We’ve all been there, making progress every week, hitting PRs every month…it’s an addicting ride, for sure. One that I’m very familiar with!
But eventually the progress stops and we wonder WHAT ELSE we need to be doing to keep the progress-high going.
Instead of adding programs and squat cycles and accessory work onto your training, what if we pulled back?
Before you run for the hills as yet another person is warning you to slow down…please just consider this.
If you’re at the crossroads of not seeing progress and wondering what else you should be doing, consider these mistakes that you could be making and strategies to bust past them.
Consider them words of the wise 😉
1. Under Eating
If you;re a recreational CrossFitter working out 2-3 x/wk, following a lower-carb / Paleo-type diet, it’s probably nutritionally adequate and a good way of maintaining longevity and health!
However, if you are a competitive athlete (this includes you local competitors, as well) or training intensely for more than 1hr/day (this is anyone in the gym for longer than the schedule class), your main source of energy is going to be carbohydrates, and eating strict Paleo simply does not provide enough sources of them.
This doesn’t mean we go on an all-out carb-load eating pasta, bread, and cereal for every meal (that’s an inflammatory, insulin bomb waiting to happen). It simply means we choose complex sources of carbohydrates from plants and low glycemic grains to add into our diet, especially when training is at its peak.
Not eating enough carbs, or not enough food in general?
A good rule of thumb for total caloric intake for CrossFitters is body weight in pounds (BW) multiplied by 15-16.
A good rule of thumb for total protein intake in grams is BW * 0.8-1.2g protein / lb BW
A good rule of thumb for total fat intake in grams is BW * 0.3-0.5g fat / lb BW
A good rule of thumb for total carbohydrate intake in grams is total caloric intake – 4*grams of protein – 9*grams of fat. Then divide that number by 4 to get total grams of carbohydrate.
**caution: results will vary. These amounts would be an estimate of the ideal amount of macros per day for someone CrossFitting consistently 3-5x per week.
Dialing carb intake even further?
Consider timing your carbohydrates around your workouts. For most of us we can get away with eating a high-quality, well-rounded meal of protein, carbohydrate (30-35% of your total intake) and some healthy fats.
If you trained intensity for more than 60 min, drink a whey protein shake along with 20g of starchy carbs (ex. ripe banana). Then 60-90 minutes later, consume a high-quality, well-rounded meal of protein, carbohydrate (30-35% of your total intake) and some healthy fats.
2. Over Training
We tend to see this a lot with newbie CrossFitters. When we first start something new, our nervous system is adapting exponentially as we learn new skills and incorporate more neurons to fire specific muscles.
This can look like we’re increasing in skill and strength at a freakishly fast pace. We start thinking, ‘at this rate, I’ll be at the Games in the next couple of years!”
Unfortunately, we reach a plateau. Our nervous system fully adapts, our skill acquisition and strength gains come to a crawl and we worry that we aren’t working hard enough to keep up the progress.
So what do we do? We work harder! More is better, right?
Not so fast. Once we reach this peak adaptation phase or plateau, our body must now build muscle to progress any further. This takes months and years to attain. Not days and weeks.
To put this into application, we recommend training during your workouts, rather than competing.
To put this differently, do the program as it is written, instead of going above and beyond by increasing intensity, weights, or volume. This will keep you from over-training.
3. Under Recovering
Continuing to workout through a certain level of fatigue or soreness can actually be counterproductive long term. As a new CrossFitter, it might be a rare occurrence to not feel sore and fatigued, but this should not be the norm.
Nearly as important as what we’re doing in the gym, is what we’re doing outside of the gym. The ability to recover becomes the most important aspect of improving performance as a CrossFitter
Growth Hormone (GH) is an essential part of that recovery. It allows the body to repair itself after intense exercise through muscular hypertrophy and plays a significant role in the maintenance of lean body mass. Nearly 50% of GH secretion occurs during the third and fourth REM sleep stages.
If we’re regularly skimping on sleep by 2 or more hours, we’re missing the body’s prime production of GH, and thereby not recovering as well as we could. Basically all the effort we put into our squat cycle is worth nothing if we’re sleep-deprived during it.
We recommend taking at least 2 rest days/wk, sleeping 8-9 hrs/day, getting a weekly massage or other body work done, and managing stress from work, family, and other responsibilities.
At the end of the day, figure out why you feel the need to obsess about progressing as a CrossFitter. From my own experience, I was looking for something to validate my self-worth. I was good at CrossFit, I loved CrossFit, and therefore I made my life about CrossFit. Don’t fall into the same trap of burnout and fatigue as I did. Learn from my mistakes and you’ll make a sustainable, long term love out of the sport.
We’d love to hear your experience as a newbie CrossFitter! What were some of the things you wish you knew and would have done differently?