Your Nervous System Remembers

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It’s been awhile since we’ve talked about CrossFit! Since we’re in the middle of the Open and many are feeling a little ‘CNS-y’ after 19.2, what a perfect time to talk about this subject.

You’ve likely heard of metabolic adaptation. The theory that your metabolic rate will adapt to the energy expended and consumed at any given time. For example, if you’ve been dieting on the same 1200 calories for the last year, you better believe that your brain has sent out the message to down-regulate energy expenditure and crank up fat storage.

You might have noticed this yourself. Have you ever been able to lose 20lbs the very first time you tried dieting (enter slim fast shakes), but to your dismay, it never quite works the same the second, third, or fourth time?

The same can be said with our nervous system.

I use myself as an example because the majority of you can relate. When I first started CrossFit, I was in the gym for 6 days a week and 2-3 hours a pop. I was learning to snatch, clean, jerk, doing gymnastics, double unders, you name it. My brain (nervous system) and muscles (neuromuscular system) were learning at an incredibly fast rate. I absolutely CRUSHED my body that first year of CrossFit – but it kept up just fine!

So the next time I decide to crank up training, I jump to 2-3 hours a day again, but this time, I add on a squat cycle and oly class – psh, why not?

But I didn’t get very far into the training this time. This time, I only made it to 4 weeks and CRASHED and BURNED. Not only was I fatigued all day long, but I was REGRESSING on my strength. I couldn’t lift what I used to – my muscles couldn’t fire like they used to. I thought, ‘how can I be losing so much strength when I lift so often? This worked great last time!”

Have you ever noticed how fast it took for you to get to this place since you’ve already been here before? What I mean by that is that your nervous system REMEMBERS. It remembers the first time you burned yourself out (which took years to accomplish) and this time it only took months to get here.

The nervous system is not dumb – it’s learned it’s lesson from the first time we went balls out and trained like a maniac. It remembers how crushed things got – so it’s going to prevent it from going there again.

The nervous system, therefor ADAPTS, just like your metabolism adapted to the nutty diet we went on in college, your nervous system adapted to the nutty training volume/intensity we endured when we first started CrossFit.

How did you get here?

Listen folks, we’ve got to recover from our training. The more life we live outside of the gym (full time, fast-paced career, children, husband, mortgage, aging parents, traumatic experiences, illnesses, etc.), the less priority we are able to give to your workouts. The body only has a finite amount of recoverable training it can give to in a day. This might look like a short walk after stressful day. It might look 5×5 back squats during summer vacation.

If you don’t respect the amount of recoverable training you are allotted to at any one time, you risk over-burdening your nervous system and adrenal glands (HPA-axis dysfunction).

Good news is that this is kind of reversible – just as long as we don’t dig ourselves in too great of a hole. Just like chronic dieting, chronic over training is damaging to the body. The way we recover from this balalnce is taking a break from goal setting and focus on HEALTH. Eating an adewuate amount, stress reduction, and restorative exercise is the name of the game here. Sound unappealing? Consider the alternate option which is rundown, burnt out, fat gain, and weakness.

Seeking recovery? Contact us about your training program to see if it’s a good fit for you.

Let us know in the comments where you are in your CrossFit journey and how you are feeling about this year’s Open!

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