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Rest Day

Christanna S. deadlifting at dusk with David

  • Happy birthday, Nolan G. and Chris P.
  • Wanting those mad abs for your time at the beach? Check out KH's Pilates class tonight at 7:30pm!

Returning After a Layoff, or “How Barbella Got Her Moves Back”

By Noah Abbott

Stupid, pesky life. Just when you’ve gotten on a roll—hitting PR’s, mastering new skills, dropping or gaining some weight—life has a way of barging in the door like Cosmo Kramer, and knocking everything askew. New jobs, new babies, injury, vacation, the beginning of football season, great happy hour specials—the road is littered with temptation and obstacles that seem purpose-built to knock you from your lofty perch of swoledom.  

So what to do? First and most importantly, get your ass back in the gym. Email us. Just show up. Walk through the door. Follow the programming and do what you’re told, even if you feel listless or without a real plan. Like Ol’ Greg Glassman likes to say, “The magic is in the movements.” Don’t worry too much about your time off, and just start moving again. 

Of course, this wouldn’t be much of an article if the only advice was “Come back to the gym.” It certainly isn’t always that easy, so here’s some additional stuff to think about:

A Unique Opportunity
Instead of obsessing over rustiness, lost gains, or WODs unWODded, let’s reframe your “extended rest day” in a positive light. Any nagging injuries or fatigue you may have been dealing with have most likely resolved themselves. Did you have any bad habits or movement patterns before your time away? You now have an opportunity to reprogram your body and reestablish good motor patterns. Commit to eliminating that early arm pull in the clean, scarecrow arms during double unders, or soft deadlift setup. Years ago, as a BJJ athlete, whenever I came back from time off, while I would feel undeniably rusty, my Jiu-Jitsu would always be more creative and explorative when I resumed. Old patterns, tendencies, and strategies would have fallen away, replaced by a sprawling menu of possibility. Zen Buddhists call this shoshin, or beginner’s mind—“an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.” Use your time off, and harvest that shoshin, intrepid Crossfit samurai. 

You Don’t Own Anything
One of the worst things you can do, both in terms of safety and your in-gym confidence, is to try and pick up right where you left off. It’s a tough pill to swallow, especially if your numbers were trending upward, and it is incredibly tempting to try and resume your lifting progressions approximately where you left them. While you probably haven’t lost a significant amount of strength (most suggest somewhere between a 10-20% drop in 2-4 weeks), and you could probably will the weight up on grit alone, your body is most likely not prepared for the load, and the risk outweighs the benefits. “But I own 225#!” you say? Sadly, we don’t own anything in the gym. Strength and skill are perishable qualities, and at best we are renters, subject to the whims of those cruel and unforgiving landlords. (This should be a pretty familiar feeling for anyone who has ever rented an apartment anywhere in New York.) 

Similarly, it’s tough when being paired with classmates for racks to try and keep up with the same “crew” you had previously been lifting with and benchmarking yourself against. Unfortunately, while you’ve been out having babies or shooting your movie or whatever, they’ve been steadily plugging away, and at this point in time, they are likely stronger than you. Realize this is only a temporary situation, check your ego, and you’ll be reunited once again.

So, treat your layoff like a reset after a failure in a linear progression, even if you were cruising along smoothly beforehand. Take 90% of your last documented lift numbers or less—you really can’t go wrong starting lighter and having things be “easy” for a while. Don’t worry, they’ll quickly get hard again. Start climbing back up that hill, Sisyphus!

With conditioning work, things are simpler. You’ll feel pretty gassed for the first few workouts, and then progressively better. Take it easy for a week or two, and consider scaling movements to slightly easier alternatives until you feel like you’re fully “back.” If you are a heavy hitter athlete, who consistently RXes workouts and has taken significant time off, be especially wary of jumping right back into the deep end. Remember, in that deep end lurks Rhabdo—often ballyhooed, rarely seen, but perfectly suited to laying low deconditioned fit people with big egos. 

Welcome Back! 
Now that you are a little more equipped, come on back to the gym, we miss you! Remember, puhleeeeeze do not hesitate to ask the coaches about any component of your illustrious comeback tour, especially if its due to injury. We love that you are tough cookies and stoic, steely-eyed warriors and all, but we are happy to work out scales, subs, and other quandaries of the anatomical, theoretical, philosophical, and metaphysical variety. We want to be your co-pilot on your road back, but we can’t read minds (YET), so please let us know what’s been going on so we can do our best to help.

See you in the gym.

How have you relocated your groove after some time away from the gym?

