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BoxLife Magazine

Tips to Avoid the CrossFit Burnout

By William Imbo

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March 21, 2014

So, how’s your posterior chain feeling after 14.3? A touch sore perhaps? Well, the fun is set to continue with last night’s announcement of 14.4! Social media was abuzz late Wednesday evening and through Thursday after the CrossFit Games Instagram account posted a video of Dave Castro launching a branch into a wood chipper. Well, Castro didn’t disappoint. 14.4 is a particularly vicious chipper consisting of a 14 minute AMRAP of 60-calorie row, 50 toes-to-bars, 40 wall-ball shots (20 / 14 lb), 30 cleans (135 / 95 lb) and 20 muscle-ups. However, this got me thinking about the intense training that all CrossFitters go through, in combination with the Open workouts. Far too often, people will ignore multiple warning signs in the pursuit of their personal fitness goals. With the CrossFit competition season in full flow, I’m fearful that people will risk getting burnt out and angry with themselves and CrossFit from pushing themselves too hard. Here are some tips to ensure that doesn’t happen to you.

1. You can’t dominate every workout, so avoid giving 100% every day
Now this sounds a little counterproductive doesn’t it? After all, you’re paying a lot of money to get good coaching and work hard for an hour a day. But if you have truly exerted yourself on Monday on a vicious AMRAP, Tuesday’s EMOM is going to be tough no matter what. Is it wise to attack the next day’s workout with the same intensity, using the Rx weight? Your body will still be recovering from the effort you exerted the day before, so this will open you up to injury and extra fatigue. Of course, you should always plan on working hard, but be smart about the weights and pace you choose. Otherwise, the toll on your body and mind is going to make you want to take a couple of days off, which could easily lead to a week, which leads me to my next tip…

2. Taking a few days off (or even a week) is OK, but more than that is asking for trouble
Obviously letting your body rest and your mind recuperate is a crucial part of your training. But you must be careful with the amount of time you take away from the gym. Working up the motivation to go may be harder for some more than others, but there’s no question that that first workout back after more than a week off is going to destroy you, and potentially discourage you even further. It’s better to take a few days, come to the gym and take it easy, than to not come at all.

3. Be reasonable and realistic with yourself and your goals
Unless you plan on making it to Regionals, there are movements in the CrossFit training repertoire that you won’t become competent in for some time. That is a reality, and to get frustrated by minuscule steps forward is more of a detriment than anything else. Certain movements will appeal to your strengths (strength, cardio) and others will expose your weaknesses (flexibility, gymnastics). One thing is for sure-they will all take practice. So understand that your development in certain areas is going to take some time, but that’s no reason to get discouraged, and certainly no reason to burn out. Set yourself small goals, and over time you will look at how far you’ve come with amazement and, hopefully, pride.

4. Listen to your body and scale when necessary
“In practice if you’re starting to hurt—legitimately hurt, not pain—you stop. But in competition, unless you’re going to die, I’m going to keep going.”
Josh Bridges on the Mental Game

Bridges is an elite CrossFitter, an active Navy SEAL and an animal. You are not Josh Bridges, so don’t plan on pushing so hard that you risk killing yourself. It sounds obvious enough, but I can assure you that people will push themselves past their pain thresholds in such an extreme way that they risk equally extreme consequences to their health. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. If something hurts, if a repeated movement is causing pain in an area of your body that you are not accustomed to, stop, or scale. Don’t be so proud that you refuse to scale. In CrossFit, you check your ego at the door. When you step into a box, you are joining a community of people of varying skills and fitness levels, but everyone is there to improve their health and support one another. Nobody wants to workout with someone who puts themselves at risk through arrogance. The goal is to finish the workout, safely, to the best of your ability in a manner that pushes you the most. Your coaches can provide advice on which weights or movements to use, but ultimately it’s up to you.

5. Realize that there is more to life than CrossFit
Yes, there is. We do CrossFit because of the numerous benefits and positive interactions we receive through the sport. But too much of anything is not a good thing. Even coaches and pro athletes need to take a step away from the sport once in a while. CrossFit is a great compliment to your life, but you should always look to surround yourself with new experiences, new skills, and new adventures. Even Rich Froning, a man who is at the very pinnacle of our sport, has been quoted as saying that this may (repeat, may) be his final year of competition. Not for the toll on his body, but on his mind.

So take heed my friends.Be smart, see the big picture, and avoid the CrossFit burnout. Good luck with 14.4!

William Imbo

About William Imbo

William Imbo is an Associate Editor at BoxLife magazine, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer and holds an MPS in Sports Industry Management from Georgetown University. He is an avid CrossFitter and loves film, music and travel, thanks to having grown up across Europe. A fan of the New Orleans Saints and Newcastle United, Will's favorite CrossFit girl is Helen-least favorite being Isabel. View all posts by William Imbo →

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