WOD to Recovery

by Admin | December 31, 1969 | BLOGS | 0 Comment

Written by: Colette Wheeler

Injury, discomfort, and restriction create an experience rich in emotion, frustration, and complexity. Similar to our animal counterparts, when not at our physical best, we tend to isolate ourselves from the pack--withdrawing from our usual activities in hopes of healing through disuse. Though a natural instinct, it is not a course of action that leads to a speedy recovery.

The label of “Injury” can be used to describe myriad ailments occurring in our bodies. The injury spectrum includes anything from mild, twinge-y discomfort to broken bone or torn muscle. Though the spectrum is broad and varied, injuries of all sorts can be handled using a similar approach. Essentially, the prescription for recovery is specific to the individual, but the process applies to the injury spectrum as a whole.

Let me set the scene:

You have been CrossFitting for three months. You are making huge strides—you just PR’d your back squat, and you can do strict pull-ups like you never thought was possible. THEN ONE DAY, you’re warming up with air squats. Your right knee feels weird. Ew. What’s that twinge? You decide to “push through” the pain. It can’t be that serious.

Fast forward a few days/weeks/months even — that daggone knee hurts every day. You’ve been doing your same routine, maybe taking a day off here and there to rest, and it just isn’t getting any better.

So the reasonable solution is to rest.  All-out rest for a predetermined length of time, like a week or a month.  No CrossFit, no use of that achey knee, nada.


What if this were some other ailment? For instance, what do you do if your stomach hurts?  If you were to “rest” your stomach, the consequences would be dire.  When your stomach hurts, you change or modify what you put in it. You don’t stop using it altogether.

Let’s have a look at that knee again. If you haven’t changed or modified your workouts, it comes as no surprise that the healing process has not begun. An injury cannot heal itself while sustaining constant assault.  Granted, full rest of the knee isn’t a life or death situation (as in the stomach example), but regardless how well-intentioned you are, halting your routine altogether begets some (unintended) consequences.

When you go cold turkey, you deprive the rest of your thriving muscles and joints. Your poor healthy knee is now doing double duty as it suffers through unconscious gait changes and unexpected stress. Healthy Knee, now working overtime, isn’t getting any TLC in the form of strengthening movements. Healthy Knee has been misused and hung out to dry. Often, it is only a matter of time before ache and discomfort descend upon Healthy Knee.

What’s more, Those hard-earned pull-ups are fading away as your shoulder and core muscles weaken from disuse.You haven’t seen your friends in a while because you stopped CrossFitting. All those endorphins and feel-good hormones no longer course so heavily through your bloodstream. All that work and sweat equity you’ve put into your fitness begins to erode and atrophy.

Yet, take heart! There are fabulous options available to you.  An injury is a golden opportunity to better yourself, to hone specific skills, to allow yourself to specialize in a single or group of movements that you have previously ignored or not excelled in.  All you need to do is open a line of communication with your coach(es).

Instead of taking off from CrossFit, take the opportunity to master a skill. Your knee may be hurting, but you have recently achieved strict pull-ups! Practice and master the kip and/or the butterfly. Level up to chest-to-bar. Practice and become comfortable with handstands and inversion. Become the resident handstand-hold champion. Go one step further and build up to handstand push-ups. The magic here is that every one of these gymnastic “no-leg” movements still engages your whole body, legs and all!

But okay, a day will come when the WOD is chock full of movements you can’t do without significant discomfort. A worst-case scenario WOD for knee pain is a spicy meal of back squats, front squats, overhead squats with a side dish of running and lunges for dessert. The likelihood of that combination being programmed is extremely low, but we can use the example as a thought experiment of sorts. With all that leg work, you’d obviously have to skip that day, right? Wrong. Single leg squats and other rehabilitative movements can replace all those two-legged squats. Furthermore — the front and overhead squat are accessory movements to the Clean and Jerk and the Snatch. Both Olympic lifts have other upper body, overhead components that can be exercised in strict fashion just like the squat.  Working with a coach, you would be able to determine a good modification for running and lunges based on the particular level and type of discomfort you experience in your knee.  Remember, your coaches are there to help you get fit, no matter the circumstance! Your coaches are knowledgeable, experienced professionals who will walk with you on the path to greater health and fitness.

CrossFit, at it’s heart, is infinitely scalable and modifiable.  You joined the gym to gain fitness, and to lead a happier, healthier lifestyle.  Almost everyone that begins CrossFit scales or modifies a movement or two for weeks, months, or even years. Pain or injury is simply a short decline in fitness, a small obstacle to overcome through the use of scaling and modification.  The example given here is pain in the knee, but this concept can be applied to any area of the body.  Where there is a will, there is a way.  Don’t shortchange yourself if you’re not at 100%.  Resist the instinct of isolation and complete, unstructured rest. CrossFit got you to 100% once, staying intelligent in the gym through injury will bring you back to that 100% mark!

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