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Crossfit and Rest Days: Whats the Best Strategy?

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If you have been doing CrossFit for a while now, you recognize that our program is amazing because of the high intensity component. With that being said, one thing we have to keep in mind is that we can’t sustain that high intensity every single day; otherwise our body ends up breaking down. So with tht being said, how often should you take a rest day? follows a 3 on 1 off program, which means 3 days of doing the workouts and taking the following day to rest. Most athletes will need that day of rest in order to allow the muscle tissue to regrow and the body to recover from the training.

If someone is brand new to CrossFit, I don’t suggest they start with a 3 on 1 off program since most people will not be able to handle that much intensity/work initially. Suggested ramp up time can be Monday, Wednesday and Fridays or Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, so 3 days a week till the body gets used to this. After that, then you can ramp up to 2 on 1 off such as Monday and Tuesday on, rest on Wednesday and Thursday and Friday on and on the weekends getting outside to play and doing something fun with all this fitness you are gaining.

At Upper Limit, we offer programming 7 days a week, Monday-Sunday. We realize not everyone’s schedule is the same and some will come in on certain days, and some on others. I have also heard some folks like to come in Monday-Friday and take the weekend off (5 on and 2 off). This may work for some, but what needs to be monitored is how that athlete is responding to the training. On the 4th and 5th day in a row, are they still feeling strong and are they still able to hit the conditioning portions of the workouts hard and keep the intensity that we are looking for in order to gain results?

What tends to happen is you start enjoying coming to the gym so much because you are seeing results and you are making friends and getting connected to the community and you don’t want to take days off – but this can also lead to some nagging injuries if the individual is not listening to their body. I have seen it happen time and time again and I, myself, have made this mistake more than once. So what does someone do on his or her rest day? Here is what we suggest to our athletes:

Get out of the gym! Take a hike with friends, take some time to stretch and foam roll those tired, stiff muscles. Calm things down and take an epsom salt bath while reading a chapter from that book you started. Catch up on the weeks meal prep! Then to top it all off, take some time out for yourself, meditating, getting a massage or listening to music! Whatever you do, just stay out of the gym!

Personally I like to take complete rest days, or I may do some light stretching and I definitely will hit up YouTube for a guided meditation. The key here is that we want to balance the yin with the yang; we don’t want to do something that’s going to be high intensity. If we are going to do something on a rest day, it needs to be restorative. My favorite thing to do on a rest day is get a massage or some sort of body work. These are the days I schedule appointments, in advance, to see my physical therapist or chiropractor. That way, I already have the appointment scheduled and its easier to stay out of the gym.  If you are coming in on a regular basis of 3-4 days a week, I highly suggest scheduling some sort of restorative body work at least once a month – you are worth it and your body will thank you.

Regardless if you are a competitive CrossFit athlete or just someone looking to get fitter – remember more is not always better, but better is better. Learn to listen to your body, learn to be ok with missing a day here or there in order to take care of yourself. You are only going to get stronger and faster if you allow your muscles a chance to recover.