It’s Open season once again in the CrossFit community. As you train your strength and skills to prepare yourself for your best performance yet, remember the importance in recovery as a ‘next gear’ tool to earning your success.
The training leading up to the CrossFit Open is often a time of high energy, high volume and high stakes. This gateway competition gets increasingly more competitive each year as top athletes contend for a qualifying spot to Regionals. Even for those who are casual participants to this community affair find excitement this time of year and find themselves pushing harder through workouts. Because of this increase in volume and intensity, it means that it is equally as important to make sure that the body is adequately recovered from training, too. Though we may all try, you can’t ferociously burn the candle at both ends and expect to perform at your best.
Recovery can mean many things, but some key practices can help you structure a responsible lifestyle that maximizes the benefit of your hard work. Though you may spend four hours in a gym, the other twenty are the ones that count.
Simply learning to value and budget your time more wisely will have an impact on your sleep, work efficiency the relationship you hold to your responsibilities. How much time and energy are you wasting right now on social media? Do you drag through a 30 minute warmup everyday? If you are effective with the things you need to accomplish, you will leave more time for recovery practices and rest time.
Visualization and Mindfulness
The intensity of training for most athletes entering the Open season does a lot to tax the nervous system and the mind. Taking time to reflect on what is learned from training and how to increase a competitive mindset is just as important as the training itself. Take time to remember moments of success and visualize your goals.
Open prep often means repeating a lot of movements over and over in order to master efficiency. This can sometimes cause inflammation of the joints, tendons and ligaments and cause aching or soreness. Natural anti-inflammatories such as turmeric or beets can help with these pains, but also making sure that the connective tissues remain mobile.
Soft Tissue Mobility
Not only do our primary muscles get tight from training, but also the interconnected fascia that surrounds all of our nerves and organs, too. Exercises with a lacrosse ball, foam roller or yoga can be a good practice to maintain health of the soft tissue. Types of compression therapy or the use of an NMES device can help maintain blood flow in the tissue as well.
At some point, you will have to take responsibility for the fuel you put into your body. Supplements alone will never do the trick and learning healthy and sustainable lifestyle changes to the way you eat will help you increase the impact of your training. Find experts of the field and learn to test things for yourself to find the best building blocks for your body.
The Open isn’t just a test of will power and strength, but about who is able to sustain health and focus through five tough weeks. Make sure you’re prepared for this years excitement by committing to your recovery as much as you do your training.
The preset Resistance program is the most “bang for your buck” among the training programs. By activating both Type 1 and Type 2 muscle fiber types, you can help to maximize the muscle contraction and get the greatest strength gains. Although this program can be used as a stand-alone routine (yes, even while you sit on the couch!) it may be best utilized in conjunction with some body weight exercises such as squats, push-ups, or calf raises depending on what you want to train. By taking your body through range of motion during each contraction, you’ll get even more benefit of the program to help increase your squat, vertical jump, and increase muscle mass!
Active Recovery Program
The moments immediately following a tough workout can be some of the most critical for recovery in a number of ways. Using the Active Recovery program within thirty minutes of your workout can help reduce lactic buildup, muscle soreness and fatigue so that you’re better prepared for the next session. By starting at a higher frequency and gradually tapering down, this program can be used as an effective cool down method.
Recovery Plus Program
In the hours and days following a workout, using the Recovery Plus program will have the most benefit to ensuring your preparedness for the next session. Using a low frequency pulse, this program helps to increase local blood flow back to the muscle tissue to help keep it mobile and fight muscle soreness. A perfect rest day choice, stick on your electrodes for a relaxing weekend as you plan out your next week in how to continue towards your goals.
We know you’re ready to put in work this New Year and Compex is here to help meet your fitness goals. Train, recover and PR with Compex into 2018!
The more experienced I’ve become as a competitive athlete the more I’ve learned to not only recognize, but prioritize, my recovery. As a high school and collegiate athlete, many of these realizations came through anecdotal experience or loose “research” (let’s agree that the magazines at the grocery store checkout shouldn’t be where you look to for reliable advice). Over the years, however, with increased levels of experience, maturity and influence, I’ve fully adopted the respect that recovery is due in a culture overdone and beatdown by unending “hard work.” One of the most significant factors to a lifetime of recovery practice has been through improving and growing in my understanding of the ultimate fuel - nutrition.
