INTENSITY: The final step – What is Intensity; why is it an important aspect of fitness; how do I improve mine? By: Dusty Mars
The CrossFit definition of intensity is exactly equal to average power (force x distance / time). It is a measure of how much real work did you do in a specific time period. The greater the average power, the greater the intensity. This makes it a measurable fact, not a debatable opinion, and is why we write down our times after a WOD.
At ACF, this is the third and final step in your CrossFit development, after gaining a comfortable level of skill in executing any particular movement and establishing a routine of consistent class attendance. The order of training progression (mechanics, consistency, intensity) is critical to keeping athletes of all levels safe from injury, rhabdo, or possibly hurting others. Think of the possible negative outcomes of a new CrossFitter going to grip failure on a kettlebell swing – not a good application of intensity.
Now that we know what it is and when to apply it, let’s look at why it is important to fitness. Intensity and average power are most commonly associated with measurably optimizing favorable results. Whatever you want to gain (speed, power, strength, coordination, vertical jump, endurance) from exercise comes fastest with intensity. It’s not volume or duration or heart rate or even discomfort that will get results quickly. Do more work in less time (without overdoing it), and you’ll get fitter, faster. Like my dad always tells me, “if you’re gunna do something, better do it right.” If you’re going to work out, you better get something measurable out of it and maximizing intensity gets you what you want, the fastest.
Improving intensity is a balancing act between approaching physical failure, but not getting there. When performing a workout, you need to know ahead of time what your current physical abilities are and this only comes through consistent class attendance and diligent record keeping. For weighted exercises, know your 1 rep max, 3 rep max and 10 rep max. For gymnastic movements like pushups, pull-ups, toes to bar, burpees, air squats, and ring dips, know your sustainable rep limits and pace (your max set before muscular failure or max reps in a given amount of time). For mono-structural movements like rowing, running, and double unders, you need to know your target pace – 400M run in 1:30, 500M row in 1:50, 50 double unders in 30 seconds. Having these data points ahead of time gives you the ability to strategize how you are going to approach the WOD to maximize your intensity level. Using the prescribed weight or movement standard or rep volume can limit your ability to maximize intensity, for even the fittest CrossFitter.
The final piece to maximizing intensity, after establishing your WOD strategy based on the data above, is the mental aspect of how hard to push yourself. Quoting Mike Carpenter, “You’ll pass out long before you die.” There is a cardio/heart rate limit to what your body can deliver in terms of work output. That said, few people actually reach that limit before hitting their “quit button” (a term I stole from Berkeley Brown). My son, James, has avoided the quit button and mastered that skill at age 12. Maybe he’s not old enough yet to have found his quit button, but for his sake, I hope he never does. Watching his ability to push beyond his mental limits is what inspired me to write this. Part of what makes his future so bright is the fact that mental toughness translates to success in so many aspects of life. I am so excited for his future based heavily on his determination to push himself. It is the one thing that ANYONE can do to better themselves, but seldom do.
My hope for anyone reading this is that you will find your maximum intensity level in all you do and hold yourself accountable for applying it. Do everything as if someone is watching you to see how well you will do it; every rep, every step, and every endeavor.
Skill work: Using atlas stones, achieve 10 quality ground to shoulder with appropriate stone
WOD: 2 rounds for time of:
800 m run
25 Push press (45/35 lbs)
50 Air squats
Post WOD mobility: Shoulder Rotator Smash and Floss
11:00 am Strength class:
Lift: Front squats: 10 x 2: 60% bar, 25% chain only
6:30 pm Mobility Class: Anterior chain (Quads/Knees, Hip flexors)