If you speak to any CrossFit Games athlete, they all say the same thing when asked the question: “What are the biggest factors are that affect your performance in competition?”
All of the athletes at the Games are incredibly fit and capable, but it’s those whose bodies and minds hold up over multiple workouts who come out on top at an event like Regionals or the Games. And you better believe they actively work on both of those components—mental training and recovery—of their game.
Let’s leave mental training aside here and talk about recovery. Even if you’re an accountant who goes to the gym recreationally three days a week and plays in a softball league on the weekend, your recovery still matters, especially if you’re interested in seeing performance gains from time to time.
Sure, you might be able to get away with performing well after one night of bad sleep, or PR-ing a workout when you’re hungover once in a blue moon, but imagine an entire week without sleep: Could your perform well then? Or what about a month of binge-drinking every night: Think you could PR the day after a month-long bender?
Although you hopefully haven’t ever gone a week without sleeping, many of us are still chronically under-recovered. Don’t mistake under-recovered with overtraining. For most people, under-recovery is more a result of poor lifestyle and nutrition choices than training volume (i.e. overtraining).
Think this might be you?
Here are some recognizable symptoms that tell you your recovery is far from being on point. (And in Part 2, we’ll look at potential solutions to get your recovery on track):
If you don’t find your numbers going up, especially if you’ve only been committed to your training for a year or two (once you hit five years, plateaus do become normal and part of the process, but in your first year or two of training, PRs should happen quite regularly if you’re coming to the gym regularly and following a consistent program), your recovery could be the problem.
You’re probably always going to be sore from doing 100 pull-ups out of the blue, if the most pull-ups you normally do is 25 to 30, but if you’re feeling DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness) more than you used to, or after a training session you know your body shouldn’t feel sore from, it could have something to do with poor recovery.
Is your resting heart rate higher (or lower) than it used to be? If you’re not recovering from training, or from other physical or mental stresses, you might notice a rise in your resting heart rate. If the problem isn’t dealt with—as the body gets more and more warn down—you might even experience a decline in your resting heart rate. Knowing your resting heart rate is certainly a good thing to keep track of, so you can then note changes if and when they do occur.
If you’re feeling uncharacteristically blue/low/depressed and people keep asking you if you’re OK, it could be something diet-related that’s stopping you from recovering properly to the point that it’s starting to affect your mood. You better believe it’s affecting your performance, too!
Did you used to be a good sleeper, and now you find yourself unable to fall asleep, or you wake up and can’t get back to sleep? Again, this might have to do with your recovery: In this case, perhaps your adrenals aren’t recovering enough. It could also have to do with stress: Too much cortisol in the body will certainly negatively affect your sleep.
If you can relate to any of the above, check back next week for PART 2: SOLUTIONS!