Rest Day v. Active Recovery Day

As you roll over in bed to press the snooze button on your alarm, a quiet groan escapes from your lips. Every muscle in your body hurts, even muscles you didn’t know existed, and you think to yourself, ‘What did I do?’ You do a quick review of the past week’s worth of workouts and quickly realize that you haven’t had a day off for a couple of weeks. It hits you: ‘maybe it’s time to take a rest day’. 

It can often be difficult for athletes to convince themselves that they need to take a day off every once in a while. Sometimes taking a rest day makes them feel like they are going to get behind their peers training-wise or maybe taking a rest day is difficult because you feel sluggish or lethargic the day after when you come back to the gym. Whatever the reason, it’s important to give your body rest, whether that’s with a complete rest day or through an active recovery day. In order to decide which one is best for your body, let’s take a look at what these two different recovery days look like and their benefits.

Taking a rest day does not mean that you have to sit on your butt all day and remain immobile. This is actually a common misconception about rest days: you have to act like a couch potato. This is not the case. When taking a rest day, you can still participate in your normal, daily activities such as going grocery shopping, cooking in the kitchen, etc., but you should avoid doing more rigorous activities like yard work, cleaning the house, etc. The objective of a rest day is to boost mental and physical recharging. This occurs when you provide your body with enough time to rebuild and replace what’s been lost throughout the week – muscles, fluids, mentality, etc. During your rest days, you should place more emphasis on sleep, which is extremely important to the recovery process. Getting a couple extra hours of sleep and reducing one’s activity level can go a long way to keeping the body, and mind, healthy.

An active recovery day differs from a rest day in that it does involve some sort of physical exertion outside of your regular day-to-day activities. Active recovery is anything low-intensity that still causes you to break a sweat, but doesn’t leave you collapsed on the floor gasping for air. Active recovery activities should leave you feeling better than you did before and ready to tackle the next day’s workout. Therefore, avoid anything that will ramp up your heart rate or leave you with aching muscles. Some possible activities include: taking a long walk, going for a slow jog, or riding your bike. 

So, how often should you take a rest day and/or active recovery day? It is best to try to schedule at least one active recovery day and one rest day per week. A common weekly schedule followed by many elite CrossFitters is to hit their workouts hard Monday-Wednesday, take an active recovery day on Thursday, hit their workouts hard again on Friday and Saturday, and then take a full rest day on Sunday. Of course, this depends on your schedule, but it gives your body time to recover after several days of intense training so that you can finish out the rest of the week strong. 

Sources:

https://www.openfit.com/difference-in-rest-days-and-active-recovery

https://www.crossfitinvictus.com/blog/active-recovery/

 

30 Minute Butter Chicken Meatballs

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

Servings: 6

Calories: 212 kcal

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. ground turkey or chicken
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 T. garam masala
  • 2 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
  • 1 can (14 ounces) full fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup plain greek
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • steamed rice and naan, for serving

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Add the turkey, egg, bread crumbs, and a pinch each of salt and pepper to a bowl. Coat your hands with a bit of olive oil, and roll the meat into tablespoon size balls (will make 15-20 meatballs), placing them on the prepared baking sheet. Transfer to the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the meatballs are crisp and cooked through.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook 5 minutes or until fragrant. Add the garlic and ginger, cooking another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Stir in the garam masala, curry powder, turmeric, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  5. Add the tomato paste, coconut milk, and 1/2 cup water. Stir to combine, bring the sauce to a boil, cook 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens slightly. Stir in the yogurt and butter. Add the meatballs and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cilantro.
  6. Serve the meatballs and sauce over bowls of rice with fresh naan. Enjoy!

Source: https://www.halfbakedharvest.com/30-minute-butter-chicken-meatballs/

Kipping it Real with Ricardo!

Each month Overland Park CrossFit recognizes a member who exemplifies our values and motivates others in the gym to push themselves with encouraging words. January’s Athlete of the Month is Ricardo Perdomo. Ricardo was chosen because ever since he made the transition from Bootcamp to CrossFit, he has started coming to CrossFit classes 5-6 times per week; he continues to push himself in every workout; he has completed several workouts RX; he always brings a positive attitude to class and rises to the challenge of conquering movements that he doesn’t like or that are difficult for him. His hard work is paying off and we love having Ricardo as a part of our OPCF community! Learn more about Ricardo below.

