Sleep, Rest & CrossFit Performance

For the first 5 or 6 years of my CrossFit career I was one of the masses that thought rest and sleep were never as important as hard work.

It may have helped that in my younger years I’m sure I recovered faster than I do now, but the volume of work I was doing was also much less then than it is now.

I would stay up late, get up early, never take rest days, party on the weekends and work 50-60 hours a week to top it all off.

It was only until late summer this last year that my eyes were opened to how important sufficient nutrition, supplementation, rest and sleep were to my success as an athlete.

Since this blog post is dedicated to rest & sleep, I’ll just touch on that advice next. However, stay tuned for nutrition and supplementation because I’ve got some programs in the works for our Cróga Community in those departments coming this summer hopefully.

Now, back to my story.

I had spent a couple months dedicating my training to getting stronger and although some lifts where I cleaned up my technique improved, the raw strength numbers on lifts like the deadlift, front squat, back squat, shoulder press, etc. hadn’t improved at all.

I wrote a note to my coach, Kyle, letting him know that I was a little disappointed in the recent results and asking what I needed to do be doing to make sure that the programming was achieving the results that we were targeting.

The response I got was very interesting, unexpected and really opened my eyes.

Kyle pointed out that I was only sleeping around 6 hours a night, sometimes 8 on the weekends if I was lucky.

His advice was that I should shoot for 7-9 hours each night and if I don’t get that many to find an hour to nap during the day. Without sufficient sleep, I was chronically under-recovered and under-performing.

I never really thought about it that way because I have always been a “I can sleep when I’m dead” and “just give me more coffee” type of person, but by being this way I was undermining all the hard work I was putting in.

He also mentioned that although I was getting 2 rest days a week (I would advise you all to do the same or at least take it easy and go at 80% effort a couple times a week), I was just sitting around and doing nothing (at least physically) on those days, so I wasn’t actually helping the recovery happen.

He suggested that I walk the dogs, ride my bike, go for a run, hike, meditate, go to yoga, mobilize for 30 minutes, etc. All these things would help me to recover physically and mentally so that the stress of the training volume would subside.

After our conversation I made a conscious effort to make these adjustments along with some nutrition & supplementation changes and everything began to skyrocket.

I began to feel much more rested and alert on a daily basis, even though I was only sleeping 1-2 more hours a night regularly.

Matt Chan Sleep Tweet

I started to gain a ton of lean muscle mass, which led to significant improvements in all my lifts in a very short period of time. I PR’d my back squat, front squat, shoulder press, clean, jerk and snatch multiple times over a 6 month period.

And I felt like everything all started to really fall into place for me as an athlete, and the only thing I really changed didn’t even involve the gym.

So, where does that leave us and how does this relate to you?

Well, the answer is simple, if you ever feel like you’re doing a lot of work in the gym, but the results have begun to slow down, you may need to take a look at what you’re doing outside the box.

Are you sleeping 7-9 hours a night? Do you really need to watch another hour of TV or should you hit the hay at 10 pm?

Are you staying active even on your rest days or are you sitting at a desk and on a couch all day and eating like shit?

Are you finding ways to relieve stress or get your mind off life/work so that you can truly let your mind, body & soul recover?

Or, are you like I had to train myself not to be, under-recovered and under-performing?

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  • […] If you haven’t already, I suggest you read my blog posts: Sleep, Rest & CrossFit Performance and You Can’t Outwork a Bad Diet. Stay tuned for posts about mobility and developing aerobic […]

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