As Crossfitters we have the desire to constantly improve ourselves. We care about how fast our times are, how high our scores are, and how much we can lift. But most importantly, we care that these numbers constantly improve. The foundation that drives this progress begins with solid mechanics (which you can read more about in our blog post “Mechanics, Consistency, Intensity“), but once we reach the point of increased intensity we must adhere to a very basic principal – the balance of stress and recovery.Stress may be caused by many things and this principal applies in all cases, but for the purposes of this post we will focus on the physical stress placed on the body through exercise.
When we workout we cause stress to the body. In fact, working out alone causes nothing but damage to our body. However, this damage, or stress, is the stimulus we need in order to change our body; how we recover dictates whether that change will make us better or worse.
Recovery in its most basic terms can be summed up in two categories – nutrition and rest.
The food we eat plays a vital role in our recovery and therefore our performance. Choosing whole foods, single ingredient foods, is the foundation of good nutrition. Eating this way provides high octane fuel for the body to repair itself and perform at high levels. The lower the quality of foods chosen, the lower recovery and performance will be.
Another thing to take into account with nutrition is quantity. It takes food to recover from stress placed on the body through exercise and the more stress there is the more food is needed.
The other half of the recovery equation is rest. Adequate sleep is a key element in proper recovery. Lack of sleep and lack of restful REM sleep will have negative effects on recovery and performance as well. It is recommended that we get between 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Too much or too little can hinder recovery.
Now back to the balance between stress and recovery. In order to see consistent progress and PRs in our workouts we must maintain a balanced stress/recovery cycle. If we place too much stress on the body and do not offer and allow adequate recovery we will lead our bodies down a path of burnout and breakdown ultimately ending in over-training and potential injury. On the flip side if we over recover we at a minimum slow or stall our progress and in extreme cases, meaning not working out at all, muscle loss will occur lowering our strength and overall fitness level.
To sum it all up – train hard, eat clean, and get some sleep!