Im talking about recovery days here in regards to your training schedule. This is a complex and tricky subject as everyone will differ in what they need. However, your recovery days (when and how many) will depend on the following:
So here are a two fitness components that we hit a lot in crossfit - how they fatigue your body and how it's best to recover from them. There is a lot of information here, but if you want to plan your program you'll need to have some understanding of them anyway:
Cardiovascular or aerobic fitness. That is, how much oxygen your body can use to make energy.The way to stress your body here is to get your HR up. One of the adaptations your body makes is to then build a more powerful heart. The heart is a muscle so it's like doing strength training for your heart.
Be careful with this high intensity, very puffing, lungs burning, 6x500m row hard on 4:00 type of training. This type of training will leave you gulping in air and get your HR above 85% max. Now the heart is a muscle, so like a muscle you only need to train this once (for a beginner) to three times (for advanced athletes) a week.
If you keep doing this type of training without enough recover days between, then after a couple of weeks your performance for these wods will plateau or start to drop off. You won't feel sore (you can't feel your heart) or tired. You will probably just blow out early in the wod or just can't get the intensity you're used to.
Intensity is much more important than duration. For example a 1000m row at 100% is much better than 3x1000m at 90% with rest between each. Keep thinking of it like a muscle. Want bigger legs - you need to walk out the gym knowing you've done a leg set!
Really, you can do any type of training as your recovery days if it doesn’t stress your heart too much. So you might do a high intensity cardio set Mon, Wed, Sat and in the off days do your strength, power etc WODS.
Muscular endurance: WODS that make you lift a force for lots of reps. One that came up in the Masters Qualifiers was 100 chins followed by 100 WB's. This type of WOD leaves your muscles SORE. You're mainly hitting your slow twitch fibers here. There are two types of muscle fibers - sort of - fast and slow. Fast are used when you need to generate a lot of force, Slow are used when you need to generate less force. However, once you deplete or fatigue your slow twitch you then start using your fast twitch. After such a set your muscle cells have been damaged. What happens is that (in your recovery) it then rebuilds itself. However, it will rebuild itself stronger (bigger). It's been known for a while that your slow twitch fibers can definitely hypertrophy (get bigger), however if the set is big enough your fast twitch will also be stressed and will also likely hypertrophy too.
Recovery here needs to be specific (for the muscles groups used). So if you have been doing a big pulling exercise (e.g. chinups, CTB, MU, rope climb) then you may need to rest that movement for 2-4 days afterwards. You will likely get some DOMS anyway (delayed onset of muscle soreness) 24-48 hours afterwards, which generally makes training that muscle group very unpleasant anyway.
It will also depend greatly on your training age. If you have been doing crossfit for more than 2-3 years then maybe only two days between these sorts of sets will be enough. If you're just starting out (less than 6 months) then 4-6 days will be needed.
If you're doing lots of these types of WODS, make sure your protein levels are sufficient. I put my clients on around 2gram/kg of body weight.
Next post I'll look at a few more components, then I'll put it together into a weekly schedule.
The main thing for all this recovery is are you following a program-centered or athlete-centered recovery schedule?
The former means you recover when the shed does. If your shed is doing 3 days hard and one day easy, followed by 2 days hard and one day easy then you're following the program.
If you recover when you think you need to (or your coach thinks you need to), then you're following an athlete-centered schedule.
Personally, I believe, for an athlete, you need to do an athlete-centered schedule. You're training and recovery needs are different to everyone else's so why follow everyone else's plan?
If you got this far, you're doing well. I'll finish this one of during the week.
Hope the Opens training is going well! 3 weeks to go....
Dion Walmsley, Head Coach at CrossFit Kanga, Richlands