by Geoff Rand
We’ve all had a tough workout or even a tough week of workouts. Sometimes you might feel like just taking a week off. I know I have. Rest is important, but inactivity is not a prescription for recovery.
Until Dave and Amanda told me about Stan Efferding and his Rhino’s Rhants videos, I had no idea who he was. Stan is a professional body builder and power lifter who holds several world records. He has also trained other professional athletes. Stan has a unique perspective on recovering from injury, having been slated for a hip replacement surgery. However, instead of getting sliced open, Stan sought out alternative treatments (specifically Active Release Therapy--ART--which I’ll cover in a future article) and was not only able to avoid hip replacement, he went from being barely able to walk to squatting over 900 pounds just a few months later. While Stan's work with ART and other active strategies helped him recover from injury, they are just as effective in recovering from general fatigue and soreness.
I think we can all agree that working out with free weights is more effective than working out with machines. That is why you won’t find machines in CrossFit Boxes. We are the machines. The use of free weights engages stabilizing muscles that make those movements far more effective than what you can get from a machine.
Along the same lines, it would make sense that working out harder, more specifically doing a more difficult version of an exercise (GHD sit-up vs. Abmat sit-up, for example) is more effective than doing the easy exercises. Stan says do the “hard sh!t.” The same holds true for recovery, the harder sh!t is more effective than the easier sh!t.
For recovery, there are passive treatments like anti-inflamatories, glucosamine, and other pills. Passive therapies, which Stan describes as “things that are done to you not by you”, are things like cryotherapy, contrast showers, Epson salts, and ice baths.
When you take anti-inflamatories or apply ice, you are actually inhibiting the body’s natural process of healing by restricting blood flow. While this may temporarily lessen the sensation of pain, you are actually delaying the recovery of the injury or stressed muscle.
Stan also groups massages, acupuncture, foam rolling, and cupping into the Passive category. He describes these as “easy” and while maybe more effective than all the baths and pills listed above, they are more superficial and temporary, at least how he sees them.
Our bodies will heal better and faster if we incorporate movement into our recovery methods. This is stuff you do, versus stuff that is done to you. Ever have a coach yell at you to “walk it off”? There might actually be some merit to that.
Our muscles need blood and the nutrients it carries to heal and grow. Being sedentary limits this blood flow. You’d be better off getting up and moving around as much as you can depending on your injury or area of soreness. There’s always a way to scale a CrossFit workout, and you can always do a mobility or yoga class, so there’s no excuse for not coming in.
Hand in hand with our circulatory system is our lymphatic system. This system rids the body of toxins and waste, however it lacks the pump that our circulatory system has. The way lymph is moved through the body is through muscle contraction. So, that sore muscle you have is best healed by, you guessed it, moving that same sore muscle. If you choose to do nothing, or sleep, or even worse, take a bunch of days off, you’ll only feel worse.
Stan described his recovery after a heavy leg day as several sets of sprints on a recumbent bike. While this may seem to be overworking and causing further fatigue to an already tired muscle group, the opposite is true. Pumping large amounts of blood into the legs stimulates healing and speeds recovery. He says that your active recovery should make you sweat and get your heart rate up. The goal is to maximize blood flow but avoid placing further load on that muscle group. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), air squats, rows, and hill sprints would also work.
So the next time a WOD crushes you, avoid the temptation to stay in bed or on the couch. Get up and get your butt in the Box and do some active recovery. Your muscles will thank you.