Active Recovery at CFSBK
The original version of this article appeared on David’s blog, Inside the Affiliate.
Active Recovery (AR) is essentially an hour of mobility and soft tissue maintenance that we offer four times a week at CFSBK. The original version of this program started in 2009 when we began hosting six-class workshops to more directly address the movement restrictions we were seeing in our membership. The few minutes of movement prep built into the beginning of group classes was proving insufficient in terms of instructing and enabling members to really understand their restrictions and learn how to work on them. The goal of implementing specific AR sessions was to help members establish a routine of DIY work outside of class so they could move and perform better in class.
We realized that an open class format (similar to group classes) would decrease the barriers of entry, providing hour-long sessions that anyone could hop into for some soft tissue lovin’. These classes have been enormously successful, and our members have seen dramatic improvements in their mobility as a result of both attending class and learning to mobilize regularly on their own.
CFSBK members can attend one or more of our four weekly AR classes by either dropping in for $15, or by using the class as part of their weekly group class membership. Unlike our group classes, AR is also open to the public. Every once in a while, members bring friends along or visiting athletes attend, but the vast majority of people are active CFSBKers. Despite the popularity of the workshop, we were a little unsure at first if people would actually show up for an hour of pure mobility, but attendance has been consistently high. In fact, part of the impetus for building our recent upstairs annex space was that Active Recovery classes were becoming so large. It’s typical for my Saturday AR classes to have upwards of 20 people in attendance. Each class has a bunch of "regulars" who attend every week and have worked it into their weekly training routines, which is evidence of how important it is to membership.
I would be remiss not to mention how influential Kelly Starrett's work has been to our AR program. When Mobility|WOD launched in September of 2010 with the motto “All human beings should be able to perform basic maintenance on themselves,” CFSBK’s "tool box" of mobilization methods was much smaller than it is now, and our conceptual approach to dealing with movement issues was far less refined. Along with so many others—CrossFitters and other athletes alike—we are forever grateful for his contributions. I would highly recommend reading Kelly’s book Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance to anyone interested in offering a class similar to Active Recovery. His oeuvre of m|WOD videos are also extremely helpful.
Programming + Class Flow
Since we're catering to an open enrollment of CrossFitters and we've got an entire hour to work with, we keep these classes pretty broad and try to hit most basic positions and systems. I generally write out eight to 10 different mobilizations that I want to cover and usually have to add or delete a few things depending on the flow of the class.
Since I've already programmed what we're going to do, I start class by asking people to get the tools they're going to use that day so they're on hand when we need them. Sometimes I start with general movement prep like DROMs or something resembling a Crossfit-ified sun salutation, and sometimes we just get right into it.
I try to teach one conceptual thing per class, such as reviewing a rule of mobility, explaining how the knee works in general terms that offer insight into how to care for it, or I might even talk about hydration or the bracing sequence. We want to maximize what our athletes are getting out of the time, with the hopes that what we talk about and do in class blooms into the rest of their lives and athletic endeavors. Also… I'm a particularly chatty person and like to engage people in class, with the aim of helping everyone get to know each other better, have fun, and pay less attention to the discomfort of some of the more intense mobilizations.
So, for example, maybe I'll ask one person what they did the previous evening and they’ll mention a restaurant, which leads to a group conversation about which restaurant has the best burger in town. Or maybe I'll pick a silly question similar to our Question of the Day, and throughout the hour, get each participant to answer. It doesn't really matter how the conversation starts; the most important component is that laughter happens at regular intervals during class. We know that people will keep coming back to our gym not only because the instruction and programming are good, but because it’s a FUN place to be.
We believe AR classes are a fabulous asset for our members because it teaches you how to take care of yourself and listen to your bodies in a more informed way. The classes also provide athletes with a place to go that directly relates to their CrossFit training and is different from any other mobility work, including yoga or massages, since it focuses on actively caring for and improving soft tissue health. Perhaps most importantly, AR creates worthwhile, important conversations at CFSBK about how to get and be better—which is hopefully why we’re all doing CrossFit in the first place.