If you’ve been Crossfitting for a year or more by now, it’s pretty safe to say you’re completely hooked. You’ve drunk the cool-aid. The addiction has set in. Your non-crossfit friends wouldn't dare start any fitness-related conversation at the risk of starting a rant about front squats, the benefits of high-rep deadlifts, or extolling the virtues of bacon! Another unfortunate by-product of the crossfit-addiction is that we often become exercise addicts. The thought of going a day without a metcon seems abhorrent. On ‘rest’ days I see people go for long ‘recovery’ runs, doing ‘light’ bodyweight metcons, or doing “technique” work – all of which end up with ‘surprise’ PRs. THIS IS NOT REST.
You do not improve during training. YOU IMPROVE DURING RECOVERY FROM TRAINING.
Rest is when we get better! It’s when our bodies can recover, repair and get stronger. This is when we truly make gains. How many times have you hit a PR after a week or two of forced rest? This means you are overtrained!! Avoiding rest and proper recovery creates real problems including:
- Heightened risk of injury
- Increased irritability
- Poor sleep quality and elevated resting heart rate.
- Increased cortisol levels – leading to your hard-earned muscle breaking down!
- And something that you actually will care about – a lack of improvement, which is the whole point of crossfit. No improvement = one unhappy little x-fitter.
If this chronic overtraining and under-recovery continues, it can lead to true adrenal fatigue, which requires several months to recover from. A situation you definitely do not want to get into.
What is rest?
Rest is NOT EXERCISING! Its sleeping in, its sitting on the couch for hours, its taking a nap in the middle of the day and it certainly doesn’t involve sweating…unless it’s the meat-sweats from over-eating!!
Over the last couple of years, the community has become more aware of the importance of recovery techniques, including:
- Foam rolling/lacross balling/mobilising
- Sports massage and chiropractic work
- Post workout nutrition
- Active recovery (doing low intensity, low impact work like running, rowing or swimming)
BUT RECOVERY IS NOT REST.
I have seen more people using recovery as a way of avoiding rest. Recovery techniques will help relieve soreness and can improve flexibility and therefore will help you train more often and at a better quality then if you didn’t use these practices. But by avoiding pure and simple rest, the athlete is missing out on achieving maximum results.
I remember an axiom from the triathlon community – notorious over-trainers, and it goes something like this “The difference between Pro triathletes and high-level amateurs isn’t in their training, it’s that Pros know how and when to rest and recover”.
So when you are getting itchy feet and feel like you need to train on your rest day, avoid going for those fast running intervals or practicing your handstand pushups or other weaknesses. You’ll actually make the biggest improvement just by sitting on your backside, or better yet - napping!