This week I have seen about 1 million posts (not really, but a strange amount) on social media talking about how intensity is the key to seeing the fitness results you desire. I tend to agree with this sentiment, especially inside of the fitness plan known as CrossFit. This week at Summit Strength and CrossFit SSP I saw a great example of how intensity matters, and was also given an important reminder about intensity being a skill, not a test of will.
I first began thinking of this topic Monday evening after classes were over. We had done what could definitely be perceived as an “easier” workout. It was over in approximately five or six minutes, and only had 108 reps. Typically our workouts last fifteen minutes and are closer to 300 reps in total. What struck me was the difference between two people after class.
On one hand, there was an athlete sprawled out on the ground, completely exhausted. On the other, there was another athlete who looked like they could easily have completely Murph in that moment. For those who don’t know, follow this to see what Murph is. It sucks. So what is the difference in the two reactions? Put simply, it is intensity, and applying it is a skill.
Many people assume that intensity all comes down to pushing yourself into that dark place, and that this is willpower. If you can go longer while letting your muscles burn, that makes you tougher, not necessarily more skilled. I challenge this notion. To me, the ability to keep going when it hurts is as much a skill as Olympic lifting. In that moment, your body is under intense stress, and it is FREAKING OUT. If you are not used to that sensation, there is no way you’ll be confident and push through. You’ll stop. There is no two ways about it.
But, thankfully, there is a lot less technique in learning this skill than in learning to snatch, hit a golf ball, or shoot a three pointer. All you have to do is keep showing up, day after day, week after week. Now, you must push yourself. No doubt about that. Just coming to the box and going through the motions will not produce results. If you keep coming and keep letting yourself get a little more used to that dark place, your results will show. Intensity is learned, and just like any other skill, you have to put in the work to learn it. I’m sure that in a couple months, that second athlete will be lying on the ground, sucking wind with the first.