Ever since Sunday, I’ve been hitting my CrossFit workouts hard. This week has been all about heavy weights, which I haven’t done for a while, especially after coming back from surgery. My shoulders are trashed. My calves are trashed. Squatting down in the simple things like doing laundry is difficult.
This morning I had a workout planned. I did not do it. I was too sore, and my body was crying out for rest. Here’s some tips on how to know when to rest from exercise, CrossFit workouts, running, or whatever sport you do.
Tips to Know When to Rest from Exercise
Your body is crying out to you. This one should be intuitive, but I often ignore this one. When everything is sore and everyday movements become a challenge, it’s time for a break.
Your exhausted at the end of the day. Exercise causes trauma to our bodies that our bodies need rest and sleep in order to recover from. If you’re not giving your body rest, then you are not maximizing your time under the barbell. When you’re tired all the time, it’s your body crying out to rest, so it can do its job and repair muscle fibers and tissues, so you can be stronger for your next CrossFit workout.
Your mental game is affected. Loss of enthusiasm, motivation, and desire is a sure sign you need a rest day. If you’re only half into your CrossFit workout and you’re just going through the movements without any heart, then you’re not doing yourself any good. Rest and hit your workouts hard in the upcoming days.
You have a tweak that won’t go away. If you exercise or do CrossFit a lot, odds are you’re familiar with tweaks — some muscle feels a bit off and when you move it, you notice it. Most of the time, these tweaks resolve themselves on their own in a week or so. However, if you have a perpetual tweak that won’t go away, it’s time for a break. Take at least one rest day and then rest that muscle as much as possible. Modify the CrossFit programming to suit your needs or design your own CrossFit programming.
As you can see, the key is listening to your body. Rest is crucial to progress in sports, but it’s so hard to take that day when our passion is our sport. Below are tips for rest days.
Tips for Rest Days
Active recovery. It’s hard for some of us to not do anything physical on rest days. Active recovery is a great way to let your muscles recover but appease your mind that is nagging at you to work out. I personally like to walk my dog on rest days from CrossFit or go swimming, which is no impact and gets all your built-up lactic acid in your muscles.
Distraction. Plan rest days during the week instead of on weekends, so you’re busy all day long. Plan rest days during the weekend if your weekend is packed, and you won’t have time to exercise.
Plan your CrossFit programming or workouts. Planning my next workouts satisfies the need deep within me to workout. It gives me something to look forward to when it’s time to hit my CrossFit workouts hard again.
Read a book. Alternate worlds are always good to enter when trying to NOT do something like exercise.
Get a massage. Let’s face it, we all need massages if we lift heavy weights. Schedule your massage during your rest day if possible to maximize the effects of rest on the body.
Go to bed early that day. Get extra sleep to afford your body the time it needs to repair muscle tissue and grow stronger.
We only get stronger when we rest. Adequate rest and nutrition play a big part in our muscle gains and, odd enough, our muscle loss.
Working out and lifting heavy weights, whether you do CrossFit or a different sport, is only half the equation. Keep in mind the harder part — eating right and resting — and you’ll see results quicker.
Why do you lift weights? Is it for muscle tone? To gain strength? Be healthier? Lose weight? For fun? Are you a competitive lifter or a recreational?
Odds are, you lift weights for a variety of reasons, some of which may be those listed above. Lifting weights changes your body as we all know. You become leaner, stronger, toner, and healthier. These are the outward signs that you lift.
But have you ever thought about what happens on the inside as your lift weights? Your heart gets stronger, making it beat more efficiently. Your lungs work more efficiently. Your heart rate goes down, making for a healthier circulatory system. You sleep better. You are probably more efficient mentally as well.
Your metabolism is also affected by lifting weights. In today’s article, we’ll explore how lifting weights affects your metabolism.
WHAT IS YOUR METABOLISM?
Metabolism (/məˈtæbəlɪzəm/, from Greek: μεταβολή metabolē, “change”) is the breakdown of food through chemical reactions in your body that sustains your life functions. Metabolism refers to three processes: the conversion of food (or your fuel) into energy, the conversion of food into what builds your body, namely, protein, carbohydrates, lipids, and nucleic acids, and the elimination of waste by-products from this process. Metabolism is from the Greek word “metabole,” meaning change. Metabolism is what keeps you alive. Sure, the food you eat is the fuel, but without a way to use that fuel, you’d be dead.
