Updated: Feb 25
Recovery is key in Crossfit.
Efficient recovery can not only help with post workout aches and pains, but also enables you to perform better in your next workout, be able to do that next workout faster and will help prevent injury or illness.
There are so many different misleading information sources out there on how to recover from CrossFit workouts that are not worth your time. Especially for the average CrossFit athlete, you need recovery advice that actually works and that you can actually implement.
High level CrossFit athletes have the time and money to spend recovering with cryogenic chambers or with expensive accessories that the average person just can't afford.
These tips on how to improve your recovery from a CrossFit workout can be implemented by almost everyone, and are relatively cheap too!
Fast recovery from a CrossFit workout can boost your ability to grow and progress faster so taking every step you can to improve your recovery is really important for CrossFit athletes.
The faster one recovers, the more you can get out of training and the better you can perform. CrossFit and functional fitness is not only about going really hard for 1 hour every day, it is about making the right nutrition choices and keeping active throughout.
Muscle soreness and DOMS can be really debilitating to those who have had the luck to experience it. Feeling sluggish and sore really does not make you want to get back into the gym and smash out another famous CrossFit workout like Fran or Murph, recovering from these are essential.
Here are 6 different tools and tips on how to recover from a CrossFit workout.
Ensure your hydration is on point, with water before (sometimes during) and after your workout, with increased hydration throughout the day.
Hydration is often overlooked by many of the general population and is even more important when you are trying to recover from a CrossFit workout.
Working out will not only increase the energy expenditure of your body, but will also increase your body temperature, therefore increasing the need for more fluid.
Maintaining good hydration helps your cardiovascular system work at maximum capacity but also will contribute to the repair and growth of cells, ideal for recovery from CrossFit workouts.
Typically, it is advised that a normal person drinks 8 glasses of water a day but when you're trying to recover from CrossFit workouts you need more.
A good tactic to monitor your water intake is to have specific bottles that you drink throughout the day. I have a 1.5l water bottle that I take with me everywhere and make sure I polish it off before I finish work at 5 so that I know I've had decent hydration throughout the day. This, accompanied by a Nocco drink in the morning and maybe a cordial (or even a beer or two on the weekend) in the evening lets me know I've drank enough throughout the day and can help with recovery.
A good indicator of hydration is pee colour. Ensure you have a "light lemonade colour" when you pee, if it is darker, drink more! Hydration is so, so important especially for those who lose a lot of fluids through sweat and breathing hard... typical Crossfitters!
When we workout we produce metabolic by-products. Some of you may know the most common one called lactate. When lactate and other by-products build up and accumulate, they dramatically decrease performance. When we are trying to recover from workouts we need to flush these out.
If you are ever doing a really tough CrossFit workout, you may find that your arms or legs feel swollen and plump to the touch, soon after you find that it becomes increasingly more difficult to perform at your best. Sometimes, if you push through, it is becomes harder and harder to perform the exercise or movement and often painful.
This is what bodybuilders call "the pump" which they seek out at every workout. For high-level CrossFit athletes or any athletes for that matter, they actively seek to avoid building lactate to that level, to help them perform at their best. This means employing different tactics to increase the level of work they can do before building up an excessive level of lactate in the CrossFit Workouts for effective recovery.
This in turn will increase their fitness and boost their ability to recover from a CrossFit workout, because they can flush lactate faster.
There are a variety of tactics that crossfitters employ to train this ability. They can do lactate training: a type of training methodology which actively encourages the production of lactate, coupled with ample rest periods which are just enough to flush out lactate before they then repeat again and again. This trains their flushing mechanisms so that in a Games workout they are more efficient at flushing out lactate and recovery.
After a busy day in the gym, some of this lactate will still be in your muscles and the longer the lactate is in your muscles the longer it will take to perform at your best again, thats where active recovery comes in.
It is important to flush these by-products out fully when exercising has stopped to improve performance when you workout next.
Active recovery or low intensity exercise can help to promote blood flow and flush the metabolic by-products out of your system. This means going for a brisk walk, cycle, swim or light run to help flush out lactate and encourage blood flow/
This can be a warm down when you've finished your CrossFit workouts, a relaxed walk later on in the day or a really low intensity workout. Active recovery is a great way to recover from CrossFit workouts.
Nutrition is really important for repairing your muscles and restoring your energy levels to aid in recovery from a CrossFit workout. Not only that but the right nutrition can help with crafting your body with the desired body composition.
