In the previous post about Intensity and moving correctly, the focus was more on the latter. In this post, I will try to define what high intensity feels like, and why it is so hard to teach someone.
Now I know what you are thinking, “I remember the first time I snatched and clean and jerked, and that was the hardest thing in crossfit.” Others may be thinking, “Yeah but i can’t do a muscle-up, and that seems impossible. That’s the hardest thing in crossfit.” This is not true because with the right amount of technique, coaching, and a personalized program, everyone can do those things. Think about it, when we all started, none of us could snatch. No one walked into the gym, hopped on the rings, and banged out a muscle-up the first time they tried. But I digress, so back to intensity. Remember that in all that follows, proper movement patterns and technique still prevails.
Have you ever felt like passing out after a workout? How about throwing up? When is the last time that you finished a workout, laid on the floor, and rolled around because everything in your body hurt? Have you ever pushed so hard that you couldn’t see? These are all examples of laying it out there on the line, pushing ourselves to the limit, and growing as an athlete.
The hard part about coaching intensity is that it’s largely in your head. This gets into perception, or your perceived exertion level. Take a one rep max as an example. This is a picture of Mark Bell back squatting:
Look at his face, do you see every vein in his head about to pop? My guess is that his eyes are closed so that his eyeballs don’t pop out of his head. Now lets compare that against this picture:
In this picture, this is still near a max lift. This was probably still perceived as hard. She was probably pushing as hard as she could. So what is the difference? Intensity. How often have you seen a video of yourself hitting a PR and you say “that looked easy, I had more in the tank”, but when you were doing it, it felt like it barely moved and it was the heaviest thing you have ever lifted?
The point is that how heavy something feels is largely in your head. The same can be said for the assault bike, wall balls, running, etc. As a coach, we often judge your exertion level by your facial expressions. Take the last time we did 1RM front squat. I had an athlete say that she forgot her book and didn’t know what her old PR was. I said, “Don’t worry about it, I am going to load your bar for you ‘. Armed with a little confidence, she was able to PR by almost 60 pounds.
There are hundreds of stories like this out there, but it’s almost impossible to teach the feeling of intensity. I can not get inside your head and show you how to move faster. The next time you are standing there, taking a break because you’re pacing your work effort and staring at a wall ball with 5 reps left, take a second to think stop being a baby. You can pick it up and you can finish it, hell you probably didn’t really need to put it down. Go faster, stop feeling sorry for yourself, and get out of your head because the thing holding you back is most likely yourself.
– Coach Adam
Strict Ring Dips
200 Meter Run