If you CrossFit, chances are you CrossFit a lot. With the community, the competition, and the culture alone, you probably find yourself showing up most days, if not every day, of the week. The logic is quite simple, isn’t it? Going to Strength Haven is the best part of my day, therefore I shall go to Strength Haven every single day.
While I completely and wholeheartedly agree with that statement, I propose another. One of the primary and defining characteristics of CrossFit is high intensity, so as CrossFit athletes we must be able to continually produce high intensity training sessions. How do we do that? Rest days.
There are many ways to approach rest days, and most of the time it seems they are implemented more due to schedule rather than soreness. Regardless, the key principle is to listen to your body and find a way to get in the work while keeping the intensity high.
Here are just two options for you to consider.
3 days on, 1 day off:
CrossFit as a sport is defined as "constantly varied, functional movements, performed at high intensity”. To promote high intensity among its members, CrossFit as a brand (i.e. CrossFit.com) implements rest days in its worldwide programming by routinely scheduling 3 days of work followed by 1 day of rest. Keep in mind that CrossFit literally programs for the entire world, spanning all age brackets and skill levels, yet they have continued to prescribe this work/rest ratio since the sport’s inception. Why? Because it works. What’s more, they have continued to do so even though the capacity of the top-level athletes has improved exponentially.
The key to this approach, however, is intensity. Those 3 days of work should be intense enough to warrant an entire day of rest. Regardless if the WOD is Fran or 5x5 back squats, the intensity for each should be pushing your capacity so as to exhaust your muscles completely. We are not sacrificing form or efficiency, rather we are actively challenging the limits of those domains through intensity.
As members of the CrossFit community, I think we are obliged to implement this programming at least once in our CrossFit careers.
In essence, this approach is to rest as needed. It is training every single day with rest days only when it is not possible to make it to the gym for various reasons, such as a family engagement, working late, stuck in traffic, a winter snow storm (In TX? Seriously?), etc. These often-unforeseen circumstances are a natural part of life, so using them to support rather than hinder your training schedule is the goal.
Keep in mind, however, that this approach should be developed gradually over a span of about 6 months. It is also heavily dependent upon nutrition, sleep, and mobilizing routine to properly recover from each WOD in just 24 hours (in short: eat well, sleep well, and stretch regularly). Lastly, if the intensity ever starts to slack, either physically or mentally, you should impose your own rest day into the routine — you do not have to wait for an external event to prevent you from training.
This is my own personal routine at the moment. I find it helps me enjoy myself inside the gym while allowing me to appreciate those hard-earned rest days when they inevitably find their way into my schedule. I take about 3-7 rest days a month, depending on the month.
There are many more options, but these are just a few to get you started. The goal is to work hard in the gym so enjoy yourself outside of the gym. Find a routine that fits your schedule AND meets the intensity that CrossFit requires. When you do have a day to rest, enjoy it! Go see a movie, read a book, get a massage, lay by the pool … the world is your playground. Consider also taking an active rest day by playing a sport, going for a swim, or hiking. The goal is to get OUT of the gym and actually use the fitness that we are developing inside the gym.
Until next time,