There’s are an overwhelming number of resources, supplements and diet programs available when it comes to the world of “nutrition” and the task of finding the best option for any individual can be confusing or discouraging. For that reason, I’ve narrowed down to a few of the most valuable areas based on some of my own experience as I’ve navigated myself through this process, most deliberately in the past few years as a competitive athlete and fitness professional.
As you go through your training session, your blood glucose and glycogen stores are reduced and are responsible for the feeling of fatigue and low energy immediately following a workout. In true glycogen depletion, an athlete will experience what many call “hitting the wall” or “bonking” which can be a miserable experience for the individual in which the body no longer has fuel for the desired performance. Refueling blood glucose during and immediately after a tough workout is invaluable not only to recovering from the immediate session, but for future activity as well. High-glycemic and easily digestible carbs, such as a dextrose powder, are an effective way to refuel and replenish blood sugar stores for maximal recovery.
Post Workout Protein
The post workout protein shake isn’t just a gimmicky habit of meat heads with shaker bottles. To maximize muscle growth and repair tissue damage, the period of time immediately following a workout, commonly referred to as the “window of gains,” is a crucial time in regards to the relationship between nutrition and recovery. Practice taking in about 15-30g of protein, ideally in liquid form so that it digests quicker, within an hour of your training sessions along with some of those carbs!
Some may say they sparkle, but athletes sweat. A lot. Whether you’re actually producing droplets on your forehead or it’s dripping down your arms or not, the highly charged body of an athlete is especially prone to the effects of dehydration and can suffer in performance as a result. When we sweat, we lose a lot of the mineral salts in our body along with the actual volume of fluids. Total hydration, therefore, isn’t just about replacing the water that your body has lost but also the electrolyte balance. Supplementing with electrolytes, especially for a highly active individual, can be vital to optimize balance and recovery.
Much of the modern Western diet ranks poorly in the relationship of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids in our bodies which has resulted in chronic inflammation. Supplementing with fish oils can be tremendously effective in balancing these ratios, reducing inflammatory responses, and improving health and performance as a result. Omega-3’s are considered “essential” because we can only get them from our intake - our bodies can’t produce this by itself. Since our diets lack more natural sources, such as fish, supplementing these vital fatty acids with fish oil capsules can help increase muscle growth, inhibit tissue damage, reduce muscle soreness, increase immunity to disease, and even improve cognitive, heart and lung function.
It might seem easiest when you’re rushed to go through a drive-through or grab the easiest “healthy” option off the grocery store shelf, but understanding the role of nutrition as fuel to your body is an undeniable truth to increasing athletic human performance. The effort you put towards learning how to optimize your recovery from within will repay you more than you’re due for a healthier, stronger life.
Check out the latest Compex® blog written by 1st time CrossFit® Games athlete and Compex athlete Sarah Loogman, where she interviews her Invictus teammate and Compex Athlete Lauren Fisher.
Mindset, Goals and Baking with Lauren Fisher
If you’re a fitness fan, chances are you’ve heard of Lauren Fisher. At 23 years old, Lauren is an accomplished professional CrossFit athlete and internationally competitive weightlifter. Battling back from a surgery following last season, Lauren will be making her 5th appearance this year at the 2017 CrossFit Games, hosted for the first time in Madison, where she will compete against the “fittest on earth” in a four-day competition that tests athletes endurance, strength, athleticism and will power.
Despite her young age, Lauren has placed herself among the CrossFit elite with top performances including a 9th place finish at the 2014 international CrossFit Games and 1st place in the 2016 California Regionals. As a weightlifter, she claimed the 2014 USAW Junior National championship in the 63kg category and earned the Best Overall Lifter award. On the international stage, she earned a bronze medal in the clean and jerk at the 2014 World University Championships.
Needless to say, she’s pretty fit.
But what makes Lauren stand out among her peers goes beyond the scoreboard with her demonstration of intense focus and work ethic. With two weeks left before the 2017 CrossFit Games, I asked Lauren to answer a few questions to peer into the mindset of a professional fitness athlete:
What has been one of your greatest obstacles that you’ve had to face, either as an athlete or in your personal growth? How did you overcome it and what was the greater lesson that you’ve learned that allows you to be who you are now?