How long have you been working out at Overland Park CrossFit? 6 months total: 2months of bootcamp and 4 months of CrossFit.

What were your thoughts after your first CrossFit workout? Do you remember what it was? It was a Saturday morning bootcamp class and it kicked my butt, but I knew I wanted to sign up immediately. 

What has been your favorite workout so far? The first RX metcon I finished.

What is your favorite cheat meal? I have several but the one that stands out is fried chicken. 

What did you want to be when you grew up and where do you work now? Anything with computers. I work for Carmax as a CXA II on the Transaction Support Team. 

What do you like to do outside of work? I draw, paint and love to spend time with my family. 

What advice would you give a newbie just starting at OPCF? Be consistent. Research the sport by looking at videos, podcasts, competitions etc. You will find great motivation in that and then listen to your body. When is time to slow down, slow down. You want to keep it fun.

What is your favorite/least favorite movement? Favorite: bear crawl; Least favorite: overhead squats 🤢🤮. 

What’s one Crossfit goal you have set for yourself to accomplish this next year? To do “Murph” (#scaled4life).

What changes have you seen in yourself since starting at OPCF? I’ve gotten stronger, faster and have more energy throughout the day.

What is your biggest improvement or proudest accomplishment thus far? My blood pressure is normal now without medication. 

How do you fit working out into your weekly schedule? I make it a priority.  It’s a lifestyle. Your health is important. 

What is something you have always wanted to do but haven’t yet? Travel to an Asian country and experience their culture.

The Magic of the Single Leg RDL

Going through a proper warm-up is essential for preventing injuries, moving well, and ensuring that your workout goes smoothly. Oftentimes, it can be difficult to write a warm-up that adequately prepares your body for the beating that is to come. One exercise that helps you get the most bang for your buck is the single leg Romanian deadlift (RDL). 

There are many reasons why this exercise is important and effective. It is an authentic single leg movement which means that it will translate over to other movements as well, such as running and cutting. This single leg movement also teaches you how to load and develop force through one leg, improve stability, and it targets the glutes and hamstrings which are often under-developed due to most athletes being quad dominant. When done correctly, this exercise can do wonders for building strength and increasing overall performance.

Even though the exercise looks easy enough to complete (see video below), there are several common mistakes that people often make when performing the movement:

  • Lowering instead of reaching – a common fault of athletes performing the single leg RDL is lowering towards the ground instead of reaching their foot back behind them. This fault causes the athlete’s lower back to round as they are trying to move the weight to the ground instead of using their hips (by hip hinging) to move the weight to the ground. To fix this, think about initiating the movement by reaching the sole of your shoe to a wall behind you or shutting the car door behind you when your hands are full of groceries. 
  • Uneven hips – when performing the RDL, the hips should stay level, which then allows the glutes to do the majority of the work. A common fault is letting the hip of the extended leg lift higher than the hip of the grounded leg as the weight is lowered to the ground. In order to fix this, pay attention to the grounded foot and make sure the entire foot is planted on the ground instead of rolling to the outside of the foot (on the pinky toe side). Secondly, think about placing the weight by the big toe of the grounded foot instead of lowering it in a straight line. 
  • Turning it into a balancing exercise – many people incorrectly assume that the RDL is an exercise to increase one’s balance. However, the RDL is actually an exercise to strengthen the leg and hip while also increasing one’s single-leg stability. Oftentimes, when fatigue starts to set in, athletes will start to lose focus and begin to look like a baby deer trying to stand up for the first time. Performing this movement correctly is extremely important so it’s ok to rest in between reps when you feel yourself starting to get shaky and to finish with both feet on the ground to ensure that you are maintaining control throughout the movement. 

RDL Video: https://youtu.be/Bbsz-I91wGI 

Sources: https://www.stack.com/a/why-everybody-botches-single-leg-deadlifts

Two Quick and Easy Meal Prep Recipes for When You’re in a Jam

It’s Sunday night. You have a jam-packed week and haven’t even thought about meal prepping. Panic starts to set in as the minutes keep ticking away. But have no fear! These quick and easy recipes will save you from a week of drive-thrus and take-outs.

Taco Seasoning
Ingredients:
3 Tablespoons Paprika
2 Teaspoons Black Pepper
2 Teaspoons Chili Powder
1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 Teaspoon Salt
2 Teaspoons Onion Powder
1 Teaspoon Cumin
1/4 Teaspoon Cinnamon

Combine all spices in a small container. Shake well and then add to the meat of your choice.

