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.
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.
Tomorrow the top athletes in the world will come together to compete in the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. The IRONMAN Triathlon is considered one of the hardest one-day competitions in the world and consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bicycle ride and finishes up with a marathon which is a 26.2 mile run. Professional triathlete and 2007 IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion Andy Potts will be among those elite athletes competing for the prestigious win. Compex caught up with Andy earlier this week to talk about his pre-race routines, recovery program, advise he has for newcomers and more.
Compex Interview with Andy Potts:
After finishing in the top 5 last year have you done anything different for your preparation this time?
Every year, I am always trying to introduce different things, so we are constantly improving. Contrary to most triathlon advice, I try something new every race too. Sometimes it works and sometimes it’s a flop but it helps me learn and get better. In preparation for Kona, one year, we tried to do more moto-pacing, another year I spent a month out on Big Island before the race. This year, my focus has been on a few key things- A specific focus on the bike, given how important it has been to the race in recent years, and recovery. My recovery routine has developed extensively and is as important to my racing success as any other element. Some of the key things I am doing include active stretching for about 30 minutes each day, weekly massage, daily use of my Compex Muscle Stimulator and a renewed focus on nutrition pre and post workout.
What's your pre-race meal?
I try to keep it really simple and fairly light pre-race. I will eat what’s available but typically stay away from foods high in fiber as that could be dangerous on race day.
How do you include Compex in your daily routine?
I typically use Compex during and after my stretching routine. With that, I sometimes use Compex at the beginning of the day as a way to activate my muscles and also provide a little bit of ‘work’ before I head out for the day.
What's one piece of advice you would give some who wants to do an Ironman?
First thing is listen to your heart. If Ironman is something that you will both enjoy and challenge you, jump right in. I highly recommend racing all types of events and distances, not just Ironman. There is an amazing network of local races at varying distances that provide a great opportunity to race locally, connect with your community, make friends and learn a lot about racing and yourself. In addition, it’s important to to make a commitment to yourself by eating right, gaining strength, and learning about your new pursuit. The last step would be to reach out to trusted people to find out how you can get more engaged and dive in.
What's the one thing you look forward to most after swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and running a marathon?
I love the finish chute. There is so much energy and excitement. Whether you are first or 50th, there is a real energy that gets me pumped. A big part of the finishing chute for me is seeing my wife and family. There is nothing more important to me in the world than them and being able to see them after a hard fought day is truly special.
What's one thing people may be surprised you eat out on the race course?
My race day diet has really refined itself over time. I am almost exclusively on Powerbar products, so nothing too earth shattering there. It wasn’t always that way and I have experimented with everything from muffins in my bento box(btw- they get really crumby) to skittles in my special needs bag.
WATCH LIVE footage of the IRONMAN Kona World Championships here: IronMan.com
To learn more about integrating Compex electric muscle stimulation into your workouts visit our Compex Training page, and to discover more information about electric muscle stimulation visit our page on How Electric Muscle Stimulation Works.