How To Recover Like A Pro

Friday February 1, 2019
Ben Bergeron & Christine Bald

Like like all professional sports, success in the competitive CrossFit comes down to how prepared you are. What is the hardest you can you train today and still be primed to do the same thing tomorrow? It’s a fairly straightforward equation: The person that gets in the most productive training gets fittest. The faster we can recover, the faster progress accelerates.

Recovery is the oft overlooked secret to high-volume, high intensity training. If we can shorten the time it takes for our bodies to recover, we get to train more. If we get to train more, we get fitter. We are the sum of our training stimulus.

We know the importance of maximizing minutes and training with purpose. This is best optimized when we are healthy, primed, and mentally and physically ready to grind. Our ability to recover will dictate the amount of quality training we experience this year. The interesting thing is that you can manipulate this ability. Recovery is not fixed. You can speed it up or slow it down depending on what you do before, between and after your training sessions.


There are a number of areas that we can optimize to speed up our recovery and get back in the gym faster. Our basic rule of thumb is to spend 25 percent of the amount time we spent training on recovery. That means if we had a four hour training session, we should be doing an hour of proactive recovery.


What you eat plays a powerful role in how you recover from training sessions. Eating a clean diet with enough calories is one of the most important things we can do to reduce inflammation, replace glycogen, and ensure the whole system is functioning properly.


Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is a banned substance in every major sport including ours. It is an incredible performance enhancer that improves recovery, builds muscles and keeps us younger and more energetic. While it’s illegal to supplement with HGH, it’s a hormone that our bodies naturally produces. But it only produces it as a result of certain actions: One is after high intensity exercise (this neroendicine response is one of the main reasons the CrossFit training protocol works as well as it does), and the second is deep restorative sleep. The deeper and longer you sleep, the better you will perform.

Sleep will outweigh all other forms of recovery combined, and is almost as important as our actual training. When it comes to sleep, we’re looking to optimize both quality and quantity. Eight hours is the recommended minimum for normal people, but those of us trying to compete at a high level need a minimum of nine. Setting yourself up to get sufficient deep sleep—where all of the most powerful recovery happens—is just as important. For our full write-up on the performance enhancing benefits of sleep and how to optimize it, click here.

Professional Bodywork

Improves quality of muscle, tendon and ligament tissue. Breaks up scar tissue and improves mobility and joint function. Improves CNS fatigue as it promotes parasympathetic nervous system which is the “rest and digest.” Breaks up adhesions and get the body to function the way it’s supposed to. There are big CNS benefits to getting professional bodywork done. It’s expensive, time consuming and requires a professional. But if you have access to professional bodywork, you can sustain much higher levels of training than you could without it.

Self Myofascial Release

Foam rolling, lacrosse ball post workout. Doing these things before a workout is not recovery—they’re prepping you to perform. Post-workout is where we see recovery benefits. Muscle stim technology like Compex, PowerDot and Normatec are also good options.


We train in the gym with a lot of intensity. It’s important to have downtime to completely relax and reprieve your mind. Meditation, salt baths, going for walks, sitting on the beach. We need this kind of recovery too.


We are in the game of one percents. In the sport of CrossFit, the field improves at a rate of about five percent each year. so if we can pick up one percent here and there, over the course of a year it makes a huge difference.

Recovery is an area where small improvements add up a lot. Improving by just one percent isn’t notable (and sometimes it isn’t even noticeable). But it is just as meaningful, especially in the long run. In the beginning, there is basically no difference between making a choice that is one percent better or one percent worse. In other words, it won’t impact you very much today. But as time goes on, these small improvements or declines compound and you suddenly find a very big gap between the people who make slightly better decisions on a daily basis and those who don’t.

Be a pro—own your recovery and maximize your training.