Crockpot Cashew Chicken
Ingredients:
1 3/4 lb. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts (cut into chunks)
2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Black Pepper
1 1/2 Tablespoon Olive Oil
3 Peppers
2/3 Cup Cashews
Sauce Ingredients:
1/3 Cup + 2 Tablespoons Low Sodium Soy Sauce
3 1/2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
3 Tablespoons Honey
2 1/2 Tablespoons Ginger
4 Cloves of Garlic
1/4 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes

In a small bowl, toss the chicken pieces with the corn starch, salt, and pepper. Heat oil in a large, non-stick skillet until hot, then add the chicken mixture and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Transfer lightly-browned chicken to a slow cooker and then add the peppers and sauce. Cook on low for 2-3 hours or until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender. Sprinkle cashews on top when ready to serve.

Kipping it Real with Janelle!

Each month Overland Park CrossFit recognizes a member who exemplifies our values and motivates others in the gym to push themselves with encouraging words. December’s Athlete of the Month is Janelle Balarashti. Janelle was chosen because of her consistency and dedication to staying fit over quarantine this spring; she never lets an injury or soreness keep her from getting a workout in; she always comes to class with a positive attitude; she graciously accepts the coach’s feedback and implements it the best she can; and she is just an all-around super hard worker that is very inspiring! Her hard work is paying off and we love having Janelle as a part of our OPCF community! Learn more about Janelle below.

How long have you been working out at Overland Park CrossFit? 1.5 years

What were your thoughts after your first CrossFit workout? Do you remember what it was? “Oh my gosh, this is hard! Can’t wait to go back!”

What has been your favorite workout so far? No particular favorite but I like the RFT workouts best so that I know a specific number.

What is your favorite cheat meal? Tacos….all the tacos!

What did you want to be when you grew up and where do you work now? I always wanted to be a teacher. Now, I work for The Family Conservancy on our Early Care and Education team. I’m able to take my passion for children and families and use it with early care and education providers throughout the metro. 

What do you like to do outside of work? I love to go hiking, lose myself in a good book, and always like trying a new recipe out for yummy, healthy dinners.

What advice would you give a newbie just starting at OPCF? Just keep coming back. Leah and the other coaches always have scaling options for if something seems impossible.

What is your favorite/least favorite movement? Least favorite movement is overhead squat….definitely room for improvement there! Most favorite movement is probably deadlift.

What’s one CrossFit goal you have set for yourself to accomplish this next year? One CrossFit goal for this next year is to finally be able to get a strict pull-up.

What changes have you seen in yourself since starting at OPCF? I’m definitely more self-confident and have a higher self-esteem. As I’ve gotten more fit (still so far to go!), I’m more comfortable in my own skin and more willing to take on new challenges and those things that just seemed impossible before now.

What is your biggest improvement or proudest accomplishment thus far? My proudest accomplishment thus far is that I keep coming back, especially when I see a WOD and think “I’m going to be scaling every move, why bother”. Those are the days that I make myself go and feel so much better for doing it.

How do you fit working out into your weekly schedule? I deliberately block time off on my family and work calendars each day so that I make sure I am taking care of myself and my own self-care needs.

What is something you have always wanted to do but haven’t yet? I’ve always wanted to do a family hike up Pike’s Peak, hopefully in the next couple of years.

What is a Refeed and Should You Try It?

CrossFitters are known for their near-insanity. They love to push their bodies to the breaking point, and then do it again, and then again. They are known for keeping an early bedtime, getting an exorbitant amount of sleep, and adhering to the strictest of diets. The results of these practices can be amazing, but they can also start to take their toll. It can be difficult to maintain this level of dedication in every aspect of their lives and often the first element to suffer is their diet. If you’ve been around the fitness world for any amount of time, then you are probably familiar with the term “cheat meal”. This term can often hold a negative connotation for many athletes, or it can be an athlete’s favorite time of the week. However, did you know that there is another approach to the “cheat meal” that might actually have some benefits?

A healthier alternative to the “cheat meal” is what’s called a “refeed”. There are several definitions for this term floating around in the fitness world, such as “a short-term, planned period of overfeeding—usually focusing on particular macronutrients”, or “a particular day of increased caloric intake to refuel the body after having been in a depleted state, due to either caloric restriction and/or increased physical activity”. Whichever definition you choose to embrace, they both communicate basically the same thing: a refeed is a meal or day where an athlete intentionally increases their caloric intake to sort of restart their metabolism. 

