Rest day. It should be the best day of CrossFit, but, oddly enough, it isn’t.
Why? Because I seem to be stiffer and sorer and I usually have a rough first day back.
And it’s my own fault, because I asked what I thought was a simple question. You may recall that I am obsessed with earning foot rubs for consistency in my CrossFit workouts. The deal was that after two sets of 5 days of working out (with a rest day in between), I earned a foot rub from my wonderful husband/coach. So when I missed the day after my first in a 5-day set, I asked whether I should start a new 5-day period running, or just workout for 3 days and then begin the next 5-day set to count toward a foot rub.
Turns out it wasn’t a simple question. Five days on, one day off is a common practice, but in CrossFit’s training materials is an article by CrossFit founder Greg Glassman that says “Generally, we have found that three days on and one day off allows for a maximum sustainability at maximum intensities.” [If you read the article and are a language fanatic like me, try to overlook the punctuation errors and the use of the word "fetes" instead of "feats"; as far as I know, the typical CrossFit workout doesn't include parties.] Maximum depends on the person working out; my maximum sustainability is way lower than the average CrossFitter, but the principle still applies.
However, as Glassman points out in another article, “A Theoretical Template for CrossFit’s Programming,” three days on and one day off doesn’t synch well with the typical five days on, two days off work week. Hence the popularity of five days on and either one or two days off within the CrossFit community.
After these observations, Glassman’s explanation starts to get really complicated, as the importance of the rest interval depends on the mix of exercises in the particular workout. The bottom line, though, is that in order to continue improving, you must build rest days into any fitness regime. Elizabeth Quinn at About.com puts it well:
Rest is physically necessary so that the muscles can repair, rebuild and strengthen. For recreational athletes, building in rest days can help maintain a better balance between home, work and fitness goals.
She goes on to explain the difference between short-term recovery (the hours immediately after exercise) and long-term recovery (rest days … and even rest weeks) in her article, emphasizing that the body needs time to repair and build muscles, recover from strain and adapt to new demands placed on it. Without rest days, you are more prone to injury.
And it’s not only rest days that matter. You need to makes sure you get sufficient sleep. If sleeping is a problem for you, then you may want to look at ways to improve your sleep, up to and including getting a sleep study done, particularly if you hear from everyone that you snore. For me, the wake-up call was when we visited friends out of town and my snoring wasn’t immediately identified by our hostess, who went up and down the hall trying to figure out the weird noise. When I asked her just how loud it was, she said, “Oh, I think the neighbors probably heard it.” (Not only do I have smartass children, I have smartass friends.)
So, after discussing it with Coach Ken Tollett of Hill Country CrossFit, my husband/coach has put me on a rest schedule every three days. After he realized my big sticking point was centered on my foot rub points, he gave me a deal I couldn’t refuse: I get one for every three 3-day stint.
So take your day off, really off (e.g., not getting too caught up in non-workout activities, as blogger Kelly found out), even if the day back seems harder. Your body will thank you for it.