About Andrea: Andrea Ferry is a Reebok Delta Force Ambassador and CrossFit coach at District CrossFit in SW Washington DC. She was kind enough to answer some questions for us about recovering from and preventing injuries.
Tell us about your decision to pursue regular physical therapy appointments following CrossFit Regionals in 2014.
Training at any high level of competition (CrossFit or any other sport) is extremely taxing on anyone’s body, and the toll it took on mine was no different. I had to train and expand my skillset in a very short time period of time to compete at the Regional level – this included learning proper technique for muscle ups, toes-to-bars, walking on my hands and overhead squats just to name a few.
While our team was preparing for the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Regionals, I started to feel an overwhelming inflammation in my left arm any time that I would climb a rope more than 6 times. I worked with multiple doctors to find out where the pain was coming from and what I could do to make it subside until after Regionals.
The 2014 Reebok CrossFit Regionals was the experience of a lifetime and I would not trade it for anything. Post regionals, I started working with Rose Physical Therapy and I finally found relief and what the issue was that was causing the pain. I had to address my mobility issues (shoulder and ankle) and lack of technique in my Olympic Lifts. I did not want to force my body under loads that it was not properly stacked to handle.
I started to do all the homework that my PT had prescribed as well as yoga and Olympic lifting classes. I work with modest weights to make sure that the technique is getting hammered down.
What was your workout schedule like before you cut back on the high intensity workouts?
Firstly, let me say that any high intensity training maintained without a break is detrimental to physical development and recovery. So, my decision to change my regimen was based upon what my body was telling me and my desire to reengage with those high intensity workouts in the future. I still compete at a local level and enjoy the intensity of those competitions. When our team was training for regionals, it was 5 days a week separated by 2 rest days. I would be at the gym for about 2 hours a day or more. I had to “catch up” on some movements that I had not mastered as I had only been training CrossFit for a few short months before I became a part of the team. I came from a powerlifting background so I was strong for most of the barbell movements, but did not have the gymnastics skills mastered that were needed at that level.
Many folks won't pull back because they feel lazy without the hardcore workouts. How do you cope mentally with not exercising at a high intensity?
We are given ONE body on this earth and constantly pushing the envelope leads to injury. When I cannot exercise to the intensity that I would like, it is not my mind telling me to slow down but rather my body. There are athletes in all types of sports that work through injuries and unless I am getting paid for it as a professional athlete, it does not make sense to “push through” every injury.
Keep in mind that I am also a trainer, and it would be unseemly for me to coach during the week with injuries while simultaneously telling my students to “listen” to their body and adjust the intensity accordingly. If one of my athletes was fatigued or injured, I’d tell her to “take a rest day” or “go see a doctor”. A lot of people use exercise as a stress reliever, but there are other outlets to clear the mind that are not so strenuous on the body. You can’t routinely tear your body apart without taking time to recover with sleep, proper nutrition and stretching.
You mentioned to us that you were focusing more on yoga, mobility, and physical therapy. How have these activities contributed to recovery?
Any athlete that is exercising multiple times a week at any sort of intensity needs to make sure that he is working on mobility not just for the sake of mobility but for his “future” years past retirement age. These types of exercises force me to concentrate on other muscle groups and, most importantly, to focus on my core – that is where all your strength comes from. Furthermore, it is never a bad idea to work on your overall physical health and balance and to find that through a variety of exercises and programs. I work with Claire at Rose Physical Therapy and she has given me a variety of exercises to do to work on getting my body properly aligned. Taking Yoga classes regularly helps my body’s overall and constant tightness – being stable is an important part of being under heavy weight, but being in the proper position under that weight is also very important.
What is the most important thing you have learned since cutting back on training at a higher level? What is the most important thing you have learned since adjusting your training regimen?
I pursued CrossFit for about 5 months back in 2008 and then after meeting Mark Rippetoe, I decided to leave CrossFit to try Powerlifting. When I returned to CrossFit in 2014, I was strong as an ox, but did not really have the conditioning capacity.
You learn very quickly how to pace yourself with HIT versus going out of the gate at 100%. I learned this within the first workout of training with my team at District CrossFit. I had to learn the hard way – mid workout. We were supposed to do a short thruster and pull up workout four times with a two minute rest in between. I went so hard on the first workout (because my competitive nature set in) that I was too burned out to do the other three. From that day forward, I checked my ego at the door and learned the importance of working at an 80-90% capacity.
How do you know when it is time to return?
I have competed in Figure Competitions, Powerlifting and CrossFit …I thought I would give Olympic Lifting a try as my next sport. Olympic Lifting, like any sport, requires patience, time and practice. We have an amazing coach at District CrossFit who I am so lucky to work with who comes from a family of Olympic weightlifters – Cody Burgener. A glaring weakness in my ability as a CrossFit athlete is my Olympic lifting – all of my numbers for my lifts are significantly lacking in that arena – but Rome was not built in a day.
If I were to return to competing at a high level at CrossFit, I would look into Masters as there is no need to rush the progress of an athlete (as it would only lead to injury). To be completely honest, the athletes that are showing up for the Regional and Games level are getting better and better every year – it is amazing to me what type of numbers that these girls can put up, I am in completely in awe. It comes down to the desire and fire inside to compete ….and be the best of the best. I completely respect that in an athlete - I know myself only too well that when that fire dies for a sport, it is time for me to move on.
Any words of wisdom for folks that are feeling burned out with their exercise routines?
In my role for Reebok, I am grateful to have the opportunity to try different fitness routines so I rarely get burned out. There are so many workouts to try in D.C. and the fitness scene is always coming out with new types of workouts to be “different” and “fun.” When it comes down to it, working out and being healthy is not always “fun” but it is important for your “future self.” I surround myself with positive and fun training partners. Adding a social element to training helps mix things up a bit.
In addition to being a CrossFit competitor and coach, many folks in the area know you for your work with Reebok and promoting local fitness. Is there anything in the horizon you would like to share?
My role is to find the best of the best in fitness studios and instructors in D.C. – I could not have asked for a better job.
We just did a “PUMP Crawl” on August 15th where we ran 150 people through 3 workouts in Georgetown and gave out 150 free pairs Reebok Pumps (the event sold out in less than 16 hours).
Feel free to follow andreadeltaforcedc on IG to see upcoming events. The next BID event for Reebok will be between November 15th and December 1st! Stay tuned.
Andrea is sponsored by the Rose Physical Therapy Group. The Rose Physical Therapy Group specializes in diagnostic physical therapy, provides one hour, one-on-one appointments with a licensed therapist, and accepts all private health insurance.
RosePT is certified/provides Active Release Techniques (ART), Graston Techniques, McKenzie Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT), Trigger Point Dry Needling, Biofeedback, and Advanced Video Motion Capture Analysis.
Read more on the Rose Physical Therapy Group website.