WHAT ARE THE CLASSES OF METABOLISM?
In order to facilitate discussions, metabolism is further broken down into two categories:
Catabolism — the breaking down of compounds
Anabolism — the building up of compounds
Breaking down results in energy being released; building up results in energy being consumed.
For the purposes of this article, we will strictly be discussing metabolism and the effect exercise has on your metabolism. However, we needed a bit of background material in order to understand how this relates to diet and muscle growth as well.
METABOLISM AND EXERCISE
We’ve just established that your metabolism includes all the things your body does to turn food into energy and keep you going, while eliminating the substances your body cannot use — be this through waste products or through fat storage. Some people have a faster metabolism than others. Factors that influence metabolism are:
If you’ll notice, there’s only one thing on this list we can control: exercise, the rest being out of our control.
So what does this mean for us? It means we need to exercise if we want to speed up our metabolism, burn more calories, and thus lose weight and get stronger.
The best way to speed up your metabolism is through muscle building. Muscle cells need a lot of energy to function at their optimal level, which means they burn a lot of calories. In fact, muscle cells burn more calories than fat cells, even when you’re not exercising. Translation: the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. Another way to look at it is: the time you spend working out is multiplied many fold as your body reaps benefits long after you stop sweating.
HOW MUSCLES GROW
After you workout, your body repairs or replaces damaged muscle fibers through a cellular process where it fuses muscle fibers together to form new muscle protein strands or myofibrils. These repaired myofibrils increase in thickness and number to create muscle hypertrophy (growth). However this process does not happen when you are actually lifting the weights. Instead, it occurs while you rest. HOW DO YOU CAUSE MUSCLES TO GROW
Simple: you have to stress them. You have to push your body outside of its comfort zone (technically known as homeostasis or the tendency to stay the same). Otherwise, nothing will change. There are three ways to disrupt homeostasis and cause muscle growth:
Muscle Tension. In order to produce muscle growth, you have to apply a load of stress greater than what your body or muscles are used to, and the main way to do this is to lift progressively heavier weights. This will cause changes in the chemistry of the muscle, activating the formation of new muscle strands.
Muscle Damage. If you’ve ever felt sore after a workout, you have experienced muscle damage. The damaged muscle causes a release of inflammatory molecules and immune system cells that jump starts the repair process, resulting in more muscle being laid over the damaged muscle. You don’t have to feel sore for this to happen, but soreness is one indication your muscles are definitely not in their comfort zone!
Metabolic Stress. If you’ve ever felt the burn of an exercise or had the “pump” in the gym, then you’ve felt the effects of metabolic stress. Scientists used to question this effect on your muscles when bodybuilders would say the “pump” caused their muscles to become larger. However, after studies were conducted, it was learned that metabolic stress does cause muscle cells to swell around the muscle, which helps to contribute to muscle growth without necessarily increasing the size of the muscle cells. The swelling is caused by glycogen, which not only swells the muscles but also the connective tissue surrounding the muscles.
HOW HORMONES AFFECT MUSCLE GROWTH
Hormones are another component largely responsible for muscle growth and repair, namely growth factors and testosterone. Testosterone is the main hormone that most people think of when lifting weights and for good reason: testosterone increases protein synthesis, inhibits protein breakdown, activates satellite cells, and stimulates other anabolic hormones, which contribute to muscle growth. Strength training helps to release more testosterone and make the receptors of your muscle cells more sensitive to this testosterone. Furthermore, testosterone stimulates growth hormone responses by increasing the presence of neurotransmitters at the damaged fiber site, which can help to activate tissue growth. Growth factors regulate help muscle mass growth by enhancing protein synthesis, facilitating glucose uptake, repartitioning the uptake of amino acids (the building blocks of protein) into skeletal muscles and activating satellite cells to increase muscle growth.
WHY MUSCLES GROW WHEN YOU’RE AT REST
As most of us know who lift weights, lifting weights alone will only get you so far in terms of muscle growth, which affects your goals such as weight loss. Your body needs adequate rest and nutrition to reek the benefits of your weightlifting regimen. Otherwise, you can actually reverse the anabolic process and put your body into a catabolic or destructive state.
