I wanted to thank you for the training as I am stronger, faster and becoming an all around a better athlete because of it. However, lately I have been getting my ass kicked in the training. Got any recovery tips to help me recover and keep making progress?


R & R


As you can imagine playing a 16 game season in the NFL takes a toll on the body. Add to that the countless hours of training in the off-season and training camp and the body goes through the meat grinder.

In 1999, I had the pleasure of playing with one of the NFL greats. This NFL/USFL great was a Pro Bowl punter and had played for 20+ years by the time I made it to the league. He was always great for bestowing choice knowledge on young players and has a cult following of those that had the pleasure to play with him.

One day while laying in the training room with ice on my knee he asked me about what I was doing to take care of body. It was an honest question...but I was a bit confused as I thought I was being proactive by icing my knee. So I shrugged my shoulders and waited in anticipation for enlightenment. He told me there were keys to keeping your body healthy and ready for combat, and if I wanted to play for more than a season, I better start being proactive.

Contrast. This is a practice of alternately submerging your body in hot and cold baths for varying lengths of time. Having worked with a few trainers I knew the standard recommendation was 3 minutes in the hot water followed by 1 minute in the cold, repeat 3 times. The importance of contrast was put into perspective by one of the NFL’s greats. In 1986, #7 was playing for the NY Giants and like every good NFL player on a fall Sunday morning he was at the facility preparing for the game. As he was heading out the door for pre-game he heard rumors that one of the key players was not in the building. After warming up he came into the training room just in time to see this key player getting helped in from the night before. He had gone out big the night before and the team had to send out a search party to find him. The head trainer set up two large tanks, one hot and one ice cold. They started dunking him back and forth…back and forth and after a few minutes of this, the player’s head snapped up. His eyes were a blaze and he was ready to go. As the story goes…he walked into the locker room, pulled on his gear, not bothering to tape his ankles or wrists, ran out of the tunnel as they were playing the National Anthem and proceeded to set the single game sack record.

Almost every day since hearing the story I have done contrast...many times twice a day. It is usually done in the shower, as I don’t always have access to cold tubs. This is the foundation in my recovery process…and world-class hangover remedy. I do not time the length of hot and cold exposure as I have always thought you should never follow the same protocol. But I always start in the hot and finish in cold and do no less than 5 rounds. As for temperature, I go as hot as I can stand and as cold as I make it.


Massage. Next to contrast, consistent massage therapy is vital to recovery. Once a week is ideal…however sometimes I am busy and have to push it out once every two weeks but never longer than 14 days. If you are training 4-6 days a week with heavy weights, maximum efforts, dynamic movements and sprinting you will need massage to promote healing and speed recovery.

Tissue Manipulation. This includes A.R.T and Rolfing. I find that some aggressive tissue manipulation can go a long way to preventing nagging injuries that slow and sometimes derail training. Find a quality A.R.T practitioner and see him twice a month to work on sore and trouble spots. And if you are feeling especially daring, enlist the help of a Rolfer. Rolfing is a form of myofascia release where they manipulate fascia and break up scar tissue. I have a weekly appointment with a Rolfer and it enlightening.

In other words, it is very painful.

Flexibility. I make it point to stretch after every workout. I have a routine that takes 10 minutes to perform and focuses on the areas that get the most use. In addition, I have been attending yoga 1-2 times a week to help with stretching and increase flexibility. Iyengar Yoga was recommended to me as it focuses on poses and it excellent for improving posture. I know that many types of yoga do not mesh well with heavy iron so make sure to take your time and find a style that works for you. Probably the biggest obstacle in performing yoga is actually going to the studio. Upon entering you will have to deal with new age music, the gross abuse of Lululemon, the strange guy “training” in his underwear and horrific stares by vegan practitioners that know you didn’t get to 300+ lbs eating kelp and soy protein shakes. If you can make it past the stares and whispers increased flexibility is the pay off.

My New Years Resolution is to increase my flexibility and movement. Nothing is worse than seeing an athlete that has become a prisoner to inflexibility and stiffness.

Nutrition. We have gone into great length on this site about nutrition and how you should eat for performance so scout around.

Sleep. Sleep works as a restorative function for the brain and body. You should try to attain at least 8 hours, but you might not always have the time to sleep for 8 hours. So I developed an interesting perspective where sleep is like money in the bank. If you sleep 8 hours then the bank is even. If you only sleep 5 hours then you owe 3 hours that need to made up. You can do this by going to bed earlier or through power naps lasting no longer than 45 minutes. 45 minutes is ideal as if you nap longer than an hour you enter REM sleep and this will adversely affect your nighttime sleep cycle. But lets say you get lucky and sleep 9 hours, then you are +1 and can afford to stay up late to watch reruns of “How I met your mother”.

I believe the trick to sleep is consistency. Always try to wake at the same time…even if you go to bed late. This is key as it keeps your internal clock regulated, which goes along way toward Delta and REM sleep. Why is consistent Delta and REM sleep important? Delta and REM refer to the stage where the body secretes growth hormone to fuel recovery and growth. Just for your information…Delta sleep is deep sleep and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is our dream state. Both stages are vital to recovery for the body and brain. We move through 5 stages of sleep, each lasting about 90 minutes. A healthy person will experience about 5-6 sleep cycles a night.

Another factor to take into account is when to go to bed. I go with my mom on this one and believe that the most vital hours are the ones before midnight. When I was little, my mom told me it is was best to sleep like a farmer and not a bartender. Farmers go to bed at 8 pm and wake at 4 am. Bartenders go to bed at 4 am and wake at noon.



