Intensity Kills

Every athlete or person that trains hard has a dog. This dog’s name is Intensity. Intensity is a vicious dog, a bringer of destruction and mayhem. It is there to destroy. It will destroy everything, including you … unless you learn to control it.

Intensity kills! It kills your opponents on the field of play but it will also kill you if you can’t handle it. Just like having a powerful and aggressive dog. If it is not well trained and exercised, one day while you’re playing fetch it’s going to rip you to shreds. In a competition, work rate is a huge game changer. The team/individual who can execute their skills at a higher level of intensity, be it speed, frequency, power output, has an advantage. The person who controls the intensity dictates the game.

How do you control intensity?

You train it. You train yourself to handle it by progressing your training, by manageably building it up. Usually we find two kinds of people. Those who just work where they are comfortable, not really pushing the boundaries. Satisfied with were they are in training, or not comfortable with the discomfort of pushing the limits. Then you get the other person. The one who pushes hard, the one who pushes constantly to the breaking point, when inevitably they break and the cycle repeats. What we want is the middle ground, we want the right balance between the two and the balance isn’t an equal one it leans towards the side of discomfort and pushing limits. It is about pushing limits in a smart way, it is about knowing where the edge is. Pushing right to the edge, sometimes a little bit over and then allowing time to recover in order to push again. To do this you need experience. You need to either know yourself or have a good coach who can facilitate the process. Yes you can manage your own intensity but this is very difficult to do. It’s hard to be truly honest with yourself in training. Sometimes you feel you can push more, but you shouldn’t. Other times you feel you can’t push but you can and all you need to do is to break through a mental barrier. It is a fine line and a difficult thing to manage.

Is your intensity effective?

Knowing how to push is one part. Knowing when and on what exercises is the other. You can work hard. You can push till you puke and too many people judge the quality of their session on how hard it was and how much they suffered. Suffering is not a marker for improvement. Just because you suffered doesn’t mean you got better. Working hard and pushing limits is important and vital in training, but it must be effective.

100 Burpees for time is an intense session, it can be a real puke, light headed, don’t go into the light kind of the session, but is it effective? It depends on your goal. What is the why behind the movement? Why are you doing burpees? Are you training to compete in CrossFit, then burpees are a good idea. Are you playing rugby and in the middle of your season, then no. Burpees are not a good idea.

Doing the death by calories session on the Assault bike is tough, it is a great mental test. There are numbers you have to reach and you see how long you can survive. It is a constant mental battle. As far as a high intensity off feet session it is hard to beat. It also doesn’t beat you up as much, recovery time is usually quick. If you want to train mental toughness and get cardio work in, this is a great choice. It is not “sports specific “by a long shot, but if improving mental toughness, composure under stress, recovery capacity and cardio capacity. All while having relatively low recovery demands then this is an effective choice.

What we do must get us closer to our goal, whether it is to be stronger, fitter or mentally tougher. The principle remains the same the exercises we do must feed into the goals. Especially with high intensity movements and training sessions. The demands that they place on your body are high. They require more energy and time to recover from, there is a higher risk of injury involved when doing them. The risk vs reward equation should always be leaning more towards reward than risk.

Intensity is a wonderful thing, when harnessed and managed well. Training hard and with intensity teaches you a lot about yourself and develops you mentally more than anything. It will inoculate you against the stress of daily life. It will make more resilient physically and it will get you results. But only if you control it.

To recap:

·         Intensity is good if you know how to use it

·         It must be effective

·         What effective is, depends on your goals, level of training and outcome of the session

·         Intensity Kills

By Llewellyn Morkel