Post-Competition Recovery - One size does not fit all!

There are some simple truths about competing in CrossFit that we can’t deny when considering post-comp recovery:

⚠️ On a comp day, we often perform many more reps at a much higher intensity than we do in whole training sessions.

⚠️ This kind of overload is stressful on many fronts - physically, mentally, on our central nervous system etc.

⚠️ Our bodies aren’t developed to be exposed to the levels of adrenaline that we process on these long and strenuous days.

⚠️ We sweat a lot, and go to the toilet a lot - our sodium levels among many others become imbalanced if we don’t keep on top of intra and post-comp nutrition. 

Nowadays it is trendy to be accountable for your health and recovery with every other person wearing the latest gadget on their wrist or around their chest to monitor Heart Rate Variation or percentage of recovery based on variables picked up by the monitors - max/average rate, sleep quality etc.

But what decisions and approaches can we make and develop intuitively if we want to understand our bodies and look after ourselves? - really understand our bodies, not just understanding it having seen figures wired in through a device.

The day after competition, it’s likely that you’ll have some muscle soreness. Many athletes will consider that an ‘active recovery’ approach immediately after a competition will help to promote fresh blood flow to the muscles and prevent stagnant lactic acid in the muscle tissue from sitting and increasing muscle soreness over time. However, for some of us, immediately jumping into physical activity and pushing our heart rate up when our central nervous system is out of whack may prove more detrimental to our overall mindset and perceived levels of fatigue. This can lead to knock on issues with mindset - feeling even more tired the next day, wondering when you’re going to feel back to normal, punishing yourself for not hitting normal pacing and numbers in training etc.

So, it’s important to always know that WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT.

Personally, I approach post-competition recovery differently every time based on FEELING.

Balancing a feeling of being kind to myself and my body with a feeling of productivity in getting moving and sweating again.

This time, I took one day of FULL REST - I didn’t even hit any stretching or mobility routines (not always advisable, especially after lots of travel too!). The following day (after a day of competition involving Max Snatch lifting complexes, heavy front squats, jumps, carries, lunges, pull-ups, burpees and rowing) - guess which of my programmed sessions I chose to do?

The low intensity bike erg and burpees to dust off the cobwebs and sweat out the lactic acid for sure, right...? NOT THIS TIME!

How about another Max Snatch lifting complex, some squats and more wallballs, burpees and pull-ups...? HELL FRICKIN YEAH!

WHY? For me, this decision was simple and came down to two main things:

🔆 ADAPTATION: My body has many more years of experience and has adapted to movements such as snatch, squats etc than it has cardio-based training modes - so although max lifting is taxing on the CNS, my fancy monitor would have me know that a high volume cycling and burpee session is actually MORE STRENUOUS for me than heavy lifting (most of the time.)

🔆 FULFILMENT: I ENJOY snatching! Picking up a barbell (even if my shoulders felt remotely like bubble wrap) makes me happy, and performing movements that I know and love made me content and comfortable today!

Training and recovery is not always about ‘being comfortable with the uncomfortable’. Sometimes reaping reward from our strengths and what we know to be comfortable and achievable is ok. If we beat ourselves down every session doing only the things we are weakest at because ‘everyone does active recovery’ this way or that way, we might never achieve real satisfaction in our training!

So, in short.. my insight for today:

🔆Every competition experience is different,

🔆Listen to what your body and mind tells you,

🔆Don’t be too hard on yourself,

🔆Be willing to adapt and change your routines,

🔆Accept that one size does not fit all,


Chloe S-Ralph, Olympic Weightlifting Coach & CrossFit Athlete