One of our go-to definitions for CrossFit is constantly varied, functional movements, done at high intensity. These three components are equally important to the success of any individual. Variance and functional movements are two pieces that we include in every athlete’s program from day one. Intensity, on the other hand, is something that must be managed and gradually introduced and increased as newer athletes learn functional movements and become more consistent with them.
Intensity is CrossFit’s “special sauce,” it’s what makes our program successful. Too little and you stall results. Too much and you can be in a world of hurt. Isn’t that what makes CrossFit, CrossFit? For those of you who are experienced CrossFitters and have developed consistency with most movements, you’ve probably pushed yourself in a workout so hard that you’ve felt a little ill, shaky, or maybe even met Pukie. That’s ok! Knowing where your limit is, is important. If you are willing to push your physical and mental limits day in and day out, you’ll find there’s no limit to your fitness level and the “gain train” will continue to roll.
For most of us, we get confused or sidetracked. We mix up the benefits of intensity with volume and we start chasing a carrot that doesn’t produce results. I’m definitely guilty of it! With everything that goes into a CrossFit competition, I get sidetracked and focus trying to improve everything I could potentially see at a competition. I get sucked into the high volume training routine. I feel good about what I’m doing because I’ve been trained to think more is better; “the more I do, the better prepared I’ll be.” This is not always the case and for most of us (everyone not named Rich Froning) it stalls results for two main reasons.
First off, when you over train, you’re not giving your body the chance to recover properly. We will get into this more in a future article, but regular day to day training requires some form of recovery; 8 hours of sleep, a good diet, rest, and mobility. Most of us do a good job with this stuff, but not a great job. If you’re adding volume and able to keep some intensity, you need to be very disciplined in your recovery or you will not see the gains you work so hard for.
The second reason and the point of this article, is the loss of intensity. I finally got the blinders off after 10 months of high volume training for this years CrossFit Games season. I got back from Regionals on May 18th and decided I needed some rest and recovery. My plan was to do the NoCoast WOD, 5 days per week for a month or two before putting together a plan for next year. As I enter the third month of low volume training, I am happy and at times a little surprised with how my training has progressed.
First off, I’m not sore and crippled when I wake up in the mornings, I feel rested and recovered on a daily basei, and I look forward to every workout. More importantly, I figured out that after 10 months of high volume training, my body has finally started to recover and make gains! In the past 2 months I’ve PR’d my snatch, clean, front squat, and push press. I’ve hit numbers on my deadlift and jerk that I had struggled with over the past year. And I’ve also PR’d a handful of CrossFit benchmarks that I thought would be really hard to beat based off of past results, including “Kelly,” “DT,” “Murph,” “Seven,” and “Nate” to name a few! The only thing I can conclude from this, is that my recovery was long over due. Allowing myself to recover by lowering the volume, has allowed me to increase my intensity day in and day out, which has improved my strength, conditioning, and overall work capacity.
Lets be clear on what intensity is and how to increase it. Intensity is defined as Power Output, which we have an equation for
Power = force x distance
So, if you increase the Force (load), the Distance (how far you move the load), or decrease the Time it takes to get work done, we increase Power, which is an increase in Intensity.
Depending upon where you are in your fitness journey, you should be adding intensity to your daily WOD. If you’re still new and not as comfortable with some movements, use those days or movements as skill practice and keep the load light. When you see movements or WODs that you are comfortable with or are less technical, try pushing the intensity. For those of you who are experienced and want more, do me a favor and try giving it everything you have in our daily WOD. You’ll be surprised by what one workout can do to you and you’ll be happy with the results. If you feel like you need more, then there’s always Black Track!