Intensity is one of three defining pillars of CrossFit, and we like it for a couple of reasons. First, intensity does a good job at developing fitness. It’s a potent stimulus, especially when compared to no intensity. We’re training for a result, and intensity is critical to adaptation.
Running around the block feels different in the body from walking around the block for a reason. In that way, without enough intensity, we might not have enough stimuli to improve fitness.
A second key element of intensity is that we know intensity is relative. This is a key concept fewer coaches and fewer gyms got the memo on. What’s intense for one person is different from what’s intense for another depending on a number of factors, including fitness history, strength, recent training volume, etc. Progressing and scaling the day’s training is almost the most important job of the student-coach relationship.
Everyone, quite literally, got the memo that CrossFit is supposed to be intense. In other words, no one forgot that CrossFit is supposed to be hard. All the great coaches and even all the bad coaches remember to start the clock, turn on the music and get after it.
We have a crossroads here. Intensity seems to be the biggest opportunity for success paired with the biggest opportunity for disaster. You know that hard work gets results, but creating the perfect space for athletes to get to that sweet spot is where the magic is.
When creating this relative experience, coaches and athletes have a number of variables in their control. All movements can be progressed to become simpler and more complex. We can control load, range of motion, volume and even intensity (with forced rest or paces). Intensity is a huge opportunity — make the most of it!