Consuming food high in protein will help repair cells damaged in your workout and make your muscles bigger and stronger. Lean proteins are a great addition to your diet and can boost recovery.
Protein shakes are an athlete favourite because of its ease of access. You can prepare one ahead of your workout or immediately afterwards and within no time have replenished your protein, helping you recover from your CrossFit workout quicker.
As we exercise, we use our rapid response energy called glycogen which is stored in the muscle. When recovering, we need to restore that depleted glycogen as soon as possible so consuming carbohydrates during the post workout period is key. Glucose is a great source of rapidly absorbing carbohydrates so great for recovering athletes.
Bad news for those on the Keto diet, but this means to consume carbs before or after your CrossFit workouts! I know a lot of athletes will be please to hear this too!
Consuming enough carbohydrates to fuel your CrossFit workouts and recovery is ideal to help you perform during the day and keep energy levels high. Some carb-o-holics will tell you to taper your carb intake depending on your activity levels for the day (or the day before). You hear a lot of runners, the day before a marathon, will carb-load and try and eat as much pasta as they can. They are in the right ball park too!
So to improve your recovery from Crossfit workouts, make sure you have adequate carbs for the day.
Not only that but make sure your timing and quantities are spot on with your nutrition too.
Timing plays a big part in your energy levels throughout the day, you want to consume your carbs before working out to give yourself a boost of energy but then also if you workout in the mornings, it might be worth consuming carbs on your evening meal the night before too to help recovery.
Timing however for protein absorption is a widely debated topic, many sources say that consuming protein in the "30 minute window" helps the muscles absorb more protein. But other sources say that it won't matter throughout the day as long as you consume the right amount of protein throughout your 24hr day.
This also mentions quantity of food. There are so many online calculators and sources out there about how much food you need or how many macros you need to hit to get the right body composition for you so take a look through and test out different combinations.
Don't workout too soon
Your body needs time to recover and regenerate after tough CrossFit workouts. Ensure you have had adequate rest and nutrition before attempting more workouts. Many athletes can go on feel, but using tools such as WHOOP may help time your workouts when you are fully recovered.
Taking time to recover properly is actually a good opportunity to focus on other areas of your health that may be lacking. You can work on your relationships, mental health or nutrition. Reducing your stress levels by having a day off can really work dividends on your recovery from CrossFit workouts.
Massage, Foam roller or body work
Myofascial release helps relax muscles, release tightness and promote good movement in joints and muscles, improving your recovery from CrossFit workouts. There are many ways to perform myofascial release both on your own and using someone else.
For recovery, the easiest method is foam rolling, a great way to eliminate tightness in your muscles and promote mobility. Coaches say you should foam roll before or after every CrossFit workout as part of our warm up or cool down.
Going to a masseuse can help hit those awkward to reach areas but can often be expensive so consider your options and your budget. Massages are a great way to recover because not only do they work on releasing toxins from your muscles but also you get an hour to relax and de-stress from your day.
Stretching and mobility is always promoted in CrossFit and can help prevent injury and maintain good range of motion. Make sure to work on your weak stretches as well as the muscles and tendons you may have worked in your CrossFit workout. Hamstrings, hip flexors, shoulders and lower back stretches are some of the most popular recovery stretches among CrossFit athletes.
Massage guns are also a really great way to help recover from CrossFit workouts. Massage guns are great at delivering powerful massages without having to pay for an expensive masseuse. You can get massage guns with different power settings as well as different heads to massage different muscles and body parts.
Massage guns are essentially band saws with foam or aluminium heads on that help clear toxins from your muscles. They have become increasingly popular among Crossfitters for their cost effectiveness and their efficiency at clearing toxins.
Massage guns are a great way to recover from crossfit workouts, but a warning, if you have bad doms, they can be painful! But Crossfitters are never one to shy away from pain!
Recovering from every CrossFit workout properly and effectively will help you perform to the best of your ability for every workout.
With respect to the range of lifestyles different CrossFit athletes have, try not to neglect such important parts of recovery, as without recovery, your performance will diminish.
The main thing with recovery is to find the technique that works for you. If you have a tough CrossFit workout and find that the best remedy for you is a protein shake and a nap in the afternoon and the day after, you perform great, then go for it! Every athlete's body is different and so are their daily schedules, food availability and budget.
Recovery from CrossFit involves some planning and listening to your body and as you progress you will improve your ability to recover as time goes on.
Let me know how you recover from a CrossFit workout in the comments below and hopefully these tips will help your recovery from CrossFit workouts in the future.