Relative Intensity

By Coach Gretchen

“Constantly varied, functional movements, performed at high intensity.” This is CrossFit. We know what constantly varied means- all of the workouts are different- and functional movements- movements that are performed in everyday life situations- but what about intensity? Do two people have to have the same intensities?

Intensity in a workout on any given day is relative. Relative intensity is what coaches ask for in workouts for each person. Two individuals may have different levels of intensity, but each is working at his/her relative intensity. Relative intensity can also mean that one person changes their intensity level based on other factors in their life. Maybe that individual did not sleep because they were on the phone with work all night, she was busy all day doing every Pinterest project, and their children needed undivided attention (which was given) 100% of the day.

That person comes to CrossFit that day and they are tired and a little grouchy… and that day she goes a little lighter in weights and a little slower during the AMRAP. They may not be working as prescribed, but is listening to their own body and working out with relative intensity! An athlete’s intensity is different from one day to the next because of other factors going on in life.

Another individual may come to the gym and be in a completely different place. The intensity that day is relative to the factors going on in their life. Intensity is relative to each individual athlete. 

Intensity is the component of the Mechanics-Consistency-Intensity charter that is often used to judge how workouts went for an athlete. Did they go RX? Did they do the workout and finish on the floor in a pile of chalk, sweat, and pride? Although sweat and numbers tell us something about the athlete’s workout, the most important factor is whether the intensity was appropriately relative for that specific day and that specific workout.

How often do you go too hard in a workout and over stress your body? Are there clues that your body gives you that you should listen to before a workout to know what your intensity level should be for that day? Intensity does not mean that each person must go 100% every day, so listen to your body and find the relative intensity for that specific workout.


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