The Importance of Celebrating your Success Catalyst Athletics
The Overhead Squat CrossFit Journal
Stressed Out: Americans Tell Us About Stress In Their Lives NPR
≤ kg Radiolab

Reader Comments (21)

Wednesday's Programming

Clean and Jerk

Fitness: Hang Clean + Jerk
Focus on having your weight over your mid foot at the mid hang position.

Performance: Hang (knee) Clean and Jerk (1+1) 1-1-1, then High Hang Clean and Jerk
Work up to a heavy single on today's complex of a clean from the hang plus a jerk. Then back off to 80% for three singles from the high hang.

Front Squat

Fitness: 3 x 5 Linear Progression
Add 5-10 pounds to last week's weight.

Performance: 82.5% x 4 x 4, then 80% x 4 x 4
Rest less than two minutes between sets.

Post loads to comments.

July 7, 2014 | Registered CommenterDavid Osorio

Awesome Article, Awesome Answerer, Awesome Asker

July 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterShawn$

Solid article Noah. Beginners mind is always a fun endeavor

July 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBrad

"the beginning of football season" i appreciate that you recognize that as a legitimate problem. i feel like it's gone undiagnosed for so long.

July 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterShaye

Very timely article... I've just had a particularly nasty bout with illness that's kept me away from CFSBK for about 2 weeks now. Meds ended yesterday and I can't wait to get back into the swing of things.

July 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBrad D

Hola SBK. Anybody interested or know anybody who might be interested in cat sitting for me last week of July? Pad is in Boerum hill, 70 Nevins. Tina is adorable and loves to cuddle. Shoot me an email Inka.hodes@gmail.com.

July 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterInka

6am at CrossFit Postal in Boone, NC.

BTN jerk - worked up to a heavy single of 185. That was the first time I've done a BTN jerk so I had no idea at which weight I would end up. I'm pretty sure I could have hit 195 but I ran out of time. The hardest part of the BTN jerk was catching the bar after the movement was complete.

20 min AMRAP
10 pull-ups
20 box jumps 24"
30 KB swings (American) 24kg

Finished 5 rounds + 15 reps.

Looking forward to be back at CFSBK on Thurs.

July 8, 2014 | Registered CommenterElliott

6am. Hang clean & jerk (kilos): 60, 80, 95, 100, 105, 110, 85(high-hang)x(1+1)x3. Everything felt better than last week. The jerks at 100 and 110 were ok. The jerk at 105 was very snappy. Had a lot of pop today. Think I was doing a better job about keeping my chest up and ridged on the dip and drive. Front squats: 225x4x4, 220x4x4. Skipped the cash out.

July 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

First day back - taking it easy per Noah's article:

Press 125x5x3 - felt nice and light

Did the metcon Rx'd - got 12 total rounds + BB complex + 5 PUs. Good to be back!

July 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDan L

Great article today! Liked all the Zen shit.
But, somehow, I can't get the image of you in the form of Cosmo Kramer ... as one of my coaches ... out of my mind! I'm not climbing up any ropes to do a big ass fan WOD!

July 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike

6am with Jess and McDowell. I did 95x5, 100x5, 100x5 on the press. 100 was heavy, but switching up my breathing and taking breaths at the top, per Jess's suggestion, helped. I did the WOD at 75 lbs, with ring rows - partnered with Mark. The weight felt light in the first round, but over the next four (I completed 5 total), got considerably less so.

The times I've taken a week or two away from the gym to travel or because work got crazy, Noah's advice to keep the ego in check and err on the side of easing back in has been my approach, and it's seemed to have worked fairly well.

July 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterShawn

Really enjoyed your article, Noah. Great ideas. Not a word out of place.

July 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

Always enjoy Noah's articles!

AM Olympic Session:

Snatch Static Holds w/ Barbell

40x3 50x2 60x1 70x1 75xM,1,1,M,M

Something went wacky with my second pull again today. Going to work from the hang some more on Thursday.

Hang/floor snatch double

Hang clean, clean, 2 jerk
40 50 60 70x1,1,1,1,1

These were exhausting today.

July 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTodd


@Elliot, Write about your experience in the Travel Gym Recommendations page on the write so people know whats up!

Similarly, I live in Cobble Hill, does anyone have a good tailor in the area? All my pants have holes in the crotch from bike riding. The woman I usually go to overcharges and sews them up like a complete lunatic. HALP

Last week I think I dislocated my shoulder demonstrating something in group class, it was pretty tender for about 3-4 days and now more or less feels fine during inactivity but doenst feel ready to be stressed, especially with any movements that require buffering against overhead tension like pull-ups. Bummer since I have no history or shoulder pain/dislocation etc and it was such a random moment for it to happen.