The response of muscle protein metabolism to a resistance exercise session lasts for 24-48 hours; thus, the interaction between protein metabolism and any meals consumed in this period will determine the impact of the diet on muscle hypertrophy (a fancy word for growth). Keep in mind there is a certain limit on how much your muscles can actually grow dependent on gender, age, and genetics. For instance, men have more testosterone than women, which allows them to build bigger and stronger muscles.
HOW FAST DO MUSCLES GROW?
Muscle hypertrophy takes time. Huge muscle gains will not be seen overnight. In fact, muscle growth is relatively slow for the majority of us. Visible growth in your muscles won’t be seen for weeks or even months as initially changes are taking place in your nervous system first, which has to activate your muscle growth. Factor in the uncontrollables we talked about earlier, such as genetics and age, and muscle growth can be even slower. The amount of hormones your body releases, the type of muscle fibers you were born with, and cell activation of your muscles all play a factor in muscle growth and is different for all of us.
Remember muscle protein synthesis must be greater than muscle protein breakdown in order for muscle growth to occur. This requires an adequate consumption of protein (especially essential amino acids) and carbohydrates to help facilitate the cellular process of rebuilding broken down muscle tissue.
Building muscle takes time and seeing the results of your hard work is your reward. However, most of us are somewhat impatient, and those who are unsuccessful in meeting their muscle growth goals are those who quit because of what they deem “lack of results.”
You’re body is an amazing machine. But like a machine, it takes time to process change.
MUSCLE GROWTH AND METABOLISM
As we’ve seen, muscle growth can increase your metabolism, thereby making your overall goals much more attainable. If you want to lose weight, you lift heavy weights, which will increase your muscle mass, burning more calories in the process.
To be more specific, when you lift heavy weights, you increase your resting metabolism, which is just like it sounds: your metabolism while at rest. Let’s fact it: we spend the majority of our days in this resting metabolism state. You sleep, eat, watch TV, go to work, stare at a computer all day, or stand for portions of the day. Even if you have a fairly active job such as landscaping or oil field work, you still have a considerably amount of down time throughout your day — much more so than actually exercising.
Hence, we rely on our resting metabolism to get us to where we want to go, whether it be competitive powerlifting or bodybuilding, losing 20 pounds, getting rid of our beer bellies, or just being leaner and fitting into more of our clothes without a belt pinching our mid-section.
TIPS FOR INCREASING METABOLISM WITH WEIGHT TRAINING
Frequency. In order to increase your metabolism, grow muscle, and achieve your desired results, you’re going to have to lift weights frequently. Stronglifts Strength Training Program is designed to do three days a week.
Commitment. You need a plan with a logical progression that focuses on the basic lifts — which is Stronglifts defined. The back squat, deadlift, and bench press are foundational moves (along with barbell row and overhead press) to work all of the muscles in your body. You increase the weight incrementally, incorporating rest and healthy eating, to maximize results.
Intelligence. The goal of weight training is to lift more over a period of time — not to lift too much, end up getting hurt, and then not see any results. If you overdo it, you could actually end up losing muscle, which can slow your metabolism. Stronglifts is a program that does all the work for you. It tells you what to lift, how much and when. It tells you what exercises to do. And it shows you proper form, so you won’t hurt yourself. Stronglifts is an all-inclusive weight lifting program.
Take care of yourself. As we’ve discussed, being healthy is a holistic approach: you have to choose wisely what you put in your body, choose wisely what strength program you do, and rest and recover. This will maximize results and keep you safe. And an added benefit — you are lifting for life. Overall, you’ll be healthier to do the things you enjoy doing such as mountain climbing or skiing.
Lifetime activity. Exercise becomes even more important as you get older. You naturally lose muscle mass with age, which slows down your metabolism. Lifting weights can help stop that slide, allow you to keep more of your muscle mass, and keep building muscle mass. As you age, you slow down and spend more time in the resting metabolic zone. This makes building muscle even more important because muscle uses more calories than fat, strengthening your muscles will make you into a more efficient calorie-burning machine for life.
THE LIFTING WEIGHTS CHOICE
Lifting weights has led thousands of people to amazing health and wellness. They have achieved the look they desire, and the health they’ve always wanted. They look great and feel great. They are more successful in all aspects of their lives because of their health. They have an active lifestyle, friends that support them, healthy relationships, a thriving career, and time and energy to do what makes their heart sing. Lifting weights has given thousands the ultimate freedom. Join them today!
