I suppose this comes on the heels of the games for a few reasons. Watching the athletes compete this weekend it is hard to not be driven to have that much heart and drive to finish no matter what, and to do it with a smile. However, we also feel that we need to talk a little about what intensity means and why it is the absolute one factor that makes CrossFit different from any other program. The question is often asked “What is CrossFit”, and the answer is “Constantly varied functional movement performed at high intensity”. If you have been doing CrossFit for a while that should make sense to you. You know that every day that you come in, is going to be different and you never know what we are going to have for you. You should also know that the movements are functional, i.e, deadlift, squat, shoulder press etc are all movements that we use in our everyday lives. The only piece then that is left is intensity. The definition of intesity is:
(Force) x (Distance) / Time = Work
Work = Power=Intensity
“Intensity is the independent variable most commonly associated with maxizing the rate of return on favorable adaptation” -CrossFit Corp
Okay, but what does that mean to you as an athlete? You know that often we scale WOD’s with weight, and have things like bands to assist with movement until our athletes are strong enough and have learned a movement. Why do we do this? The question has a few answers but the most important one is that we scale WOD’s so that athletes can hold a high intensity and generate the most power output, and in the end cause change. Change in weight, strength, cardiorespiratory endurance, stamina, etc. . Here is an example. Let’s use me, and Fran. Fran is a well know CrossFit WOD, where you do 21, 15, 9 of Thrusters and Pull ups, Rx’d weight for girls is 65#. Here are a few scenario’s:
- Keep weight as Rx’d at 65#, and finish in 10+ minutes. This would also mean that at most I would get two, possibly 3 reps in a row and then have to drop the weight. And by then end I would only be getting possibly one rep at a time. Also because I am so fatigued by the thrusters I am not able to string together many pull ups either, which I can normally do.
- Scale the weight down to 45#. If the weight was scaled to 45#, I would be able to do almost all of the sets unbroken including the pull ups and could finish somewhere around the 4 min mark.
- Scale the weight 55#. This would mean that I can string together a decent amount of reps, but not be able to do all of the sets unbroken. I am breathless and feel as though I can’t work any harder, fall on the floor in a sweat angel and finish in about 6 min.
Which of these would be good scaling and good intensity?Lets talk about the different options. First, doing the WOD as Rx’d would not be the best option because the weight is so heavy that it will spend a lot of time on the ground with me looking at it wondering how I am going to clean is to get it to the start position so I can do a thruster, i.e that means lots of “rest” for me. Rest is the enemy of intensity, and we should all strive to have as little rest as possible in every WOD. (But don’t take that to mean that you go slow enough that you can hold the pace forever and never need a second of rest) Therefore although I could “do it” I would not be producing the maximal amount of power. Since power = intensity, I would not have max intensity. The second option of really scaling the weight would also not be ideal. I want to be in a range where I am really being pushed, if weight is too light again I have not produced the maximal power output or intensity.the extra push or weight is what is going to cause change. Therefore the third option would be ideal. I am working hard to move the weight, but not so hard that I can only do one at a time and spending a lot of time resting, but at the same point it is hard and heavy and I am working to create maximal power. The end result will be maximum intensity, hard work, and results!
Now intensity is relative, so keep that in mind. If you started CF yesterday your relative intensity is going to be much different that the athletes at the games this weekend. What we need everyone to do is find that intensity and be able to push yourself in every workout to reach that point. How do you know what “intensity” feels like? A few good markers, you meet pukie, or feel like you are going to, you fall to the floor breathless after the WOD and leave great sweat angels, or you can’t give me a high five for two minutes becauses you can’t lift your arms. Signs that your not working hard enough…you are not on the ground in pain, you are walking around looking for more work to do. If at the end of a WOD you have the ability to do more work, then you were not pushing hard enough. We need everyone to find that one gear higher. The best way to do this is when it gets hard and you “want” to quit, push yourself through and get one more or three more reps until you “have” to drop the weight!
We will push you, but you are truly the only one that will ever know if you could have gone a little heavier or a little harder. Remember the simple equation… Intensity = Results (i.e. better, faster, stronger, leaner, etc)