If you are a CrossFit geek and have some understanding of the methodology of what we do you know that Intensity = Results. The fancy way of saying that is…
Intensity is the independent variable most commonly associated with maximizing the rate of return on favorable adaption.
In short, anything you want out of a fitness program you have to have intensity. This brings us to a topic that I think people can misunderstand when it comes to programming. Some argue that it’s not healthy for you to go as hard as possible every day, that you should be working out at percentages of your max, etc. Others think this kind of programming can’t be sustained physically before a breakdown, or even mentally. It’s tough to go in the gym and “see the white light” every day. The argument seems a bit uneducated to me when I hear it and how we program for intensity. And truthfully I think it’s foolish to think that we can know a percentage of our max effort and sustain that for any given time when it comes to anything other than strictly lifting at percentages. And if you think you can measure it with heart rate that is simply a correlate of intensity. In CrossFit, Power is Intensity… that means more work, in less time.
First thing I think we have to do is understand the response that different workouts have on our bodies. Heavy days, long monostructural work, sub 5 min “bombs” like Fran, on the min work with alternating movements between weightlifting and gymnastics, so on and so on, the list could go forever. All these mentioned above create a different stimulus on our body. In my opinion, if we program well we can go 100% every day. The response that I get from each workout will leave a different imprint on me and use different energy pathways, muscle groups, movement patterns, etc. It’s part of the beauty behind the variance in CrossFit. My all out effort on a heavy back squat day is going to feel very different to what I am going to be doing on a day when I’m doing the Filthy 50. If I follow that up with a 3rd day of working on the min for load in a clean and jerk and double unders on the other, I can still go 100% for that WOD.
If we neglect to truly vary our program and don’t do a good job of it that is where I think people are going to run into trouble. Repeatedly doing the same things over and over again, which is very traditional in lots of programs, is something that we can’t sustain intensity with. Maybe that’s where this idea or argument comes from that in CrossFit the same applies? If I’m training for a single modality (power or oly lifting, running, swimming, etc.), I may not be able to continue to hit things every day with 100% and avoid breakdown. In CrossFit the variance provides a different stimulus nearly every day when done well and we can avoid the concerns of bombing if we take care of ourselves. But what does that mean?
We need to rest. Taking days completely off or having active rest days with mobility or some LIGHT skill work of sorts are imperative to our staying healthy mentally and physically. As is our nutrition, sleep…. all the things outside of the gym that can play a large role in the gym. No one can work day in and day out every day and not see a decrease in intensity. We need to rest in order to recover and adapt to the stimulus and demands we are placing on our bodies. The amount differs per person and is something that can be experimented with and I encourage you to find your balance. I know at my age and what I do daily I follow a 3 on 1 off, 2 on 1 off schedule.
I take Monday and Friday’s off because they are usually a travel day or time that I can just take with the family and do nothing at all but spend time with them. Here is an example of my last week that Ben sent me and you can see how I can go all out on each one of these workouts and still have success due to the different stimulus on each day.
1.5×3 Deadlift to mid thigh (have to stay within 30 lbs on every set)
Burpee Box Jump 30″
Squat Clean Thruster 135
2. 5×5 Push Press
1. Hang Power Snatch 1 RM
2. 10×1 Front Squat across On the Min for 10 min
3. 5 Rounds
300 m Row
Rest 1 min btwn rounds
1. 6 x max rep jerk @ 225, rest 2 min between rounds
2. 3 Rounds
7 DB Hang Power Clean and Jerk 75lb dumbells
7 Burpee Bar Muscle Ups
Row 1000 meters
50 Thrusters (45lbs)
Each day was challenging in it’s own way. I hit a variety of time domains, some interval, some not, some short, some longer, but they all had a different response. The key is understanding how to program and WHY you are doing it. What are your goals, how are you trying to accomplish them, and have the flexibility to change things up if needed. This could even be on a day to day basis for you as in individual or for a box you may coach at and program for. Keep adapting and learning. It’s what makes all of us better and we learn from it, but if you program well you can always to 100%.