is not a necessary supplement.

It comes from the amino acids glycine, arginine, and methionine.

Your body's natural production of creatine declines with age. Additionally, creatine supplements are touted as being one of the most cost-effective supplements you can take, as you can save it for important workouts.

Your body stores creatine in the skeletal muscle and in the form of phosphocreatine (creatine phosphate).

While creatine is not a necessity for those seeking to exercise regularly, it is likely to help you improve your performance throughout your life.

There are those who will swear that creatine is the reason they are able to do so well in the gym. However, the effects of creatine are completely dependent upon the dosage you take and the form of the supplement itself.

In other words, creatine may not help you at all if the dosage is wrong, or is of a bad quality.

If you want to take creatine, it is important to take it consistently before and after workouts.

The good news is that there isn't a lot of crazy science you need to understand. While you can always dive into the details, for now we'll just give you the basics.

The Best Practices for CrossFit Recovery

To ensure that you complete the CrossFit recovery session successfully, let’s take a look at some of the best practices to follow.

1. Plan Ahead

A lot of people get burned out when performing intensive workouts such as CrossFit because they don’t take enough time to recover.

Recovery activities are important for any athlete, but are especially important for CrossFit practice. You have to factor in that you’ll be performing probably the most intense workouts you’ve ever experienced before. This will not only require physical recovery, but mental recovery as well. In fact, your mental recovery is likely to be more important than your physical recovery.

The most obvious way to recover from CrossFit is to take some time off. But, workouts like this are addictive and getting into a habit of doing them is great for both your body and mind.

To keep you from overdoing it, you’ll have to be especially mindful about making sure you recover sufficiently. Never work out two days in a row. Never feel guilty about taking time off.

Tactical recovery is a great time to sleep, eat, and work on improving your goal times, but you need to make sure you’re giving yourself enough time to recover from the actual CrossFit.

If you’re working out to improve your times, then you can do some homework on running or some other sport that doesn’t require strength or endurance. If you’re working out with others, going out to lunch or dinner is a great way to unwind.

2. Make Time

Because CrossFit is a very intense workout, it’s really important that you make time to recover.

Spend at least an hour on your recovery activity (sleeping, eating, watching TV), but if you can, make it even longer. After an intense workout, you should be able to have a full blown second wind if you get just enough sleep and food in.

This means that you should plan for at least three hours between your CrossFit practice and your other plans, even if you are going to sleep right afterwards. And if you really want to improve your recovery, you can reserve a few days a month just for recovery, with no CrossFit in sight.

The Cliff Note Version

By now you know how CrossFit works, the benefits it can bring, and maybe even how to get started with intermittent fasting.

Finally, let’s get to the good stuff. You need to know what CrossFit workouts to do to get the most benefit. While it is certain that the many CrossFit workouts are effective for general fitness purposes, it’s up to you to decide what your goals are and then choose the best workouts for your needs.

The best tip for getting the most out of your CrossFit workout, as well as any fitness program, is to find an approach that you enjoy and are willing to stick with in the long term. What you do on a daily and weekly basis will determine whether you get results or not.

Who Should Consider Doing CrossFit? Everyone Should Try CrossFit

Once CrossFit started to enter the mainstream in the 2000s, it was time to grab the popcorn. The media coverage was intense, and with good reason.

You had over 300 questionable cases of rhabdomyolysis, a condition marked by a breakdown of muscle tissue due to overexertion.

The press went crazy reporting about CrossFit injuries, and pretty soon, you couldn’t go anywhere without being confronted with a CrossFit story.

Many considered this to be the death of the CrossFit program – an industry icon that died before it even had a chance to live.

While it’s tough to argue this point of view, it’s wrong nonetheless.

The result of this extreme media coverage has been a multi-billion dollar industry and more importantly, an increased interest in general fitness.

This doesn’t necessarily prove CrossFit’s worth. It does, however, provide some insight into the effect it has on the population. CrossFit is an interesting concept, and its role in society cannot be ignored.

The Benefits of CrossFit

So, what is CrossFit? What kind of program is this? How did it start?

If you want to know how CrossFit works and how you can benefit from it, you should probably understand its history.

The origins of CrossFit are traced back to the mid-1990s when former gymnast Greg Glassman started his own training business.