When it comes to exercise, you’ve heard that recovery matters just as much as training.
CrossFitters are not immune to this, and should actually prioritize recovery more than most athletes.
If you participate in CrossFit, you should know just as much about how to recover from the sport as you do about training.
The goal of this article is to show you just how crucial recovery is- like, make-or-break-your-athletic-potential important.
And then we’ll take a look at the key components of recovery and how to make it a part of your training.
In this guide, you’ll learn why recovery is important, some popular CrossFit recovery tips and tools, and how to create your own recovery routine.
Why Is Recovery Important?
Put as simply as possible, here’s why recovery is important:
For you to get fitter and become a better CrossFit athlete, you must recover from training sessions.
The body doesn’t adapt to the stress of training while you train- it happens in the “off” hours between sessions.
The brain signals to the body during exercise that the stress level is high enough that it must make adjustments so that you’ll be better equipped next time.
Some of those “adjustments” include: a stronger heart, stronger lungs, increased mitochondria in the muscle cells, muscle hypertrophy, improved balance and coordination, and more.
Basically, everything you want to improve on as a CrossFit athlete.
This is why more- when it comes to training- is not always better. At a certain point, more training will become detrimental to your performance.
The window of time between training sessions is when you truly become better at your sport, whether you’re doing CrossFit or something else.
And if you utilize free and low cost CrossFit recovery tools during your “window” between sessions (found below), you will recover quicker and perform better during training.
Benefits of CrossFit Recovery Methods
For those of you still not sold, here are 3 tangible benefits of recovery and implementing CrossFit recovery methods:
- Increased mobility. Some of the tools below- foam roller, lacrosse ball, voodoo bands- will take you from tight and sore to loose and ready to train. If you have trouble getting into certain positions, these tools should find their way into your recovery routine.
- Decreased soreness. Being really sore sucks, especially when you have things to do. Whether you work a grueling job outside of training or simply do other things besides train for CrossFit, it’s nice to have a body that feels good during your “off” hours.
- Become a better athlete- quicker. There are people that won’t acknowledge this, but becoming a great CrossFit athlete is a long, slow process. The truth is, it takes hundreds of sessions over the course of years to master the fundamental movements. Recovery methods allow you to train harder, for longer, more consistently. Think of them as the 1% advantage you have over others.
Free (And the Best) CrossFit Recovery Tools
The best part about recovering from CrossFit workouts is that the best tools at your disposal are basically free.
You’d be buying food no matter what. For our purposes, these 3 things can get you about 80% of the way.
It’s free, it’s enjoyable, and honestly, it’s the most important thing in this whole article. You’ve likely heard this before, so beating a dead horse may not be necessary.
Here are some highlights of the benefits of sleep:
- Muscle-building hormones like testosterone and HGH increase during sleep.
- Good sleep helps fight off colds and infections that can keep you out of the gym.
- Good sleep balances your brain chemistry and allows you to “reset” for the next day.
Some research-based keys for CrossFitters to get good sleep:
- Go to sleep at the same time.
- Sleep in a dark, cold room.
- Create a 10-minute before bed routine for your mind to “wind down” before sleep.
The CrossFit Journal published an article in 2012 about Sleeping for Performance.
You know the deal. Eat lean meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. Stay away from foods that can potentially cause inflammation like dairy and grains.
Wholesome ingredients give your body the raw materials it needs to repair tissues between training sessions. You are what you eat, so choose wisely.
As the body is composed primarily of water, you want to stay hydrated at all times. Water creates an internal environment conducive to recovery and repair.
Even 1-hour of CrossFit training can severely dehydrate the body if not balanced out. Most people shoot for 40-70% of their bodyweight in ounces of water per day.
Other CrossFit Recovery Tools
Here are some inexpensive CrossFit recovery tools you can add to your recovery routine:
Foam rollers are a form of self myofascial release (SMR), which has many benefits.
Some include decreased muscle tension, increased fresh blood flow to the targeted muscle area, increased flexibility and injury prevention.