I think the biggest obstacle that I had to face actually happened this past year. After the 2016 CrossFit Games, I knew something was wrong with my ankle and I got an MRI right after the Games to find out that I had a 2cm longitudinal tear in my peroneal tendon and an ostechondrial lesion that needed repairing. I couldn’t run and push off my ankle without pain. August 30th, 2016 I had ankle surgery. The doctor said I would be out for 5 to 6 months which meant I would be back just in time for the Open, but my conditioning and strength numbers would be nowhere near where they were the previous years. I was able to grow mentally as an athlete during this time. My goals this year had shifted to just making it through the Open, then qualifying for Regionals and now making it back to the Games. Looking back, I thought this year was just going to be a growing year and I wouldn’t even be able to compete but I did just that and surpassed my expectations. I think this helped me understand that if you set your mind to something, you can do anything. Don’t let one little obstacle get in the way of your goals. There is always something meant to come out of any hard situation and I think for me it helped me realize how grateful I am when I am able to compete and train healthy. No one likes to be injured, but I’ll tell you what I got a really strong upper body out of it.
There is obviously a lot of sacrifice that comes with elite performance so where do you most find reward in what you do? What’s the “light at the end of the tunnel” that you look to or that you would encourage others to look to when things get tough?
For me, I love what I’m doing and I love trying to be the best athlete that I can be. Since I don’t play sports anymore, CrossFit has been my outlet to have fun and be competitive. I love all the people I train with and every single one of us pushing each other to get better. I think that’s what gets me going when things start to get tough. I have to remind myself how lucky I am to have this opportunity to train for a living and travel the world. All the long hours and exhausted nights are worth it when you’re out there competing on the biggest stage.
What are your goals or intentions for the 2017 CrossFit Games?
For the 2017 Games, my goal is to leave it all out on the floor every single workout knowing that I had nothing left. If I can do that, I will be happy with my performance. Obviously, a top 10 finish would be nice.
What are a few of your most important daily habits, aside from training?
Aside from training, my nutrition is very important to me. I weigh and measure all my food so I can make sure I am getting in enough calories during my long training days. Rehab exercises, stretching, and reading all make the list as well.
How do you maintain balance to your life, or do you? What are some of the non-training of non-CrossFit things that are most important to you and how do you manage those things, values, or relationships?
I definitely have balance in my life. I think if I didn’t have any balance that training wouldn’t be fun to me anymore. My family, boyfriend, and friends are all very important to me and they understand what I’m doing so its very easy to balance my relationships with training.
What is something about you that most people don’t know?
I think a lot of people don’t know that I love to bake desserts. When I was little, I wanted to start my own bakery. I’m already planning the things I want to bake after Games and enjoy!
Lauren recently graduated with her degree in Business Marketing from San Diego State University - congratulations, Lauren!
(* CrossFit is a registered mark of CrossFit, Inc.)
Resistance Program: The King of Gains
The researchers behind your Compex® device have been able to create highly effective training and recovery programs using electric stimulation and highlighted the best of technology into the programs you find on your personal device. Each program contains it’s own unique programs but among those used for training, one program stands out: Resistance.
What is it?
The Resistance program begins with a pre-warmup phase to prepare the muscle by gently increasing blood flow. The “working” portion of the program rotates through cycles of a more intense contraction phase, followed by an active recovery phase. After the last cycle, the program finishes with a cool down phase to ramp down the activity of the muscle fiber.
How does it work?
The Resistance program is one of the strength programs offered in personal Compex devices and is found in all four devices. The program targets both Type 1 (“slow twitch oxidative”) and Type 2a (“fast twitch oxidative”) muscle fibers. Although slow twitch is generally associated to aerobic performance, such as long distance running, and fast twitch often credited to power athletes. Most people are about 50/50 in the division of slow and fast twitch muscles so general fitness enthusiasts, especially those who train in CrossFit-like methods, will benefit most from this program.
How should I use it?
The Resistance program could be used as a stand-alone training session or in conjunction to your regular routine. Although you could literally sit on your couch and benefit with some muscle activity with your device, the most effective way is to take your body through a controlled range of motion while using the device. Common practices would be to perform bodyweight or lightweight squats with electrodes on the glutes, hamstrings, or quads or to exercise an upper body pulling exercise with placement on the lats or mid back. You can find many of these recommendations on the Compex website or blog!
