Intensity: The Key to Progress
As CrossFitters, you should be very familiar with being challenged and knowing what it means to push yourselves. We all enjoy that familiar feeling of being slightly nervous before the WOD starts. It's part of the fun of taking on workouts you know have been designed to elicit a strong physiological response for adaptation and growth. We know they aren't going to be easy, and that's part of why we love them. The difficulty of CrossFit workouts helps us not only get our bodies fitter, but it allows us to focus only on the moment and making it through the WOD. We can let the day or week's stress melt away and focus on moving, encouraging each other, and having fun.
Along those lines though, is understanding what our goal should be when it comes to intensity. As coaches, we know our athletes' fitness levels as well as their day jobs/responsibilities. This allows us to take each workout and tailor it to their specific needs. We also know that intensity is the key to driving physical and mental adaptation and advancement. So, as a coach, balancing the adjustment to the workout or application of a workout as prescribed for our athletes takes more thought than just scaling weight or reps. We also give suggestions of how to take on the workout, for each person. Some, we may drop weight or reps, but others it might be substituting movements to allow for practice of a more fundamental movement, enabling the athlete to improve the basics before attempting the complex with intensity. Each of these suggestions are tailored towards the adequate application of intensity.
As athletes, you should be looking at each workout and striving to understand the purpose. Is it a sub 5 minute, heavy workout? If so, you know you might need to drop the weight to get done in time. Is it a longer workout with higher reps? You know you can keep moving the entire time, so you might take it on Rx and not get as many reps, but, you know you won't have to stop and rest often. Is it a WOD with complex movements? You can look at it and understand you might need to back down to a simpler version of the movement in order to continue moving quickly and reinforce your good movement patterns. Is the WOD a max effort sprint? Then you know you need to be able to push yourself to the limit, with good form. Is it a 1RM lift? Keep an eye on your points of performance (depth, lock-out etc) as well as your movement through those points. If you know you can move the weight, but it won't be to the points of performance, you can kick the intensity up by dropping some weight, and moving through the full ROM.
All of these things should be running through your mind as you get ready for your workout. Each day should push you in a difference way, but you should be able to leave the box knowing you gave it your full effort and performed the WOD with the prescribed intensity. Through this, you'll see consistent, quality improvements in your fitness and body composition. As an aside, your nutrition also effects intensity. If you've been eating poorly, everyone knows how hard it is to push yourself!
The intensity of CrossFit also allows you to reap the benefits of workouts that last between 2 and 45 minutes, without needing to spend hours in the gym. If you are able to push yourself and achieve the prescribed intensity, many of you know a 2 minute workout can leave you sore for 3 days! Because of the intensity and changing stimulus, your body has no choice but to adapt and your fitness improves. Intelligently applied intensity is the secret weapon in CrossFit. Fight to understand and implement it well and you'll be amazed by the results it provides.