How many days per week should I do CrossFit?

I remember my intro to CrossFit, “Eva”, resulting in sore muscles that I never knew I had. After recovering and learning the difference between soreness and acute injury to my shoulders it took a few months to develop the capacity to try to following CrossFit.com, the main site, as prescribed, 3 days of wods then 1 day rest. What lead to such a lofty goal was a combination of getting level I certified, which exposed the science and methodology, health goals, performance goals for baseball, combined with the CrossFit culture and a mid-life crisis to attempt to impress my wife. Needless to say any powerful reason for your goals will produce motivation. But First make sure you are realistic about your present fitness level in balance with your goals, can you really impress your wife? This does not mean a new CrossFitter (newbie) can’t train more frequently, rather it must be in balance with the intensity or effort put forth during the workouts, which should be less in the beginning until form is excellent. The take away; if your new to CrossFit and your form is great and you are adding intensity then you may need to start with less frequency. If you are moving slowly through each wod with little intensity then you could quickly move to 4-5 days per week in quest to learn as many skills and form as possible. The keys are to maintain the ability for the body to adapt to overload and keep hormones (testosterone and estrogen) in balance. Newbies are more likely to need more rest in order to adapt in this regard if they are being intense.

Fast forward four years of experience, trial and error, many tweaks. After just reading an article in “The Box” on Rich Froning, who often performs 3 wods in a day versus some top athletes who have been known to train 3-5 days per week for 3 weeks then take a week for rest or recreational activities, it is obvious there is no perfect prescription for all. If you are confused lets try to answer the question with a perpetual answer, “How often should I wod?”

The objective is to lead you to your individual answers with some guidelines provided here. The ultimate answer is “instinctive training”. What I mean by that is simply listen to your body. Remember, the mind and body are intricately connected, the mind follows the body and the body follows the mind. They need to communicate with each other and that means keeping the ego in check. A starting block for me has always been no matter what style of training I have done is to try not to train more than 3 days in a row and try never to take more than 2 days in a row of rest. But then real life got in the way. For example, a weekend away for business or pleasure, therefore you may want to hit 5 days in a row. If that’s the case then you very well may need to take 2 days off (second best CrossFit prescription as presented in Level I certification conducive to real life weekly schedules).

But that is just the base line rules to follow. Now the bigger factors an athlete needs to consider when contemplating that double wod or that extra day per week and wants to avoid surpassing the top of the bell curve of benefit by overtraining, those are; your goals, sleep, nutrition and stress. I listed goals first because with out s.m.a.r.t goals you are just dreaming. Sleep is second because it has been eloquently stated that sleep is more important than food, and no, that does not mean blow the whole 30 off and start pounding ice cream before hitting the rack at 7 pm. And stop kidding yourself 7 hours is enough because you are different because you developed a survival technique. The human body is a machine that requires 8-9 hours of sleep or else your body shuts down and gets sick so you will take a rest day. Listen to you body before the immune system shuts down.

Moving to nutrition, which is infamous for being the foundation of the pyramid for a reason. You know what’s coming, the car and gas or the house and foundation analogy. No need to elaborate on that one. Recovery is dependent on how fast you can re-fuel after your wod and the quality of food.

Stress is all encompassing. Stress is your list to do and not enough time, some call it the “honey do list” others call it life. It never ends so let go of that expectation. Make health a priority in that to do list and life will find it’s balance for you. Stress also has its bell curve. Some is good, too much is bad. Yes, exercise is a stressor but John Ratey wrote in “Spark” supporting the science of functional movements at high intensity can actually increase your brains threshold for stressors. So hit the wod. The ultimate answer to stress is not avoiding it but counter balancing it. The wod should have a positive impact on over all stress levels but not from running 20- 60 miles per week for hours on end. Ratey claims even 5 minutes of intense jump roping is remedy. Now look at the top of the CrossFit Pyramid, you see sport/ recreation. Intention, find other outlets that keep your enthusiasm and mental well being alive. Also consider we are human “beings” not human “doings”. Take time to just be…… alone and present with others. We don’t want CrossFit to be your life we want CrossFit to be the foundation and power to your life.

Let’s return to the question at hand, the frequency in which you should wod. It must be in balance with the intensity you bring to the wod. The higher the intensity the less frequent you may wod. Within fitting your consecutive wods you may need to ramp down the intensity from time to time to prevent your cortisol levels from sky rocketing into fat storage mode and inability to sleep mode. Back to the above list of considerations for frequency decision process it would be obvious that would begin a vicious cycle of poor recovery and potential over training.

In conclusion, make sure you are realistic about your present fitness level in balance with your goals.
Listen to your body and take into account the weekly factors that influence your recovery. Every week can be different. Go with the flow.
Understand you do not need to have a sweat fest/met con of 3-2-1 Go mentality for every wod. Understand the strength days are programmed to balance your hormones and allow for fitness across broad time in all metabolic pathways. Slowing down and skill working and working on mobility and stability could be what you need to improve your Fran time.
As Mr. Miagi would say, “Aaahhy… Balance Danielson… balance”. What he was trying to say was be Synergistic.

Glenn

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4 thoughts on “How many days per week should I do CrossFit?

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