Sleep & Recover Like a CrossFit Games Athlete

Imagine it was your job to workout – and workout hard, all day long. That’s what it’s like for most Crossfit athletes who make it to the Crossfit Games each year. If you’re not familiar with CrossFit or what the CrossFit Games are, then check out their links and you’ll see just how intense it can get. For the most part, it’s a High Intensity Interval Training workout – short to medium length workouts at a very high intensity. These types of workout can be tough on the body and leave you feeling very sore and if you’ve ever done any kind of intense fitness training then you know how it feels afterwards – specifically two days afterwards when you’re probably the most sore.

Professional CrossFit athletes train constantly, pushing themselves beyond their perceived capacities in order to get faster, stronger and more competitive. Now, don’t mistake these athletes for bodybuilders who just want to look good and have abs. No, these athletes are the complete package in the way they train AND the way they recover – so they can wake up and do it all over again.

Of course, we know a little something about waking up, which is why we wanted to know how two Crossfitters, Lindy Barber and Gretchen Kittelberger, recover from their tough workouts everyday. We sat down with them and asked a few questions about how they sleep and what they do to repair their bodies from long workouts.

On average, about how many hours of sleep do you get per night? Do you get more during competitions? If so, how much?

Lindy Barber Crossfit Games Lindy:
“I try to get 8-9 hours of sleep per night, and more on weekends if I can. During competitions I actually get less sleep just because of nerves and usually soreness throughout my body. As soon as the competition is over though, I usually have to spend a couple nights with a least 9-10 hours to get back to normal functioning again.”

“I love sleep and try to get 9-10 hours a night. That doesn’t always happen though so realistically I am getting more like 8-9 hours a night. Optimally, I would like to get more during competitions, but that usually doesn’t happen because competition days are long and by the time you eat and get back to your hotel it’s usually pretty late and you usually have to be back at the competition site pretty early in the morning. “

Do you sleep when it’s convenient, or do you stick to a schedule? Basically, do you go to bed at a certain time every night?

“I try to stick to a schedule in terms of time I go to bed every night. I try to head upstairs at 10pm, with the goal of being in bed by 10:30pm. It doesn’t always happen though and sometimes it’s more like 11 or a little after. I’m fortunate though that I work from home and make my own daily schedule, so I don’t have to wake up at a certain time most days and can just sleep until my body wakes up naturally.”


How often do you train and when do you leave time for recovery? Do you take many extended periods of time away from training to recover?

“I train 5 days a week, with 2 full rest days. I definitely wish that I had some more time for recovery, but my job does not allow time for naps or extra time away from the gym. I do take reload weeks about once every couple months which allows for a lot of extra recovery time- and after competitions I will take a couple extra days off to make sure my body is recovered before I try to get back into training.”

“I train 5 days a week and take 2 rest days each week. I try to do some mobility work or other things on my rest days to aid recovery. I don’t typically take extended periods away from training. The only exceptions are after Regionals each year I usually take a full week off and after the Games each year I usually take 2 full weeks off.”

I try to do a lot of mobility to recover from tough workouts.

-Gretchen Kittelberger

Besides sleep, what’s your favorite ways to recover from tough workouts?

“EATING! When I am feeling really beat-up, or just worn down I know that I usually need to increase my food intake quite a bit. I try to stay off my feet, and eat some extra meals and carbs throughout the day. I have have a couple awesome recovery tools: the Marc Pro and the Normatec which help me out a lot. “

“Besides sleep I try to do a lot of mobility to recover from tough workouts. I sometimes will follow the stretching and mobility routines on to structure that stretching a bit more. I also like to use the compression sleeves made by Normatec and the MarcPro swim unit to help my recovery.”

The average busy person who has a job and tries to workout a few times a week – what do you see as ways they can improve their performance. OR what bad habits do you see them doing?

“People with busy lives who are still making time for the gym are very dedicated and driven people- and sometimes this can be their success but also a downfall in regards to performance and I know this because I fall into this category sometimes. When you are so determined to do something, sometimes you will push yourself a little too hard sometimes and not know when to slow down. We need to pay attention to our bodies and listen to when they need rest and need a break. Training more, does not always mean more results and can actually hurt your performance in the long run. Just make sure to take some time for yourself, and don’t push your body to the limit each and every day. Rest and relaxation is a very important part of training.”

“Honestly, I have always said that for me personally getting good sleep is the most important life factor in determining my training success, and I think that holds true for most people whether they realize it or not. I know for me I can get away with eating not so clean and not notice a performance decline right away, but if I don’t get enough sleep my performance suffers immediately. So I think sleep and getting enough sleep is a huge life factor that people tend to ignore when looking at ways to improve their performance. This goes for not just performance in CrossFit, but in other areas of life as well. If you are well rested you are able to focus better at work and in the gym, and be more patient and caring in your interpersonal relationships as well.”

To keep up with Lindy and Gretchen, follow them on Instagram. To see how Lindy recovered after literally breaking her back, then check out the video about her recovery.

The Mattress Mom


After having my first child and losing a tremendous amount of sleep I decided to do something about it. Through months of research and conversations with sleep and mattress experts, I am here to share my knowledge. I am now obsessed with sleep and everything surrounding it!