An “electric stimulation device” might seem extreme, but the use of electric currents to activate the muscle can be a powerful tool made available through scientific understandings of our body and is becoming increasingly more mainstream among both fitness hobbyists and elite competitors. With programs such as Resistance in your Compex device paired with healthful living practices, you can achieve greater performance potential which can lead to a healthier and stronger self.
I remember the exact moment that I decided I wanted to be a CrossFit athlete. I was a spectator at the 2013 Nor Cal Regionals standing in the dusty bleachers near the pull-up rig, watching the individual women division complete Event #4. The entire floor of competitors was rallied around the final finisher of the heat and the whole venue erupted with energy to cheer her on. I remember in that moment telling myself “I want to do that.”
So I turned down an overseas career opportunity to dive into CrossFit.
Two years later, I would compete at my first Regionals on a team and then the following year, make my first individual appearance in 2016. But as it almost always goes, when you accomplish one dream you must move on to the next and in this sport, the next step is the CrossFit Games.
The road to worthwhile success is not usually the easy one. I had a comfortable home, comfortable income and comfortable community where I was just beginning to feel like I was rising out of the hustle. But nothing really grows out of comfort - if you dream boldly, you must expect to do bold things.
So I moved to San Diego.
It was an unexpected opportunity and spontaneous decision to train at CrossFit Invictus, something that even one year ago I would not have dreamed of and probably not agreed to, either. I left my home, fiance, family, friends and community very close to my heart to actualize my “all in” mentality for 2017, something I never intended to do until the path was laid out.
There were new obstacles, challenges and fears as I prepared for the Open and Regionals with then-strangers. The idea that my ultimate success or failure would lie outside of my own control made me nervous, to say the least. Would my new teammates be willing to sacrifice as much as I have? Do they want it as bad as I do? Am I good enough to be a part of this? But that’s the thing about commitment; you choose to trust the process and move forward regardless of your fears and you let reality outrun your dreams.
And now we are headed to the CrossFit Games.
See you in Madison!
“Imagine if we decided what we wanted in our life and we figured out a away to make that happen. How cool would that be versus just waking up and being busy.”
- Cameron Harold
The most common use for an electric stimulation devices is in recovery, and rightfully so. An NMES device such as Compex can be used to decrease recovery time by using involuntary muscle contractions and controlled levels of electric pulses to improve blood flow, reduce muscle soreness and flush away lactic build up. But if you turn on a Compex device, there are more recovery programs than just one and knowing how to choose the correct program will further enhance the benefit of using a Compex device.
So which program should you choose?
This program is also known as the Training Recovery program in the wireless device. This program would be best used immediately post workout and studies have shown that immediate recovery markers are improved by 4.5x when using a Compex device versus a voluntary cool down. Although the program will run for 20 minutes, just 6 minutes of use is enough to be effective in flushing out lactic build up and recovering from “the pump.” This program would be very beneficial in a competition setting or between back-to-back training sessions or events.
This program is also known as Competition Recovery in the wireless device. This program would be best utilized in the hours or days following a physical effort or on “rest day” to reduce muscle soreness or stiffness. This program should not, however, be used during competition.
This program is also known as Muscle Relaxation in the wireless device. This program is a low-frequency electric pulse that will help to relax tight muscles and help restore mobility with increased blood flow and movement. Like the Recovery Plus, this program should not be used during competition.
Choosing the correct program can help to amplify the efficiency of your recovery between training and competition events. Better recovery equates to higher levels of performance and decreased feelings of fatigue or soreness and can help an athlete advance to the next levels of their potential.
The greater the stress a training program produces, the greater the necessity for deliberate actions taken to maximize the body’s repair. Elite level athletes understand the value of rest and recovery methods and among them, the demands for recovery at the top tier become a full time career of practicing their craft. The human body is capable of incredible and seemingly impossible feats when properly nurtured and adapted to the right conditions.
