So today is a rest day.
I have been in the CrossFit stream for over two years now, and often read the ‘long-term-ers’ speak of the wisdom of ‘the rest day.’ CrossFit.com recommends a 3-days on, 1-day-off rhythm, qualified by “listen to your body.” Another quick internet search gives a thorough (and amusing) overview with more detail, nod to CrossFitImpulse here. There are two ‘charts’ of four examples each, noting training routines aimed at different human-body experiences. The final sampling, with names that signal each pattern, made me laugh aloud: Overweight Orville (1-on, 1-off), Average Alvin (3-on, 1-off, 2-on, 1-off), Fire-breathing Frank (3-on, 1-off), and Insomniac Irene (2-on, 2-off). The descriptions are entertaining, so I invite you to look and laugh. It’s good to have a giggle in these pandemic days…
I do listen to my body, and yet my rhythm does not match the recommendations here. I’m a Monday-Friday kind of girl, especially now in pandemic patterns, with a usual-but-not-always intention for Saturday morning as well. A different kind of workout, often, with sometimes smaller movements, focused muscle groups, etc. (Well, not when Joanna gives crazy reminders like ‘clusters’, but usually…). So my experience doesn’t really fit into the categories offered above, nor the ‘acceptable guidelines’ at CrossFit.com. I do value a ‘rest day’—usually Sunday—but I also recognize the holistic Steady my life has when CF is a near daily choice.
One of the most striking shifts into Steady is that I more often organize my life around CF workouts and community-fun in “adult recess” as I call it. The pandemic, working from home, makes this easier in many ways. In sum, I’m no longer ‘fitting in’ my physical exercise between the work-family-life commitments, but vice-versa. Physical activity has become a near-daily, if not all daily thing my body simply loves to do. There’s hardly any thought about the choice. I don’t spend any time or effort deciding what I might do for a workout, unless I can get to Open Gym for some playing-around. I don’t check the weather to see about a run, or try to get to the Kettering Rec Center at a time when it’s not so busy. It’s now become my established routine that I arise early, enjoy my cup of coffee in a quiet hour or two, then get on my way over to the gym. There’s a LOT less mental effort spent negotiating for the health and fitness of my own body. It is now presumed and a habit.
With this level of activity, another shift into Steady is how I experience the industrial food industry, whether fast-food, billboards, tv or magazines. I used to get subconsciously ‘sucked in’ with the various ‘suggestions’ or images I would encounter. Whatever emotional thing was going on with me could be soothed with some kind of food-sensation, feeling...so I would begin to find myself cycling inside with a craving. Now, I hardly notice the billboards or marketing at all; they are no longer a draw of any kind. And indulgence-decisions really do get filtered through a more conscious choice of how it will impact my body’s experience of the next day’s WOD. It doesn’t mean I always choose against the slice of challah on Friday nights—what a wonderful way to welcome in the Sabbath, after all—but it does mean that when I enjoy the challah, I know I’m willing to weather some potential shakiness or midday cravings the next day. I’m emotionally steadier than I’ve ever been, both because I have a good outlet to burn off steam inside and I’m no longer hijacked by food-industry seductions.
The regularity of camaraderie is a huge shift into Steady for me too. I get to josh with folks I probably wouldn’t see otherwise, and I get into unexpected, sometimes really significant chats about things I/we care about. Spending so much time in higher education as I have, I’m constantly startled by how body-centric conversations can be with CF peeps. I love it. Folks who engage CrossFit regularly become much more sensitized to their own body’s capabilities and movement. Academics don’t talk anything about the body without blushing or avoidance, denial. I’m much more attuned to my own athleticism and my ‘growing edges’ or limitations as I move, challenge myself, and then yes, rest. The community is a regular huge part of my own accountability.
I suspect part of what the coaches (and guidance) want to protect with this wisdom about the rest day, besides the human body of course, is intensity. Intensity and interval seem to be two central terms within the CrossFit method-culture that ground its wisdom in the world. Both are necessary, in rhythm, to challenge and then recover, stretch muscles and endurance, then allow the body to rest and heal, strengthen. I get it. I’ve never had an issue with intensity, except for being ‘too much’ for many around me, at various times. What I mean is that I’ve never had an issue of not enough intensity. Here in CF circles, I don’t come close to what would be considered too much intensity. I’m beautifully moderate, right here in the middle, listening to my body and loving what I get to do each day. Even “pretend fun” like Fran. Besides, the rhythm I’m living in these streams of CrossFit feeds me healthily and grounds me in a way I’m finding really necessary.
If I weren't so attentive, I know much of what the research and guidance would say is coming. I recognize the possibilities of ‘over-training’ and ‘over-use’ injuries that could result in my over-50-year-old body. I’m keeping an eye and ear, an inside sense, on my left elbow tendon, for instance, which doesn’t hurt but I notice from time to time. Or the QL muscle, left side of my back. I recognize I’m gentle entering into warm-up, some days being more stiff than other days. I always smile with how I love to move once I’m warmed up. I smile at getting stronger and trying different things each week.
Do I keep the intensity of my workouts at high level each WOD, like a more rhythmic workout-rest schedule of 3-on/1-off might provide? No. It’s more important for me to be there in my near-daily anchoring-rhythm than for any PR’s I’m aiming for. Some days, I go light and just enjoy the movement. Other days, like the most recent Filthy Fifties, I do decide to push myself and see how far I can get. "Active recovery" is a phrase that I've heard here too...movement, but gentle and low-intensity. I think I choose those days more consciously as I listen.
I wonder if ‘rest day’ for me simply means ‘two days - higher intensity’ and ‘one day - lower intensity’? It is restful to lounge about here at home today, without even an intention for a run...but I’m already antsy to move in the morning. Being in my rhythm keeps me in the Steady, which, trust me, everyone will much prefer.😆
So today is a rest day. Otherwise known as an ‘Eve of Movement’, leading into the Steady.