Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Striking the balance

CrossFit has a sort of addictive quality, especially early on. The average person comes from another more "standard" gym -- full of machines, treadmills and ellipticals (and people who don't ever speak to one another) -- and he or she gets quickly caught up in CrossFit fervor. And it's great. The newbie gets all (justifiably) warm and fuzzy about the sense of community at a CF gym, and feels simultaneously destroyed and invigorated by the workouts, and is generally flying high on the CrossFit-ness of it all....

And then some of them get hurt.

Not all, by any means. There are CFers who managed to do it all right from the outset, but, in my experience, they are in the minority. The more typical scenario often involves the newbie getting so into it all so quickly that he or she gets banged up. And we almost all get hurt; the question is whether you learn something from it.

Many times I think that the most glaring "something" to be learned is how many days a week you can really CrossFit and remain injury-free. And here's the catch: that is a very individual issue.

Yes, some of you can handle a seven-day schedule that goes something like three days on, one day off, two days on, one day off, and survive just fine. Some of you even go three on/one off over and over and do great with that. I even know a few who successfully go six days straight without a rest day.

I tried that three on/one-off routine when I first started CF back in 2010. After all, I used to go to the old globo gym six days a week, so that should be no problem right? I began at my local CF affiliate a couple days a week, and followed their programming in my garage the other days. It was great!

Until it wasn't.

I am in decent shape for a guy who turns 50 this year. But my body cannot handle six (or even five) days a week of CrossFit.

I get sore, and then I tweak something, and then I spend the next few weeks recovering/compensating.

And then there are issues of sleep and body composition to consider. You might think that if you are pretty fit doing CF three or four days a week, you will be a Totally Awesome and Sexy Specimen of Fitness if you just ramp up the amount of training to five or six days.

You might be very wrong.

If I do CF that much, I don't only end up sore and hurt; I sleep badly too. Then when my sleep is wrecked, insulin resistance begins. I might even get a touch of Raynaud's tingling in my fingers to remind me that we aren't off the rails yet, but the shitstorm is coming if we don't get it together.

The question is not whether your body will ever send you these sorts of messages, but, rather, whether you choose to listen.

And it isn't easy. I planned on going to CrossFit this morning. But I played volleyball last night, then had minor trouble falling asleep because I was still hyped up from playing and sore from my already banged-up right arm taking a bit of a beating at volleyball, and I woke up this morning, feeling a slight Raynaud's tingle in the fingers, and thought, "Eff this."

And, mind you, when I think, "Eff this," I don't just get there in one simple step. No, there's guilt and reconsideration and then a little more guilt and thoughts of "maybe I will go after all" and then some more guilt. Hell, most of this post probably began as a way of assuaging my guilt for not going to the gym.

But my body will thank me, even if my ego took a hit.

Play smart, kids. Somewhere in your head, you know what the right frequency of exercise is for you. And that may change from week to week depending on what else is going on in your life. All I know is this: the self-imposed guilt from not going to the gym on a particular day is nothing like the physical repercussions from going when you shouldn't have. Listen to your body. Have fun.

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