Do not miss workouts.

Recently, we did a program where we squatted above 80%, 6 days a week for 9 weeks. The only days I felt sore or tired was the day after I missed a training day. There is a big difference in taking a rest day in your training cycle and blowing off workouts that are vital to getting better. A missed training day is a lost day you can’t get back. A rest day allows you get better by healing the body for the next training day. Know the difference.

And finally...Mobility WOD. If I had met Kelly Starrett at the beginning of my career instead of at the end there is a good chance I would not be writing this blog...I would have been playing tonight. I think Mobility WOD is one of the most important contributions to health and performance in years. Get in with the cool kids and add Mobility WOD to your daily training.

Restoration and keeping the body healthy is vital for all athletes. This includes the professional athletes playing on Sunday…tactical athletes deployed in harms way and weekend warriors looking to get better. Take these words of wisdom given to me all those years ago by a future hall of famer and good friend.

Just to put it in perspective, "...over the past 20 years, 15,018 players played in the NFL, but only 631 (4%) played three or more years. The average career length is 3.7 season."

Train like you are in that 4%.

Keep working.


John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and Fuse Move. He is also creator of the online training phenomena, Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year veteran of the NFL. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for starter for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early with him retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL, Olympic athletes and Military. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie and at Power Athlete.

Latest posts by John (see all)

Posted in CrossFit Football, FAQ, Talk to Me Johnnie, Training | Tagged , , , , , | 32 Comments

32 Responses to Regeneration

  1. Pingback: Recovery | CrossFit & Paleo

  2. Shaun

    Its awesome to see TTMJ back in action.
    The more years I spend training, the more importantance I place on recovery. When I was 21 I’d never stretch, never back off my conditioning and get drunk three nights a week. And I’d wonder why I was still small and weak. The more I learn about the harder I can push myself without burning out.
    Good article. Thanks again, John

  3. I literally laughed out loud over the “horrific stares of the vegan practitioners” comment. It reminded me of the WTF looks I received last week when I walked into the local Lululemon store to buy my wife a few Christmas presents.

    My biggest downfall is sleep. I never gave it much thought until the past couple years. I’m sure I suffer from shift work disorder. I had never heard of it until I read The Paleo Solution. However, my schedule is based off someone else’s schedule and it is what it is. I’m envious of my wife’s ability to get 8+ hours of sleep on 99% of the nights. She trains very hard on a consistant basis, eats extremely clean, and gets enough rest to heal her body. Her downfall is not strecthing enough. I try to do the MobilityWOD at a minimum three times a week. I can already see and feel a difference.

    Thanks for the post. As always, it was entertaining and informative.

  4. Josh

    Bottom pic:
    “I’m gonna Mess you up”
    “Go for it!”

  5. IanT

    Great Article John! Sometimes I forget recovery is just as important as training. How often/long to you recommend abstaining from training? ie) 1 week off every 3 months?

  6. Pingback: Tuesday 12.21.10 « Crossfit South Bend blog

  7. Pingback: Tuesday– December 21, 2010 | CrossFit Fairbanks

  8. Jaybird

    Best article in a long time, thanks for the info.

  9. D Ball

    John can you pass that 9 week squat program to me? What performance gains did you see from it? Sounds like $$$ in the bank!

  10. Pingback: Blog Archive « B32 CROSSFIT

  11. Pingback: 12/24/10 – The Grinch is back!

  12. Pingback: The benefits of cold and ice | Perfect Mike dot com

  13. Pingback: CrossFit Peachtree | CrossFit in Buckhead | CrossFit in Atlanta | CrossFit in Midtown | Personal Training Atlanta | Atlanta Strength and Conditioning Coach | CrossFit Football in Atlanta | Atlanta Speed and Agility Training

  14. Pingback: Tuesday 12/28/10 | Derby City CrossFit - Louisville, KY

  15. Pingback: CrossFit 312 » Blog Archive » 12.28.10

  16. Pingback: Monday 1.3.11 « CrossFit Conquest

  17. Pingback: Crossfit Bethesda » 1/4/11

  18. Pingback: CrossFit Extreme Fitness » 1/4/11

  19. Pingback: AK CrossFit - "Squat then a Pull" 1/13/2011 » AK Crossfit Blog

  20. Taylor

    I think this is my third time reading this article–great stuff. Any chance you could shed some more light on your 10 minute stretching routine?

    That can get done a la kstar style via my iphone.


  21. Pingback: 2/1/2011 |

  22. Pingback: » Just keep snatching » CrossFit NYC

  23. Pingback: Monday 4.24.11 « Crossfit South Bend blog

  24. Pingback: Mobility Musings - CrossFit RVA

  25. Pingback: 12.20.10 « CFFB Digest

  26. Pingback: Contrast Showers for Recovery purposes | Cactus CrossFit

  27. Pingback: Testing Day and a discussion of sleep | Cactus CrossFit

  28. Pingback: Friday | Crossfit Conquest Fort Lauderdale

  29. Pingback: CrossFit Overland Park Presents: Soreness and Recovery

  30. Pingback: Recovery & Regeneration For CrossFit | CrossFit Locus

  31. Pingback: Give yourself & Your kid the power of Contrast showers - Pregnancy Dost

  32. Pingback: CrossFit Farmland » Wednesday 11/18; Sprints and Shoulder Love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *