Posts Tagged ‘Active Rest’

Every single day you go to the gym, you should give yourself one thing to think about during training.

I’ll give a few specific examples below, but my logic behind that statement is simple. As someone who suffers from paralysis by analysis in my own life, it is so simple to get overwhelmed with details that you can’t focus on a single one properly. For example, I could sit here list over 10 things to think about in order to plank properly. Plank… you know, the thing where you hold your body at the top of a push-up? So imagine how many cues one could have when completing a workout with four different movements, many of which are far more complex than a simple plank.

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Instead, once you know what you’re going to do for the day, pick a one thing and hone nearly all of your energy on completing it as effectively as possible. Let’s discuss a few scenarios:

Heavy Strength Set

If you know you’re going to try and move mountains today, the anxiety and excitement leading up to those heavy reps can be exhausting. For a big squat day, make sure your core is tight throughout the lift. Or that you knees stay out. Or that you take a big breath at the top before beginning your descent. Even those three things combined can be too much to focus on at once. Keep your cue(s) simple, meaningful to you, and effective! The less in your brain, the more you can just move that weight!

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Long Workout

Let’s say it’s a 5 round workout with rowing, wall balls, deadlifts, sit-ups, and pull-ups. There’s a lot going on there, huh? Instead of trying to overwhelm yourself with pacing out your splits of how fast each round should be, you could say to yourself, “today, I’m going to do each round of 20 wall balls as a set of 12 reps, short rest, then a set of 8.” Many people believe that making a plan of attack and “visualizing” your workout is a great strategy.

If you’re in a competition, the stakes are different, and I completely agree! Planning out and rehearsing every second might be the difference between first and second place. But very few people have the time, energy, or desire to spend that much time getting ready for their 4-6 days of training every week! Pick a thing or two, and just breathe through the rest.

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Active Rest/Recovery

Some days you’ll show up to the gym feeling pretty beat up. Your body is sore, your mind is tired, and you haven’t been sleeping well. “But it’s Friday,” you tell yourself, and you “ALWAYS work out on Fridays.” That doesn’t mean you need to red line on the workout, completely wreck yourself, and hobble around all weekend.

If you make the decision that you just need to move for the day, that’s totally fine, and I support you. Even on those days, you can find something to focus on. Maybe on the rowing portion of the workout you focus on keeping your heels down and start to learn what your stroke rate is for repeat 500’s. If there’s snatching for strength, really emphasize making your receiving position as snappy as possible. You can always get better, even if you’re just there to move for the day!

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Now, this post is in no way implying that the rest of your training session should be done by completely checking out. Quite the opposite, in fact. I believe that everything in the gym should be done “with purpose.” Instead, I’m trying to help athletes narrow down a primary point of attack each day. Having a panic attack because you’re staring at the bar before a deadlift attempt thinking, “chest up, back flat, proper stance, breathe, chest up, knees back, push away the floor, grip it and rip it, etc, etc,” doesn’t help anyone.

We’re in the gym to get better every day. Try your best to narrow down your scope on the big things, and as long as you head out of the gym with a smile on your face, most of the time you’ve done alright. This fitness game of ours is most certainly a marathon, not a sprint.

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Yes. They can.

End of story.

Bye!

All jokes aside, this post is timely given some members of the audience reading my blog, and some situations I’ve witnessed in my years as a CrossFit coach. A lot of gyms out there have fun monthly challenges to keep their members engaged and strengthen the community. One in particular, which I’ve seen at dozens of gyms all over the world, happens during the second to last month of each calendar year. This event is called… ROW-VEMBER! What is Row-vember? Well, it’s an in-house competition to see who in the gym can row the most meters in the month of November. Sounds fun, right?! Well, it can be! At least, until people take the competition a little bit too seriously.

If read that and thought, “You’re kidding, right? How can someone take a rowing competition too seriously?” I’m SO glad you asked! There was a handful of individuals that were so set on winning, that in many ways, rowing took over their lives for four weeks. They’d show up early to row before class. Stay to row more after class. They’d come in and just row instead of taking class. Sometimes they’d back to the gym a second time during the day just to get in more rowing. Someone even took apart their own personal a rower so it would fit in the car to take with them on vacation! Now hopefully the picture is getting painted a little bit clearer as to how things went down.

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A few years ago, Crazy Castro had the CrossFit Games athletes complete a HALF MARATHON Row… that’s 21,000 meters. In a row. Insane! What happened next? Well, like every other year after the CrossFit Games are over, people all over the world tried to do the same workouts on their own… “Just to see how they’d do compared to the fittest people on earth.” I know several people who called up some friends one day, went to the gym, put a movie on the TV, and rowed for over 90 minutes straight, just to say they did it. I get it. (Well, just like I know people pay money to do Ironman distance triathlons, doesn’t mean I want to do one myself. You do you, just know it’s not my jam!)

So we’ve talked about a crazy CrossFit event where athletes rowed for over an hour. And we’ve discussed people going to the gym all the time just to row and taking rowers on vacation with them to not fall behind in random competitions. Now, to drive home my point of just how bad it got, put those two groups together. There were a handful of people rowing 20,000+ meters nearly every day!! And if they missed a day, they’d make it up before or after!! That is insaaaaaaaaane to me. I’ve been in this CrossFit game for nearly a decade, and I’ve never even rowed a 10k!

