Often times, we become so wrapped up in the score on the board, that we forget that sometimes our scores and weights come not just from what we’ve done in the moment, but also what we’ve done in the hours and days leading up to the workout. But, post workout recovery can get complicated. If you’re not careful, you can quickly become entangled in a complicated web of protein shakes and mobility.
To start, we’ll break our recovery down into four sections, nutrition, hydration, mobility, and finally long term recovery. By breaking it down, your post WOD routine becomes simplified and easy to execute.
We’ll start with the most complex and sometimes confusing area of recovery, nutrition. If you are looking to gain muscle, it’s important to eat. During your workout, you broke down your muscles, and now it’s time to rebuild them. Your body is craving the carbs and protein it needs to start building muscle and it wants it NOW! Immediately following your workout is the best time to down a protein shake and eat those donuts you’ve been craving all week (no, I am suggesting you eat a box of Krispy Kremes, but if there were a perfect time to do so, this would be it). Stick to a simple whey protein shake. I recommend Progenex or Stronger Faster Healthier. Both are delicious and solid sources of protein. For those with dairy allergies, PurePharma makes a tasty, dairy free, brown rice based protein. For your carbs, rice, pre-made sweet potatoes, or a natural apple sauce all make great and convenient post WOD recovery meals (applesauce is awesome for those who don’t have a fridge).
Another important and often over-looked part of post workout recovery, is hydration. If you’ve ever forgotten to drink water after a particularly difficult workout, you probably know how it feels to try to go up stairs the next day...not so pleasant. You need to drink after your workouts (and no not alcohol). Your body is over 50% water and you lose a lot of that when you sweat during workouts. You need to replenish it to avoid dehydration. Another important factor to take into consideration is the fact that on top of sweating out water, you also sweat out important electrolytes that need to be replaced. While there are staunch advocates against sugary sports drinks, I see no problem with a bottle of watered down Gatorade to replace lost electrolytes after a particularly sweaty workout. However, if you prefer a sugar free alternative, many health stores sell electrolyte water enhancers with no flavor or sugar.
The third facet of post wod recovery and the one “conveniently” forgotten by many is mobility. In a world of fast paced, high intensity workouts, toning it down for mobility can seem boring and unnecessary. You don’t need to partake in hours of mobility every day, but you do need to mobilize every single day. This can be as simple as showing up for class 10-15 minutes early or staying after for 10-15 minutes to work out those knots in your back, or stretch out your tight hammies. Just 1/6th of an hour every day can make a big difference. Not only are you aiding your body in recovery, but you’re also preventing injury in your future workouts. Not only that, but with today’s access to technology, there’s no excuse not to be educated in mobility. Go online and take 20 minutes to read up on what kind of mobility you need for your tough spots. Both Kelly Starrett and WOD Doc provide some awesome (and free) videos on YouTube with tutorials on how make the most of your mobility session. If you’re looking for something a little more in depth to walk you through your mobility session, you’re probably going to have to pay. However, both ROMWOD and Kelly Starrett offer fairly cheap step by step mobility routines that walk you through what you need to do to get the most out of your mobility routines. If you find yourself truly lost in the world of mobility, ask your coach! Trust me when I say that they will be more than happy to help you out with the mobility they’ve been trying and failing to get you to do for the past six months. Most CrossFit or Olympic Weightlifting coaches are well versed enough in mobility and have experimented with it enough on themselves that they can serve as an excellent resource for all your mobility issues.
Finally, we arrive at our last tier of post workout recovery. This particular area is a bit grayer, because it will vary greatly from person to person depending on your lifestyle and fitness goals. This area of recovery includes everything that you do once you leave the gym. Your sleep, your diet, your stress levels, and so many more things. Believe it or not, the advancement of your fitness does not merely end with the cessation of your workout. It is a continuous ongoing perpetual being impacted by every moment of your day. Getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, eating wholeful and nutritious foods, and even managing your stress levels are all important to your post workout recovery. While these elements may vary in accordance with the numerous ups and downs in our life, it is important to be aware of the impact that these elements have on your fitness. A stressful week at work coupled with limited sleep will have more of an impact on your workouts and your recovery than you think. As much as possible, get 7-8 hours of sleep, eat healthy and nutritious meals (you don’t have to be 100% paleo all the time), stay hydrated, and finally, find some way to manage your stress levels. Whether that be a weekly yoga class or twenty minutes by yourself with a book you love, finding a way to unwind can be just as important to your post workout recovery as your mobility or your nutrition.
When the clock runs out and the barbells are stripped, it can be easy to forget that recovery doesn’t end with peeling yourself up off the floor, but rather it begins with your nutrition, hydration, mobility, and finally all the other tiny facets of your life. While it can be easy to get caught in a web of protein shakes and foam rolling, by simplifying your recovery and taking the right steps, you can take your workouts to the next level.
Kaylyn Wiese has been CrossFitting of more than five years and has been competing against athletes from across the country since age 16. She currently coaches and trains in Boston at CrossFit Coolidge Corner and is a sophomore at Boston College studying business and data analytics. Find her on Instagram @kaylynwiese and Twitter @kaylyn_wiese.