So, does a refeed day actually work? Although the idea behind it makes logical sense, unfortunately it is difficult to back up the idea with actual science because there are so many variables. However, with that being said, there may be some physiological and mental benefits of refeeding. For example, eating more food will require more energy to break that food down, which may increase the number of calories used that day. This may also increase the amount of energy you have that day, which could unintentionally lead to more movement. 

On the mental side of things, a refeed day can help ease the anxiety that often accompanies calorie or carb restrictive eating. Oftentimes, it can be difficult to maintain this type of eating for extended periods of time, so giving in to a “cheat day” can be a natural response. Therefore, a refeed day can be beneficial because it is a way to increase one’s calorie and carb intake without going to the opposite extreme and binge eating unhealthy foods. You can give yourself a little bit of a break while still staying on track with your health goals. 

Sources:

https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/ask-the-nutrition-tactician-whats-the-difference-between-a-refeed-and-a-cheat-day.html
https://www.shape.com/weight-loss/tips-plans/what-is-refeeding-day-weight-loss-plateau

Quick Tips for Efficient Outdoor Biking

CrossFitters have lots of experience on bikes – the Assault bike, which is known for leaving most athletes unable to walk or laying on the floor gasping for air, and the C2 bike, which requires a continuous source of energy output in order to accumulate any distance. But, how often do CrossFitters (besides the elite athletes, of course) spend time on a mountain bike, road bike, or hybrid bike? Each of these options is a little different than sitting on a stationary bike where there are no hills, no potholes, no downhills, etc. In order to be successful out on the trails/roads, here are several quick tips you can use to get the most out of your bike rides.

Being efficient on a bike all starts with the proper set up. If your bike isn’t fit for your needs, then you will not be able to use the appropriate muscles. One of the main, and probably most important, pieces that needs to be adjusted is the seat. When seated on your bike, you want to make sure that your leg is fully extended when the pedal is at the bottom of its rotation. Not making this adjustment can lead to an exaggerated bend in the knee when you pedal, which not only compromises the integrity of the knee joint but also sacrifices power, making for a less-efficient pedal stroke. 

One of the toughest parts of biking outside is the potential for changes in elevation. When it comes to biking uphill, there are several tips you can use to improve your efficiency during the climb. To get a “head start” on the climb, start accelerating at the base of the climb. This will allow inertia to carry you up the first part of the climb. Then, continue biking at a fast cadence to help get you through the rest of the climb. Try lightly resting your palms about 4 to 6 inches apart on the handlebars. This will help you relax and stay focused on establishing a rhythm. Finally, for climbs where there are occasional lulls or less-steep sections, try keeping your bike on a higher gear on the climb, instead of trying to re-shift multiple times. This saves time on the climb. 

Finally, having an efficient pedal stroke can go a long way in making a ride more enjoyable and decreasing the time it takes to cover more ground. If you watch an experienced rider, it looks like they are almost floating in space. Their legs fire like pistons and the stroke is perfectly circular, fluid, and rhythmic. This is because in order to maximize power, you have to minimize movement, develop a circular rhythm, and engage the pedal system with proper technique. To do this, you need to work with nature and use physics to support your movement.

To understand proper pedaling mechanics, think of the pedal stroke as a clock. To generate the most power, you want to strike into the pedal system at the power phase, which is at three or four o’clock. Many people believe that you should push down on one side of the pedal and then pull up on the opposite side. However, this is actually not the case. Using the clock analogy, you want to preload at about one o’clock, start engaging at about two o’clock, and then exert the most drive through three and four o’clock. You want to continue to drive down as you pass through the power phase, begin to ease off through five and six o’clock and then completely disengage at about seven o’clock. At this point, the opposite leg is starting its preload phase and the cycle is repeated on the other side.

Sources:

Power, Speed, Endurance: A Skill-Based Approach to Endurance Training by Brian Mackenzie with Glen Cordoza

Transitioning from On-Ramp (Bootcamp) to CrossFit

So you’ve been doing On-Ramp classes (introductory CrossFit classes) for several weeks now and you’re wondering if you’re ready to transition over to the ‘big kid’ CrossFit classes. Chances are, if you’re even considering making the leap over to CrossFit then you’re probably ready to jump in feet first. With that being said, it can be intimidating to start working out with the big dogs, so here are some things to consider when making the transition. 