Methods of recovery may include practices targeted at hormonal, neurological or structural stressors and the effectiveness of certain techniques may vary between athletes. The intention to each practice, however, is to maximize the performance potential of an individual. Here are some of the key elements and insights to elite level rest and recovery:
As simple as it seems, most people don’t get this one right. Our culture promotes a strong value to “overdoing it” and a full night of rest is a rare indulgence for most go-getter types. Sleep is invaluable to recovery in terms of mental health, hormonal balance and muscle recovery and there are incredibly anabolic (muscle growth and protein synthesis) processes that happen in the body during solid states of sleep. Even one night of poor sleep can significantly delay signals of the brain. Proper duration of sleep will vary per athlete and training methods, however, 7-10 hours is the norm. Try to sleep in an environment with as little light as possible and cooler temperatures are best as well.
The foods that enter your body are literally what fuel the functions of your body and can either harm you or help you. Alcohol, sugar and processed foods are toxins to the body that can cause inflammation and do catabolic damage to the cells. Because some people may be more resistant or tolerant to certain food types, it is important for each individual to determine the best dietary recommendations to follow that provide the right levels and qualities of macro and micro nutrients to the body. Athletes are often especially deficient in magnesium and may also benefit from supplementation with fish oil, B12 and CoQ10. Women tend to be more deficient than men in calcium and iron and may need to take extra measures to ensure proper supplementation.
Drinking adequate amounts of water is critical to living healthy, maintaining energy levels and high rates of recovery and performance. Although your sports drinks may contain water, they are not adequate sources of hydration and should not replace water itself. Even adding flavorings can make it harder for your body to process. Studies show that by the time you already feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated by 1-2%. Although this may seem insignificant, even the slightest levels of dehydration can cause irritability, poor memory, fatigue and reduced metabolism.
Mindfulness Practice / Breathing
Meditation practices are lesser studied in Western culture, however, studies have shown that practices in mindfulness and breathing techniques are beneficial to psychological and physiological wellbeing. In the performance athlete, the ability to control thoughts of pain or emotion can provide a competitive edge. Meditation does not have to be inherently spiritual or religious, but can bring clarity, reduce levels of stress and anxiety, and relieve tension. Athletics can tend to draw a certain personality type that are high-strung and judgmental to self, but elite athletes often share a common practice in “letting go.”
Body work covers a broad range of practices but may include active or passive stretching, foam rolling, massage, Graston technique, or cupping. Individual athletes may respond differently to varying techniques and should find what works best to suit their needs. Although body care specialists are important to seek out and learn from, self care will be a necessity to keep up with a demanding training regimen. One massage appointment per month will not be enough!
Hot and Cold Therapy
Although there is a lot of controversy on which methods of temperature therapy are best, many athletes utilize and find benefit in ice, heat, or contrast therapy for reduction of joint or muscle swelling or soreness and increased recovery time. Practices in heat therapy may be dependent on the nature of trauma or stress that an individual athlete has experienced and may differ when addressing stressors of the joints or muscle. Athletes should look to expert recommendations and even their own experience when using hot or cold therapy.
Electric stimulation devices such as Compex have been shown to increase recovery time in athletes and are medical-grade devices designed to contract the muscles in different ways that may promote blood flow, increase the muscle, and/or flush out lactic buildup. In more extreme cases even, an NMES device can be used to alleviate muscular spasms and cramps.
Whether your goals are to be an elite athlete or just beat your own markers of fitness to get back in shape, recovery methods are vital to optimizing your human performance and potential. Although these techniques have been suggested as recovery methods from athletic practices, recovery is important for any person that encounters physical, emotional, or mental stressors in everyday life. In order to put your best self forward, you have to take care of yourself in mind and body.
Virtually every human being has experienced the bodily responses associated with strenuous activity or physical exertion. Heavy breathing and muscle fatigue are not unique to athletes alone, although high-performance individuals certainly experience strain to an exceptionally higher degree. Regardless of intensity, however, the science is the same and a basic biological understanding of how our human bodies respond to physical stress is important to understand how to best recover.
