The Intensity Flame

I am 100% borrowing/resharing/stealing for good reason this thought from the Beyond the Whiteboard podcast with Pat Sherwood and Adrian Bozman. A few episodes ago, Boz, head judge of the CrossFit Games and longtime seminar staff member, made this spot on analogy of how athletes should approach intensity. He said, “Intensity is a candle and your hands are cold wanting to be warmed up. You want to hold your hands fairly close to the flame but if you hold them too close, you’re gonna burn yourself. On the other end of the spectrum, if you hold them too far away, you’re never going to warm your hands up.” 

This is spot on. Doing CrossFit alone can work wonders for anyone. The program is so full-proof that if you’re just moving and not really challenging yourself, you’ll still be in pretty damn good shape. However, if you want to see progress this is where your intensity focus needs to be dialed in. 

We far too often see both of these approaches manifest in the gym. The athletes that go too hard and want to do everything as RX when they aren’t ready for it. They end up getting hurt or just burn out (no pun intended). The anxiety of trying to learn how to do everything all at once is just too much for anyone to handle. There are too many moving pieces in CrossFit and you only have so much time in a day. Most of the folks that do this as well don’t really have much of a base to stand on either. They didn’t really play sports growing up and are just now piling on all this volume. Their body isn’t prepared for it and they just feel beat up all the time. 

Then we have the athletes that just never want to push that envelope. They continue to use the 10lb wall ball after 6 months. They still want to use at least 1 or 2 bands when doing kipping pull-ups. They refuse to use the RX weight in a conditioning piece when they’re 1 rep max for the movement clearly allows for it. And these folks wonder why their results have “plateaued”. The body is great at adapting. After a while, you have to increase the intensity by either using more loading or increasing the range of motion of a movement or running further or jumping higher. All those things. If we never ramp up the intensity, we’re never going to see an improvement in results. 

The beauty of it and the reason why you pay for coaching is because it’s the coaches’ job to maintain that balance. Your coach will tell you when you should ramp it up or when you need to back it off. You need to be close enough to warm up your hands, but far away enough to not get burnt!  

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