Larger Classes

This is a common theme at most CrossFit gyms – after you ‘graduate’ from the introductory class and start attending regular CrossFit classes, you will probably notice that the class sizes are larger. This can often be intimidating and you may feel like you are getting lost in the crowd. Try to avoid working out in the back corner where you can easily be missed by the coach. If there is something that you don’t understand for the workout or strength/accessory piece, make sure you ask questions. It can be difficult for the coach to make it around to every athlete, especially in a larger class, so you can’t be afraid to speak out. 

Faster-Paced Classes

The beauty of an introductory (On-Ramp or Bootcamp) program is that it is created to be a slower-paced class where there is a built-in instructional time to help newer athletes learn the basic movements and skills needed to be successful in CrossFit. However, oftentimes the regular CrossFit classes operate at a much faster pace because they often include both a strength and metcon portion to the class. Therefore, it is important to look at the wod information before class so that you know what movements are going to show up in class for that day, look up any percentages needed for weightlifting, etc. This will also help you know what’s coming next in class so that you are prepared to move quickly. 

More Technical Movements

The purpose of an introductory class is to teach individuals the basic, or foundational, movements of CrossFit. Therefore, more technical movements like muscle-ups, handstand push-ups, weightlifting complexes, etc. will most likely not be programmed. As you make the transition to regular CrossFit classes, be prepared to see more technical movements included in the daily wods. Don’t let this possibility scare you away – there are many different ways that these more complicated movements can be modified or scaled. 

Quick Guide to Olympic Lifting Terms

So your box has just started an Olympic lifting program and the coach is using a lot of terms that you are not familiar with, such as ‘hang’, ‘high pull’, and ‘muscle’. You’re trying your best to pay attention, but all the movements look the same and you can’t seem to remember which one is which. Have no fear! You are not alone. Here is a quick guide to some of the most common Olympic lifting terms:

“Hang” – this term refers to the starting position of the barbell in the clean or the snatch. If the metcon or strength wod does not specify what type of clean or snatch is to be performed then you can assume that you will be taking the barbell directly from the floor for every rep. However, if it is written as “hang” snatch or “hang” clean, then the barbell will be taken from anywhere above the knees. Therefore, before you start the first rep, you will have to deadlift the barbell from the floor and then you can begin your reps, keeping the barbell somewhere between your knees and hips at the start of each rep.

“Power” – this term refers to the depth that an athlete has to squat when performing a clean or snatch. Oftentimes, the daily wod will not specify ‘squat’ before the type of lift. When performing lifts for a strength portion, if it is written simply as ‘clean’ or ‘snatch’, it can be assumed that you are supposed to squat when performing these movements. However, when written the same for a metcon, you can then assume that no squat is required. The term ‘power’ is used in strength programming to describe squatting at or above parallel. Therefore, when ‘power’ precedes the terms ‘snatch’ or ‘clean’, the athlete knows that they are not supposed to squat below parallel.

“Muscle” – when performing a ‘muscle’ clean or snatch, the idea is that the athlete only uses the shoulder shrug and arm pull to get the bar to its finishing position. Once the bar is taken from the ground and the hips and legs fully extend, then the shoulders shrug with a big pull from the arms. The bar is pulled into the front rack position (for the clean) or overhead (for the snatch) with the legs staying straight. The most important thing to note on these movements is that the legs do not re-dip in the catch position.

“Pull” v. “High Pull” – practicing the pulling portion of the Olympic lifts is an excellent way to build strength and refine technique. However, it can often be confusing to know whether you are supposed to bend the arms, only shrug, actually pull the bar up higher with your arms, etc. There are two types of ‘pulls’ that are used when practicing the Olympic lifts – the high pull and the pull. When performing a ‘pull’, an athlete’s finishing position should simply be that they end with a shrug. When performing a ‘high pull’, the athlete finishes with their arms bent and their elbows high and to the outside (often referred to as the ‘scarecrow’ position). As both of these movements are being performed, the athlete should think about keeping the bar close to their body, keeping their chest up and shoulders over the bar until they reach full extension, and bringing their hips forward to meet the bar at full extension. These portions of the movement are the same for both types of pull.