Volume and Intensity

I want to talk a little bit about volume and intensity as it pertains to everyday CrossFitters. It has become more and more evident to me that less, is actually more. I want to make sure we all understand that you can’t reach your personal genetic potential in a short period of time. It’s an accumulation of volume over many years that produce results, not over a couple of days.

Let me give some examples of what I am talking about. (and know that I have been at fault for this as well, not pointing fingers, just trying to pass on what I have learned through trial and error).

I struggled for the longest time putting a “strength” portion into the daily workouts. One of the reasons this has been a challenge for me is knowing that one of the components of the class will suffer in order for intensity to stay high for the other. We know that the more volume you accumulate the more the intensity relative to this goes down. Intensity is what drives adaptation in our bodies. You have to get your body past homeostasis, meaning, where your body is balanced. That is why we favor shorter, more intense workouts.

You can only maintain intensity for so long before your body runs out of energy and you slow to a crawl. In saying all that, I got over myself and began to program strength. I view the strength portion of the daily workouts as more of a skill component and not as much as a strength. If you have been doing CrossFit for many years and your form mirrors that, you are more likely able to have fairly high intensity on both, just because of adaptions that have happened.

Another issue that challenges my programming is that it is very common among CrossFiter’s to think they need to do “cardio” on top of their daily workouts. I don’t know how many times I have heard someone tell me they did something before or after the daily workout. Whether it was going for a long run or doing another Metcon at home because they didn’t “sweat” enough. People should be running and attacking that longer energy system once or twice a week but as soon as you start doubling up, something is going to give. Recovery is our biggest friend, without it, our bodies won’t progress as quickly as they would have.

Also, I think there is a misunderstanding of what “Cardio” is. Cardio is not solely tied to running, biking, rowing, and swimming. Cardio is the energy system that you are able to maintain for extended periods of time. You are doing cardio as you read this. You actually do cardio in probably 95% of the workouts that we do at the gym.

There are three energy systems that we use and the first two only really last a couple of minutes (meaning any workout longer than 2-3 minutes, is “cardio”). That being said, I believe there is still great value in working longer runs or biking or whatever it may be, just not every day. You still need to build endurance for longer bouts of exercise but the majority should be under 20 minutes.

The question you need to ask yourself is, why do I feel the need to do more? Maybe you don’t push hard enough in class? Or maybe you don’t believe a 10-minute workout can burn calories? Trust me it does! Often more than an hour-long run. I could go in great detail on how and why it does but I hope you guys take my word for it. As soon as you begin to bias something like running every day or just squatting every day, other parts of your fitness are going to start to lack. This is why we change the workouts up all the time and make sure you guys are balanced in all modalities and energy systems.

The main goal is health and fitness. As soon as you start working out for calories and not health you might as well throw in your headphones and spend 2 hours on the elliptical. Specializing comes at a cost, have you ever seen a person who can squat 900 lbs run a marathon? Or have you seen a professional marathon runner able to clean and jerk their body weight? Nope. You haven’t. And you never will. There is nothing wrong with either of these if that is your goal, but it will come at a cost to your health and the surprises of everyday life.

I kind of went on a rabbit trail, but what I really want to emphasize is the importance of balancing your training and knowing it’s going to take time. You can’t do it all at once. Trust the process and remember its not about calories in and calories out. Be more human and do what your body was made to do.

Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports.

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