Understanding Recovery and Mobility after CrossFit Training

Ok, so your crossfit training is going well and you’re on the verge of hitting some big PR’s and all of a sudden your training takes a turn for the worse!!! You begin to find these little tweaks and areas that are keeping you from mentally digging in and going hard. Why? Quite often it’s because you’re thinking in the back of your head that it’s going to hurt real bad. Trust me, I have had this same thing pop into my head and you’re not alone!

These small thoughts cause bigger issues down the road and may negatively impact your progress or even cause regression. You may find yourself fearing that one day the worst is just going to happen and then you’re going to be out of commission for 2 -6 weeks and all because you think have been listening to your body or even taking good care of your body.

Photo of man with shoulder pain and question, How much real thought do you devote to active recovery?

Well, I’ve written this post to help you understand a little more about the positive effects of taking 15-20 minutes to work on your mobility as part of your crossfit recovery. Hitting the hot spots, trigger points, and other Myofascial release techniques will go a long way to keeping you in the game.

What are trigger points?

Have you ever been seen by a PT or Ortho and the “itis” starts coming out and you think, “Oh great, not this again!!!” Well, let’s think about what this really is. I want to draw your attention to a more likely cause of your pain—one that is directly related to your muscles. I am talking about trigger points. Trigger points are small, localized muscle cramps with a variety of causes. Most notable trigger points are set off by excessive loads, direct trauma, or repetitive or prolonged muscle contractions. The cramp does not normally affect the whole muscle, but is usually confined to one or two small muscle fibers within the main body of the muscle. You can actually feel the cramp as a hard lump or knot in your muscle. Sometimes, especially in small muscles, the whole muscle will feel like a cable made from hard rubber.

Ok, so if my wrist is the issue then why does my elbow or even my forearm hurt worse? This is called referred pain and it can be a very annoying and perplexing problem. For instance, you may have pain in your elbow that is caused by a trigger point in your shoulder, your forearm muscles, or in the triceps.

Now that I understand where my trigger point is located, what do I do to resolve it so that I can continue training and at the same time take care of the associated pain so that it doesn’t return?

Here are some guidelines for how to massage a trigger point:

• Massage with short, slow strokes in one direction, applying deep pressure.
• Aim for a pain level of about 7 on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is hardly noticeable and 10 is unbearable.
• Massage often, but only for a short time (twelve to twenty strokes is usually sufficient per session)
• Don’t try to “kill” the trigger point in one session; perform several brief sessions each day.
• Continue massage sessions until pain has subsided to about pain level 3 (this will often take several sessions).
• Use a ball to save your fingers (a tennis ball, baseball, or softball works well).
• Use a ball between your body and a wall or floor to massage hard-to-reach spots such as neck, shoulders, lower back, arms.
• Try a PVC tube on the floor for legs and feet.
• If the ball always falls down, put it in a sock.

Common affected areas

The trigger points that clients are likely to experience differ according to their preferred sport. This is because different muscles are involved in the movement patterns and requirements of different activities.

However, some pain patterns are relatively common among clients:

• Elbow pain (tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow), referred from a variety of muscles, most notably the triceps, the muscles of the upper forearm, the scalene muscles in the side of the neck, and some shoulder muscles.
• Knee pain, referred from the quadriceps.
• Foot pain, referred from the calves.
• Ankle pain referred from the peroneus muscles in the outside of the lower leg.

Try some of these tips as part of your crossfit recovery and see if they help. Sometimes, simply having a better understanding of trigger points and how they impact surrounding muscle groups provides new insight that helps our clients resolve challenges regarding the pain and muscle cramping that so often accompany crossfit training.

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