Today I got to work out for the first time after my surgery. It was glorious. To feel my heart race again and try and beat the clock. Magic!
For those of you who do CrossFit, you know you walk around in a state of perpetual soreness. Since I haven’t been working out, I haven’t had that. Today I got it back. I used to bemoan the fact I’m always sore. Then I accepted the fact I was always sore. Now, for the first time, I missed the soreness of CrossFit.
Today I got to work out for the first time after my surgery. It was glorious. To feel my heart race again and try to beat the clock. Magic!
At my last competition, the Turkey Challenge, we had a WOD with sandbags. I fell in love — so much so I bought two sandbags from Brute Force for myself for Christmas. One I filled with 35 pounds and one with 62 pounds.
Filling sandbags is not as easy as it sounds. Here are the steps and methods I utilized:
Buy sand (play sand is recommended) from your local hardware store or superstore
Fill the filler bags accordingly. A less filled bag is more unstable and will tax your grip and balance more. We used a funnel and a measuring cup that had a pour spout. This enabled us to accurately fill the bags with the same amount of sand.
Use a scale. After filling the bags, we would weigh the bags on a scale to make sure they were equal.
These Brute Force bags come with military-grade velcro. Velcro the bags and place them in the outer shell bag, shaking to make even.
You’re ready to begin!
WHY TRAIN WITH SANDBAGS
Sandbag training is utilized for unstable load training which is the ability to unconventionally move or lift an odd object that is unstable or has an uneven load efficiently. This type of training provides a much more dynamic and challenging training experience. You must engage your body’s stabilizer muscles, building coordinated strength and balance throughout your entire body.
Unstable load training is definitely challenging, no doubt about it. And fun. Once I’m healed from my surgery, I can’t wait to get started!
I never realized the importance of having moves you dominate in CrossFit until my last competition. Called in your wheelhouse, these CrossFit moves are vital to winning workouts and, if you compete, to competitions.
CrossFit moves in your wheelhouse are moves you dominate every time they show up in a workout — moves you are really, really good at. I made up time in my CrossFit competition when one showed up in one workout, and I won the event where both moves were in my wheelhouse.
In CrossFit, advice is often given on how you need to focus on the moves you’re bad at, so you improve those. This is true. However, you need to make sure you don’t forget NOT to practice the moves in your wheelhouse, so you don’t lose those in sacrifice to others.
The fact of the matter is: you will improve those moves you’re not so good at, but they will never be like the ones you’re naturally good at, the ones you like, the ones you dominate.
CrossFit Moves in My Wheelhouse
As you can see, I’m not very good at most CrossFit moves. But these ones are popular and when thrown into a CrossFit WOD can make all the difference whether you win or lose.
CrossFit is constantly-varied, functional movements at high-intensity. Every CrossFit workout you do, you’ll get better. Know what you’re good at and add to them if possible — all the while improving all the other CrossFit movements. This is the key to winning at your box, in your heat, in your mind, and at CrossFit competitions. Good luck!
Since I’ve been working out by myself a lot, I’m in no rush. It’s become about the work, not the time.
When a heavy barbell move is programmed into a CrossFit WOD, I usually do one rep at a time.
I did a CrossFit workout programmed by Bergeron he named Jump City:
800 Meter Run
80 Double Unders
21 Hang Power Cleans (155/105)
400 Meter Run
40 Double Unders
15 Hang Power Cleans (155/105)
200 Meter Run
20 Double Unders
9 Hang Power Cleans (155/105)
The hang power cleans were heavy for me, so I did them one rep at a time. During the hang power cleans, I kept asking myself, Why are these so hard? They shouldn’t be this hard. I started paying attention (since I wasn’t in a hurry to finish–I had no time crunch).
Why my Hang Power Cleans were Hard!
I noticed the same thing my daughter noticed with my bar muscle ups and ring muscle ups–my left wrist does not rotate. In essence, I have a death grip on the bar–a common fault for all of these moves.
This was the first time though I’ve become aware of this doing hang power cleans in CrossFit. It makes sense as to why I’d fail occasionally on my left side and why it would be hard–because I was stopping the upward momentum of the bar by not allowing the bar to rotate around.
For the rest of the CrossFit workout, I tried to be cognizant of this but, of course, like everything performed multiple times incorrectly, it will take a while to reprogram it.