5 Rounds of:
15 GHD Sit-Ups
10 Deadlifts 95lbs

12" Box Squat 190x3x3

Glute Hamd Raises

July 8, 2014 | Registered CommenterDavid Osorio

Very timely article for me....planning to return after two weeks off! Been resting my shoulder which seems better!

This is exactly what I needed...thanks Noah!

July 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNan

Snatch+High Hang Snatch @75%x2, @80%x2
**A decent amount of misses towards the end, which is uncharacteristic at these percentages. Feeling beat up from heavy volume...comes with the territory I guess**

Clean DLs@105% 5x5
372 5x5

Front squat
**Missed the last rep here.

Looking forward to a much needed rest day tomorrow.

July 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJakeL

This article is exactly what I needed to hear as I was a little frustrated this morning that things were finally clicking on the C&J before going on vacation and I was struggling with a weight that was 10 lbs lighter today.

6am with Jess and McD. Fitness C&J complex, working up to 103lbs. FSQ - 145lbs x3x5. I let my ego get the best of me and should've actually scaled this back instead of going up 5lbs from 2 weeks ago. Only got two rounds on the cash out before having to head out.

@DO - it's just north of cobble hill, but I had the hem lines of a shirt and skirt repaired at Rafael's on court st btwn state and schermerhorn. They did an excellent job, but not sure how they'd do with fixing holes. Hope your shoulder starts to feel better!

July 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLinda

5:30 class tonight.
Worked up to 103# on my clean, failed at 113 in very awkward ways, hit my chin and then hit my collarbone, both a lack of commitment to pulling hard and getting down.

Front Squats, 115x4x4, 113x4x4. Scaled 5# back from where I should be for week 5 with my new 1RM for this cycle, but I wanted to make sure my core was solid and elbows were up, which I still struggled with. No belt though, I can feel my strength coming back to keep this tight. My shoulder felt a bit stiff again tonight after cleaning, but I had some good AR lovin'.

Noah's article feels timely for me as well. And I just cracked up reading it. He says he has some other good articles on tap, so feel free to peer pressure him about his deadlines, since we all love his writing so much.

Also... after leaving the gym and walking to Whole Foods, I ran into eight (8!) CFSBKers within a six block radius. Pretty neat.

July 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKate R

make up post from 6:30pm class last night:

Press: 33x5, 53x3, 63x3. 68x5x3.
This is a 3# jump from last week. Since 65 felt hard but I got through all of them, I knew I could jump, but figured 5# would be pushing it. Was happy with this. This is a PR for sets across for me, as I always get stuck and/or fail at around 65-67 for 3 work sets!

WOD with Lauren: We got 11 rounds (I did 6, lucky me.)
-Press/PP @ 53#. COULD have gone heavier, but didn't need to. Plenty of stimulus in this WOD and have been dealing with shoulder pain in dynamic movement so didn't want to push.
-Did 3 strict Chin-Ups and 6 kipping each round. First couple rounds I think were unbroken, then started to do 2-1 and eventually singles on chins, and 3-3 mostly on the kip. Hands were in danger, played with those new grip things but can't say I love them. They are thick and I just felt like I was sliding off the bar.
-My lats and shoulders are very sore today!! 18 strict chins is a lot for me!

OLY CLASS at 10:30am:

-(pause at high hang, snatch, then full snatch) 55, 55, 65, 65, 75
-full snatch: 85x1x3
*keeping shoulders in advance of the bar, being patient, and then HIPS THROUGH before extending UP. these felt great today. kept them light as intended.

Clean: (no jerk, for sake of shoulder) - LIGHT prep work for H2TQ on Saturday
-dead hang clean: 65, 65
-full clean + hang clean: 85, 85, 85, 95, 105, 95
*again, in hang get shoulders back way over the bar, not just dipping down.
- I didn't open my hands and let the bar roll back on just one of my reps and it HURT like a muthaf**ka in my elbows. must stop making that mistake.

Orb/Lax pecs, lats, armpit, etc. and some handstands before leaving.

July 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterWhit H

7:30 session
5/3/1 Bench
Pretty sure that's a 5rm

Snatch work
High Hang to Knee to High Hang to Snatch
Worked at 65kg

July 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterFox

7:30pm w/ Coach Jess Fox

Monday's WOD: Presses: Fitness:
95x5, 105x3, 105x2, 95x5

Haven't done presses in months, SO inspired by Noah's timely write-up, I dropped weight and focused on form. Shoulder/bicept felt a bit twitchy as well...

Cashout: 5 rounds
(w/ ring rows)

July 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChris Yun

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