I think the first thing that needs to be addressed is what is intensity when talking about exercising? According to the CrossFit Journal, intensity is defined as power: force multiplied by distance, then divided by time. Simply put: Intensity is doing more work faster.
Intensity is not about how much you sweat or how much you’re grunting in a workout or if after every workout, you are laying on your back looking at the sky. It's about measurable, tangible date that shows how much work you can do in the least amount of time. We use this measurable data, such as how long it took do do a workout or how many repetitions we did or how much work we did in a given time frame to measure our progress.
Studies show that exercising with relative intensity has many health benefits from improving body composition to reduces blood pressure and helps decrease your risk of some chronic disease.
The part about intensity that I feel most miss, is that intensity is relative. It 100% depends on the individual and their capabilities. When CrossFit first came into the fitness world, there was a perception that everyone worked out at the same intensity level and in fact when CrossFit first started it may have been encouraged at the affiliate level. As years have gone by and education has increased more “good” boxes and coaches realize that not every one is the same, therefore not everyone should be encouraged to move at the same pace or intensity. A couple years ago I heard Greg Glassman, founder of CrossFit, in an interview give talk about relative intensity. I’ll paraphrase the example he gave: Let’s say a person arrives at your gym and they are 150# over weight. They are so overweight they can’t get out the car without assistance. You walk out to the car, help them out and help them cross the street and into your facility and sit down. Let’s say this process takes 10 mins. By they time they get in and sit down, they are breathing heavy and sweating thru their shirt. You can make a valid argument that the process of that person getting out their car and walking into your gym was intense for them. This process created a stimulus on their body they were not ready for, therefore their body was forced to adapt which created change. That was an intense workout for them. On the opposite side, if a high level athlete walks into your facility and has a background in exercising or executing at a higher level, the two different types people can’t have the same journey. The athletes can be pushed or encouraged to be pushed a bit harder because they have earned that right with years of training. Two different people, two different levels of fitness yet both can acquire a new level of fitness by working a level that makes them feel a bit uncomfortable and forcing their body to adapt and create change.
Intensity is different for everyone, but being comfortable with being uncomfortable isn’t. A good coach can guide your through this safely and effectively.
We talk a lot about how CrossFit is functional and it prepares you for life. What we preach at Bionic CrossFit is that what we deliver is a program that gets you ready for whatever life throws at you. Wether it’s getting a flat tire and you need to be able to change your tire, do yard work or fight for your life, or being an active grandparent….we will get you ready for that. So where does intensity play a part? Think about life. Think about being a first responder and you get that call for service that gets your heart rate jacked up. Think about being in a situation where you have to fight for your life or to protect someone else. Think about a scenario where a loved one may be trapped under an object, can you lift it to save their life? Think about a loved one being rushed to hospital and your car breaks down, can you get them out of the car and carry them to the hospital a mile away? In any of those situations your heart rate is going to be pumping through your chest, you will be breathing heavy, you will be sweating…it will be intense. You fail them and yourself by not preparing and relying on luck hoping it never happens to you.
It’s not about how sexy a workout is. Its not about how much work you do. Its about the effort you put in. “Be impressed by intensity, not volume”