When we perform a physically strenuous activity, our lungs will demand to breathe more rapidly as the body fights to supply the working muscles with oxygen as fuel. The body prefers to generate energy aerobically, or through this exchange of oxygen from our environment into our muscles, but activities of higher intensity will require energy production at a higher rate than what we can deliver through oxygen intake alone. When the body cannot deliver energy through oxygen alone, the body will use what is called pyruvate, a breakdown substance of glucose (blood sugar), and convert it to lactate to be used by the body which in turn is converted back to glucose again. This is called the anaerobic process, or the Cori cycle. This type of activity is limited, however, and this type of energy production can generally only last for seconds to a few minutes, during which time lactate will accumulate to high levels. But what does that matter?
High levels of lactate in the body will increase the acidity of muscle cells and create an environment that inhibits the breakdown of glucose, the very activity that lactase itself makes possible. Although this may seem counterintuitive, it is a defense mechanism of the body to prevent extreme damage through high levels of intensity in physical activity.
This build up of lactic acidity is commonly referred to as a muscle “pump” and is the burning sensation associated with high repetition or high intensity activity. When the pain or discomfort of this physical response finally causes us to stop, the body will enter a state of recovery in which it will clear the lactate build up and restore the body to a physical state ready for another anaerobic bout.
So how can this knowledge positively impact our training? On one hand, increasing our aerobic conditioning will improve athletic performance by extending our bodies capabilities of using oxygen - an easier, more available and more enduring source for energy production. Training mentality is also important in not always shying away from the “pump” and enduring intense discomfort for longer periods of time. Finally, however, intentional practices of physical recovery to flush out lactate buildup as quickly as possible are incredibly beneficial to a performing athlete in a high-intensity sport, especially if an athlete has consecutive events or training sessions and must recover as quickly as possible.
The Active Recovery program of Compex is designed for exactly the purposes of immediate recovery from these type of physical events. Although the full duration of the program is 24 minutes with electric frequencies that start from high to low, it will effectively flush out lactic buildup in just 6 minutes. Not only does this program clear out lactate, but promotes fresh blood flow to the area to bring in vital nutrients and even oxygen back to the area. For these reasons, this program is best used and most effective immediately post workout or event to maximize recovery in the most minimal amount of time. In competition, this can be a tremendous advantage to the athlete performing back-to-back events so that they are biologically as fresh as possible for the next event.
When it comes to performance, the greatest athletes recognize the vital necessity and incredible benefits of intentional recovery methods. Alongside proper efforts in nutrient timing, hydration and mobility, using electric stimulation with a Compex device provides an edge from off of the competition floor and will help you perform to your greatest physical abilities you may have yet to imagine.
Electric muscle stimulation, or neuromuscular electric stimulation (NMES), is a common modality of physical therapy and rehab treatment. For serious athletes, however, it is also used as a powerful tool for training and physical recovery to optimize performance. More commonly referred to as e-stim or muscle stim, an NMES device delivers electronic pulses to motor nerves through electrodes placed on the skin, causing a motor response to achieve a number of desired results.
An e-stim device allows you to contract up to 100% of your muscle fibers, an effect that is virtually impossible with exercise alone. Compex devices can add quality to your training in ways that traditional methods of exercise, mobility or recovery can’t and will give you an added edge to your sport or training. The broad variety of programs offered with Compex will allow maximal contraction of Type 1 (slow twitch, endurance) and Type 2 (fast twitch, power) muscle fibers for a better quality of performance and improved worked capacity in any domain.
Use the Compex Warm-Up or Potentiation programs to increase the efficiency of your warmup and thoroughly prep your body for training or an event. The wireless unit is especially convenient to move through exercises as you follow a quick prep program.
Not only can Compex be used in addition to your training sessions, but it can be used for accessory work or even as a stand alone workout. Boost your performance by recruiting more muscle fibers by adding the Compex device to your workout routine, an extra session at home, or during travel. The Compex device can also be beneficial to reeducating muscle groups to contract correctly and can be used to target problem areas or muscle imbalances and deficiencies that you struggle to balance and correct with conventional methods.
The twitches of muscles produced by your Compex recovery programs help to promote blood flow that brings vital nutrients to sore and fatigued areas that assist in healing and recovery. It can also be used to alleviate muscle spasms by breaking the pain spasm cycle, allowing it to relax.
Using a Compex device is easy with low effort for high rewards. The Compex program instructions are simple to follow and will benefit any athlete or training enthusiast driving for the next level. E-stim is a powerful tool to move you beyond your routine!