How to stay healthy doing CrossFit
There are many elements of the sport of fitness (aka CrossFit) that have a tremendous amount of appeal to beginners and seasoned athletes alike. The variety of workouts, level of coaching, the community that forms, the PR’s, the stopwatch, the benchmark workouts…there are a bunch of reasons why people come back…and come back…and come back…and come back. There is a misconception out there that CrossFit is dangerous. If we use some basic safety principles, we can change that.
We think CrossFit is great; otherwise, we wouldn’t have opened CrossFit Merced. Sometimes too much of a good thing, can be, well, too much. To go from couch potato to CrossFitter takes time, consistent effort, and smart training. Here are a few tips for all of you, especially those of you that are new, to help keep your body in top shape as you begin to get into the best shape of your life:
1. More is not always better. Five Crossfit classes per week are better than two, but that doesn’t mean that you need to be working out ten times a week. If you roll out of bed to go to your sixth consecutive day’s workout and every muscle is sore, you might be better off staying home. Shift your focus from quantity to quality. If you are going really heavy during the lifts, and you’re pushing yourself to your limit during each and every metcon, you might be best off with an extra rest day thrown in there every once in a while. We want you to train as much as you can before you reach the point of diminishing return, but if you are too worn out, rest. Use the rest day to practice a sport, go for a light jog or a walk, or just hop on a foam roller while watching TV. Don’t get me wrong – the point here is to identify what your body needs. Most of the time, yes, come to the gym. Our program is designed for you to eventually adapt to be able to get here 5-6 times week. Make this decision based on what is best for you long term.
2. Rest and Recover. Recovering from a workout, believe it or not, isn’t about getting your breath back or waiting until you stop sweating. Recovery is what happens to your muscles, joints, tendons and brain when you leave the gym. You can work hard for 1 hour a day, but what about the other 23?
Meals. As much as you’d like to, you can’t erase bad eating habits with an extra hard workout. Think about what you are eating and what it’s doing to your body. Before you eat anything, ask yourself “Is this helping or hurting my body?” Just about all of your meals throughout the day should consist of meat, fish or eggs, with a big serving of vegetables cooked in oil, butter or topped with avocado. These fats will help you to recover. Additionally, dairy products are nutrient-rich and will help in recovery between workouts. Rich Froning Jr., the fittest man on earth, drinks milk all day every day.
Sleep. Get more of it! Turn out the lights 30 minutes earlier than you normally do now. Your body needs this time for cellular repair, and your brain needs some down time, too. Sleep in a pitch black room; invest in some heavyweight curtains that block out all of the light. Don’t sleep with the TV on. It’ll dramatically affect your quality of sleep.
Lifestyle. Avoid unnecessary stress. The body is meant to handle a certain amount of acute stress, but long periods of chronic stress tend to throw the hormonal system all out of whack, resulting in fatigue, depression, belly fat, and other unsavory physical and mental symptoms. Exercise = good stress. A high stress job, unruly kids, late night boozing, and relationship unrest = bad stress. If you are having stress issues, try to identify (or create) one fraction of your life that is completely stress free. It might only the length of a TV show, a devotional time, a new hobby or a morning cup of coffee in silence, but be sure to find it and take advantage of it as much as possible.
Muscle and Tendon Repair. You are currently engaged in a training regimen not far off from that of a high level athlete. Your body is constantly adapting to new stresses, and is being pushed around, flexed and stretched in ways it isn’t used to. Initial signs of a hard workout, which include sore and tight muscles, should not be ignored. If you have chronic soreness or tightness in any part of your body, invest in a foam roller, a lacrosse ball, and spend some time at at the Mobility WOD Website to find new ways to become mobile and pain-free.
3. Scale It! The weights in our metcons are chosen on an individual basis, so that everyone can scale the weight to a level that will guarantee they finish within a few seconds to minutes of everyone else in the room. The quantity of reps and rounds, however, can also be adjusted. This presents the opportunity to scale UP or DOWN, depending on your ability. You know your body best, and as you work out here you will get to know, and push, its limits. Pushing your limits is great ( our advice is usually to go heavier, move faster, dig deeper), but working through pain, or grinding out super-slow reps, in a stubborn effort to get the work done, is not smart. If you see something on the board that seems utterly impossible, ask one of the coaches about scaling options. For the most part, we stick to short and intense metcons, but days with close to 100 reps of one movement (like yesterday) do sometimes appear, and if your body isn’t equipped to handle the repetitive stress, it might be wise to scale back the weight.
Learning how to Dump the Weight is a valuable skill. If, at any time, you feel too tired, scared, off balance, overwhelmed, confused, etc. Drop the barbell! This is very important, which is why it is the first thing we taught you when we introduced you to barbells on Day-2 of FOUNDATIONS. If you still aren’t comfortable dumping the bar, ask a coach for help. We need to be great at this.
*Notes: make sure that the area around you is clear so you don’t drop it on someone else.
- Don’t walk too close to somebody throwing a bar, you might wear it. Be wise when dumping our other implements…
- Try to never drop an empty barbell (without bumper plates), the bar can break or it could break your toes.
- Try to never drop a kettlebell, they are expensive and breakable. As always, though, I’d rather have a broken kettlebell than have your shoulder dislocated; please use discretion. Set them down if you can; drop them if you must.
- The atlas stones are only to be dropped on multiple layers of rubber mats; watch your toes. Many of our other implements should never be dropped on asphalt or concrete as well, like bumper plates, med balls, etc.
- Sandbags should not be carried by the straps, they will tear. Let’s take it easy on the sandbags or they won’t last long.
- The yokes should return soon. Make sure to set them down evenly to avoid neck injuries. If you’ve never used a yoke, make sure to have a coach help you before you do.
- GHD Situps are a movement that require an extended transition before you should do a lot of them in a WOD. Ask a coach before you do them in a WOD (today).
4. Take advantage of time off. Our life runs in cycles of intensity and down time. Intensity is necessary to survive (gotta pay the bills and keep yourself and your family healthy) and downtime is necessary to thrive. School breaks, vacation, weekends, social time, reading, etc are things that occur regularly to give your body and mind a break. Your training program should also provide you with periods of downtime. I’ve had a lot of people asking me what they can do to stay in shape while they are on vacation. I always tell them to “VACATION.” The rest will do you good. After the vacation, you’ll have no excuse not to crush the WODs when you come back.
5. Consult a Professional. If you have joint, muscle or tendon pain that persists, book an appointment with a physical therapist, chiropractor or sports massage therapist ASAP. If your pain isn’t life-altering, avoid heading to the orthopedist right away (most are surgeons), and stick to a manual therapy for some natural relief first. A few sessions at any of these medical professionals, and some at-home rehab exercises, and you should be good as new. By routinely getting your body assessed and corrected, you will almost certainly avoid serious injuries that result in surgery or an inability to continue your workout program. We are coaches, not doctors. We can help with some very basic therapy exercises, but not the same as the guys with a bunch of letters after their name.
As your coaches, we want you to be healthy and strong. CrossFit Merced is a place of high energy and intensity, filled with healthy and happy athletes. Let’s keep it that way.
WOD: 20 Minute AMRAP
10 GHD Situps