You put in hard work. You hit that new personal record. You sweat through your shirt. You left some skin behind on the bar. You lay on the floor in exhaustion wondering how you just made it through all of that. What do you do with the next 23 hours before you come back and do it all again?! While the 1 hour you put in may be the most grueling 60 minutes of your entire day, what you do with the next 23 defines success or failure of your health and fitness goals. It separates the stagnated from those who continue to progress towards their goals.
If you do the right things during that other 23 hours, it will unleash your potential to hit that next milestone. In my time in athletics, fitness industry, and just life in general, I’ve seen and heard all too often “I just worked out, I can have (fill in the blank with some unhealthy indulgence)”. When in reality, in order to unlock that potential: I just worked out, I need to have something that will help me recover properly. It doesn’t matter if your goal is weight loss, gain muscle mass/strength, or both, these hours are crucial.
“Ok, yeah. I get it, I need to treat my body well. Not just when I’m working out, or immediately after, but for the entire day. So what will help me be successful?” Nutrition. Sleep. Active recovery. These 3 are the foundation upon which you will build your success. Without this foundation, the work you put in may be for none.
Nutrition: I’ll start by saying start small! The downfall of most modern “quick fix” diet approaches is that they incorporate some sort of all in, nutrient elimination, 6-8 week program. At the end of the program you’re left to face the harsh reality of real world temptations and unfulfilled urges that you’ve been resisting for the past month or two. Days, then weeks go by and slowly old habits return… Simply start by slowly eliminating processed food from your diet. Every week, eliminate 1 thing that comes in a can, box, bag, or wrapper. Next start to prep 1 meal for every day of the week using what you learned in your first phase. Then prep 2 meals per day, then 3. This ramp up process can take weeks, if not months, depending what your current state of nutrition is. However, at the end, you’ll be left with sustainable results! This is obviously a super condensed version of my views on nutrition. For more details, google search “Dr. Barry Sears, The Zone”.
Sleep: According to a 2013 Gallup poll, the average American gets 6.8 hours of sleep per night. You’ve probably heard the saying “You build muscles while you sleep, not at the gym”. It’s true. We all know we should be getting more sleep. I’ve yet to run into a person at the gym that tells me they’re getting too much sleep. 8-10 hours should be your goal. Again, like nutrition, start small! If you’re currently getting 6 hours, shoot for 6 hours and 15 minutes. Really, you can cut out 15 minutes of mindless Facebook or Instagram surfing. Then add another 15, and so on. It’s doable, how bad do you want those results?
Active Recovery: 99% of CrossFitters do not live at the gym. They’re nurses, engineers, realtors, bankers & construction workers (etc). Depending what your profession is, can also play a factor into your success towards your goals. A construction worker may have a better chance at active recovery, then say a banker. However that doesn’t mean that the banker should just give up, or change professions. Do whatever you can to remain active during the day. Simply stand periodically during the day instead of sitting for 8 hours straight. Go for a walk/jog/climb stairs over lunch break.
You have your goals. You know why you’re putting in the work. It’s not easy, and sometimes it’s not fun, so why ruin it all with a sloppy 23 hours of recovery. Give yourself every fighting chance you can to make progress towards your goals!
“To get what we never had, we must do what we have never done”
-Cliff Rudzki – 5 Seasons CrossFit
CFL1 – USAW Sports Performance Coach