CrossFit athletes can either do a daily full body foam roller routine, or use this tool when something (hint: your quads) are excruciatingly sore.
It won’t feel pleasant at first, but over time, your body will get used to it.
Here is a good starter foam roller routine for CrossFit athletes.
Tape them together to massage the thoracic spine, or use it on the trouble areas in your achilles or hip. It will hurt during, but you’ll reap similar benefits to the foam roller when done consistently.
The lacrosse ball is another form of SMR that works the “nooks and crannies” of a CrossFit athlete’s body. Use it in the places the foam roller can’t get.
Voodoo Floss Bands
It may sound strange, but voodoo bands squeeze the muscle tight, constricting blood flow and making movement more difficult.
Typically the athlete will run through a “problem” range of motion (such as this voodoo floss ankle method) for 20-30 seconds, then release the band
The release of the bands triggers a rush of fresh, oxygenated blood to the targeted area.
Because you are fighting so hard to work through a range of motion with the band on, the movement might feel much better once it’s removed, too.
Cold bath, hot shower. Hot bath, cold shower. Either way, the benefits of contrast baths are real.
The hot water will increase blood flow to sore muscles, helping to heal them faster. The cold water reduces inflammation, soreness, and may even increase your energy.
5 or 10 minutes of each is plenty. For “true” cold water immersion benefits, you may need to grab a 5lb bag of ice from the convenience store- and brace yourself for the first 30 seconds in the tub.
Throw some epsom salt in the bath to supercharge your recovery, too.
How To Make A CrossFit Recovery Routine
The most effective way to create a CrossFit recovery routine that works is to make it a part of your training.
Account for additional recovery methods in your weekly training schedule, even if it means moving around your accessory work.
The best- and free- tools are simply part of what you do already. They’ll need to be accounted for daily. Implement them as part of a weekly checklist like this:
- Sleep 8 hours or more Monday-Friday
- Sleep 7 hours or more Saturday night
- Drink 8 12oz glasses of water on training days
- Drink 6 12oz glasses of water on rest days.
- Meal prep twice a week and always keep wholesome ingredients on hand.
One of the reasons people say fitness is a lifestyle is because it never really stops. Recovery is a large part of that equation, because covering these bases takes a lot of work.
Other than that, add your additional CrossFit recovery techniques like foam rolling or voodoo floss bands at the beginning or end of your training.
Get it done while you’re at the gym so you don’t find an excuse to skip it later.
And if you’re the type to get antsy on rest days, commit to doing twice as much recovery work on days you don’t train.
Sample CrossFIt Recovery Routine
Here’s a sample checklist for a day of training. Make it specific to your situation!
Monday (Training Day 1):
- Sleep 8 hours or more
- 7am: drink 2 12oz glasses of water
- 7am: eat first meal
- 9am: drink 1 12oz glass of water
- 11am: eat second meal
- 11am: drink 1 12oz glass of water
- 12pm: TRAIN
- 1pm (post workout): foam roll and voodoo floss bands for 10 minutes targeting quads and ankles
- 1pm (post workout): drink 1 12oz glass of water
- 1pm: (post workout): protein shake
And so on and so forth. You see quickly how many boxes you really have to check when you focus on your training.
Recovery from CrossFit training is imperative for anyone that wants to be healthy, more fit, or perform well in the gym.
The good news about CrossFit recovery techniques is that the 3 “big” pillars of recovery also can be considered some of our basic needs: good sleep, quality food, and lots of water.
If you’re looking to increase mobility, decrease injury, and fix sore muscles, consider using auxiliary recovery methods like contrast baths, voodoo bands, and foam rollers.
Even 10 minutes a day or a few times a week will make a huge difference. Use a daily checklist to hold yourself accountable.
And when you think about how to make recovery a part of your routine, stop. It’s not an add-on to what you’re doing, but a total paradigm shift towards making recovery as natural as training.
Recovery methods are a part of the fitness lifestyle, and no doubt require work. But reaching your goals faster will be worth it.