I understand some people just like long and slow cardio. I also get how completing long distances in the form of several shorter interval repeats can make it more manageable. But what my brain doesn’t process is why when you’re 23 days into a month, and your sleep is suffering, focus is off, hands are calloused, butt and lower back are wrecked, and energy is down… you’d keep going just because there are seven days left in the month! But they did. That is a situation where, in my brain, the competition got way too intense. If you’re pushing yourself to the point of adrenal fatigue over pride and a $50 gift card, I think your priorities should shift a little bit. Realize that we want to take care of our bodies through the work we put in at the gym, not destroy them!

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I thought of this story because at one of the gyms where I currently work, they’re completing a challenge each month to complete 2018 reps of a different movement. January was burpees, and I think there were about a half-dozen members who completed them all! This month, it’s Calories on a bike or rower. Since I didn’t hop in last month on the burpee game, I figured as a coach I would hop in a lead by example to encourage others to participate. After a few days of rowing a bit and writing my score on the board, I realized that a few of us started to get a little bit competitive with each other. The first few days it was fun, and then I was reminded of the folks I saw a few years ago.

Let this be my official declaration to those of you who are in the friendly game with me:

I just want us to have fun. If you ever feel like you’re impacting your work, social/personal life, or health and stress levels just by trying to row more, let me know. I will gladly step back and bow out of the game! 

I say that kind of in jest, but still pretty serious. For me, I find rowing or biking a little more than I usually would to be a great way to burn off a few extra calories. It’s low impact, I can do it on my own, and at my convenience. So, while my goal is to “#BeLessFat” and allow myself to drink another beer or two on the weekends without feeling guilty, I know that some people get wayyyy too into the competitive spirit. Don’t allow me to fuel an unhealthy fire. I want to make your life better, not worse! Besides, at the current gymour competition isn’t even for most meters, it’s just to see if people can hit 2,018 in the month. Every meter above 2,018 is just icing on the cake! I’ll back out in a heartbeat if I need to, though.

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If you can keep it all in perspective, though, game on. Today I rowed an extra 4,000 meters at a comfortable pace while watching a live video of my favorite Dj, and my heart rate was low the entire time. It was just some nice active recovery, and it felt awesome!

While I’ll be the first to admit that I’m really competitive, I rarely let that get in the way of my own health. Sadly, though, I know a lot of people who can’t safely make that distinction. Did rowing alone lead to adrenal fatigue? Of course not. But putting  one’s body through that much unnecessary stress for that many days in a row, certainly didn’t help! Story one was about a competition that went awry. Story two is about a challenge to hit 2,018 meters. The point is, saying, “It’s not a competition,” is great, but we all know that to some people… everything is a competition! If all else fails and your brain won’t let your body stop pushing, remember that it’s only a game. And none of it matters. Train smart, friends.

A few days ago on this blog I mentioned how I’ve seen athletes push through fatigue to the point of getting injured because they convinced themselves it’s better to be able to put the #NoRestDays hashtag at the end of their Instagram posts than it is to take care of themselves properly. I made that comment kind of in jest, but it’s also true. It happens more often than you might think, and people will often push too hard because they see others doing the same.

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To be honest, I don’t really have a problem with the #NoRestDays philosophy. What I do have a problem with, is people thinking that No Rest Days means that a person should lift heavy weights and push themselves to the max 7 days per week. I do not support that prescription. Instead, let me tell you what I do encourage. Doing things to promote recovery (such as self-guided stretching, mobility, and/or yoga), performing active rest (such as going for a slow jog, easy row, or casual ride on the Assault Bike, or body weight movements done at a low intensity just to keep the blood flowing, etc), easy skill work that doesn’t tax the nervous system too much, and self care (like massage, cupping, dry-needling) are always thing I support.

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If you’re a Type-A personality that’s convinced that you absolutely must do something every day, then it’s fine. But, when you wake up and can barely get out of bed, or when it’s hard to get off of the toilet at work even when you use the railing in the stall, and when you walk around with your shoes untied because it hurts to much to bend over to tie them… then maybe you should simply rethink what it is you can do to still be productive. For those athletes who push their bodies hard all the time, remember that your body needs time to recover. You’ll see more even more gainz when you give those muscles time to rebuild stronger than before.

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So next time your friends peer pressure you into doing “that one WOD I saw Rich Froning do four days ago” or when you decide to see if you can test all of the Wodapalooza workouts… in a single afternoon “just to see how you stack up,” ask yourself if the potential risk of getting hurt outweighs the ability to say “I would have placed third to last” to your friends. If your body is telling you that you should rest, usually you should listen. If you absolutely cannot take a “Rest Day,” then tell yourself that the 20 minute ROMWOD flow you picked out is your work for the day. When tomorrow comes, you can crush those weights all over again!

Stay safe. Keep your body as healthy as you can, since you only have one. Dedicate time to proper recovery. And as always, if there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know!