Intensity Prescriptions for CrossFit

 

CrossFit changes lives by helping people find and maximize their health and fitness.
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It’s no secret what we promote within our CrossFit program – in fact, it’s built into the definition of what CrossFit is about. Constantly varied, functional movements, performed at high intensity.
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This recipe, along with a diet that supports our exercise and chosen goals, gets results and helps people of all backgrounds live a better life.
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But what do we actually mean when we end that definition of CrossFit with “performed at high intensity?” Does that mean we go 100% and crush ourselves in every single workout we do, leaving sweat angels on the floor and our bodies and minds frazzled from the workout?
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No, it doesn’t. At least not in an effective, sustainable training environment and CrossFit gym.
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“High Intensity” should be relative to both the individual AND the day of the week. Let’s break that down:
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Bob’s “high intensity” is going to be different than Mary’s “high intensity” on any given day. They are different people – they have different starting points, fitness levels, goals, capabilities and limitations. Their intensities during each workout are going to high, relative to what they both can accomplish for the given training.
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Don’t compare your intensity to someone else’s! Remember, as Teddy Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
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Secondly, and just as importantly, our intensities should vary throughout the days and weeks depending on how our bodies and minds feel.
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It’s impractical to think we can go 100% on every workout, every time. This is not a mindset that leads to long-term growth and sustainable fitness. It actually leads to burnout – constant fatigue, lack of strength gains, decreased motivation, injury…all things we want to avoid!
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So what’s the best approach to varying our intensity? We want to find a balance between going too hard all the time and sandbagging our workouts and robbing ourselves of the true benefit.
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Here’s what I suggest to maximize results: a tapering method to intensity each week.
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Day 1 – go for it. Give 100% and start the week on a hot note. Create intensity through barbell loading or increased speed on metcons.

Day 2 – analyze how you’re feeling after the previous day’s training and adjust accordingly. With our style of programming, you should be seeing different movement patterns and 85%-90% intensity should be very doable.

Day 3 – soreness from Day 1 has set in for sure! Today is the day to truly understand your body and not tip it over the edge. 75% intensity here. We don’t need to end up in a puddle on the floor.

Day 4 – By this point in the week, it’s time to decide – do I need a rest day? Do I need an active recovery day? What does my body NEED? If you choose to keep training, that’s fine, but lower your intensity accordingly. 50%-60% and focus on quality movement patterns.

Day 5 – If this is your 5th day of training, you are likely feeling a little beat up. Use this day as almost an active recovery session. Intensity is below 50%. It’s hard because you almost feel as if you are “going through the motions.” But focus on moving well, sweating and improving your skills without crushing yourself.

Days 6 and 7 – Rest. Let your body recover. Stay in motion if you can. A nice walk or anything outdoors is great!
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This cycle repeats each week in this tapering style and we can adjust things based on how your body feels week-to-week.
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Some weeks you may go all 5 days like outlined above. Some weeks you make it through Day 3 but then rest and reset things on the 4th day, allowing for a higher intensity Day 5.
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Start to play around with purposely varying your intensities on different days and in different workouts. This is the key to long-term, sustainable progress.
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Ask one of our coaches for help during class in choosing the right modification or movements to support your goal for the day. We want to personalize the workout to support YOUR goal!
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Hit reply and let me know what you think about varying your intensity from day-to-day and week-to-week in the gym!