Training for and competing in CrossFit competitions places significant physical stress on the body, which is why athletes need to pay special attention to their recovery requirements during the competitive season.

The start of the year is always a busy time for competitive CrossFit athletes. After the build-up and hype of the Fittest in Cape Town – a new sanctioned qualifier for the Reebok CrossFit Games – the focus now shifts to the subsequent Regionals and Games events, and a number of local competitions.

Peak season

Without a suitable recovery plan, the cumulative training stress and residual fatigue from the competitions themselves can quickly take their toll. “To ensure my fitness and conditioning positively progress and that I didn’t tip over into a state of overtraining, I use a WHOOP Band, which I had imported from the US,” explains Chris Anastasopoulos, head coach at CrossFit 152 Biogen.

It’s an extremely popular device among elite Games athletes as it provides a significant amount of data from the device’s numerous sensors, including sleep metrics. This user data is then synced to WHOOP’s cloud-based system to analyse and deliver important performance metrics.

“Of particular relevance to me has been the daily recovery score it provides. By tracking resting and active heart rates 24/7, along with heart rate variability (HRV), the device can determine how well your body is recovering after hard sessions.

Sleep and active recovery

In addition to more closely monitoring his recovery demands, Chris also takes proactive steps to increase his recovery potential by getting more sleep each night by going to bed earlier.

“I have also included active recovery into my plan in the form of swimming sessions. This low-impact activity helps to flush the body – specifically the lymphatic system, muscles and soft tissue – of exercise metabolites that build up during intense exercise by enhancing blood flow to these areas. I usually combine a recovery swim session with a sauna to aid lymph drainage.”

Dynamic compression

In addition, whenever he has access to the Chill Tub, which is normally available at community CrossFit events, Chris uses the opportunity to revitalise his legs and body with this unique recovery protocol.

After sitting in an ice bath, athletes apply an advanced dynamic compression system to their legs. These ‘boots’ use compressed air to massage your muscles. The combination of these two processes mobilises fluids, such as lactic acid, pooled blood and lymph, to effectively ‘flush’ your legs. The process also promotes the movement of fresh, oxygenated and nutrient-rich blood back into your legs to boost recovery and rehabilitation, and leaves them feeling immediately revitalised.

Hyperbaric oxygen chamber

The other advanced, scientifically-validated approach to recovery that Chris has implemented into his regimen is the use of mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy (mHBOT). This medical-grade treatment enhances the body’s natural restorative processes, as it promotes the inhalation of 100% oxygen in a total-body chamber. The atmospheric pressure is increased and controlled within the chamber to boost oxygen perfusion and absorption throughout the body, including the muscle cells and in the blood.

As more oxygen reaches areas where circulation is often limited or locked, this treatment can substantially improve recovery. There is also significant medical research available that confirms the ability of mHBOT to accelerate healing from injury, reduce inflammation, and improve ligament and tissue healing time.

This is possible because the extra oxygen also greatly enhances immune system function by positively influencing white blood cell production and activity. This helps to more effectively reduce swelling and allows new blood vessels to grow more rapidly into the affected areas to boost blood flow.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania in the US have also shown that mHBOT increases the production of stem cells in the body by roughly 800%. These cells play a key role in the healing process, repairing tissues and affected organs more effectively.

“I have regular mHBOT sessions at the Centre for Structural Medicine in Randpark Ridge, Johannesburg, in the lead up to events. The centre has a Genesis OT hyperbaric chamber and each session takes an hour,” explains Chris.

“These sessions have a prolific and measurable impact on my recovery, and the benefit is almost immediate. To better illustrate the effect, before my one of my sessions, my WHOOP Band indicated that my recovery was at 33 per cent. However, the day after my mHBOT session, my recovery had doubled to 68 per cent, which is a significant improvement. Following my experience, I’m completely sold on the benefits of mHBOT and I plan to make it a more regular part of my recovery regimen going forward, particularly during periods when I’m subjected to greater physical and psychological demands.”