Most of us work out three to six times a week. This includes CrossFit, weight lifting, running, cycling, yoga and any other mix of athletic endeavors. We feel good when we work out. It releases endorphins, and our body responds in kind by burning fat and building muscle. This in turn makes us want to work out more, and more. We must always remember however, that the workout puts stress on the body [in a good way] and it is the rest and recovery that builds us up stronger. This is how we make gains. We do 5x5 back squats for example, and then we eat good food and sleep for seven hours. This is when the muscle actually grows – during the rest.
If we ignore this rest, the body absorbs too much stress without adequate recovery, and you will notice a reduction in gains, or even small nagging injuries. The body is telling you what it needs!
There are two common approaches to CrossFit:
A – Workout for 3 days, rest for 1. Repeat.
B – Workout for 5 days (Mon-Fri) and rest on the weekends
What is commonly overlooked however, is the deload week.
Here are 6 key points to the deload:
1 – Are you overly sore, tired, or not seeing progress? Do you have nagging small injuries like tendonitis? Do you have trouble going at the same intensity you used to be able to do? These are all signs a deload is necessary.
2 – A deload is typically one week in length, but can be shorter or longer. It does not mean don’t work out. It means come to the box, but reduce the scaling and intensity. If I typically “Rx” then I would do L2 or even L1. Instead of going at 100% intensity, I would go at 70%. We still need to move and sweat, but we don’t want to apply stress at the same level we normally do.
3 – Instead of working out 5 days on a deload week [at lower intensity], pick a day or two and go for a hike. Schedule a massage. Go to yoga. Do RomWOD. Spend extra time on the foam roller. This is a great time to focus on your mobility.
4 – Eat normally. Don’t reduce calories or restrict yourself because you aren’t as active. Your body needs these calories to repair.
5- The average athlete should deload every 3 months. Personally I try to get mine to occur around the holidays and/or vacations. Every body is different though – some may need to deload every 6 weeks!
6 – Fitness is a lifelong pursuit. Any activity, be it CrossFit, weightlifting, running, triathlons, etc should last us as long as we want. Treat your body well and it will keep you going well into retirement. Think of deloads like oil changes in your car. Doing them regularly keeps your car running smoothly. If you wait too long, you are risking damage!