Intensity: it brings results, and we try to make it a part of every workout.
But intensity burns, and the body doesn’t really want it.
The brain loves intensity. It knows that pushing just past the comfort zone will bring improved fitness and health, and it’s willing to put up with some brief discomfort to earn the reward.
It can be very hard to bump people out of a comfortable fitness rut. Running the same distance at the same pace every day becomes easier and easier as the body adapts. But running that distance won’t improve fitness. You’ve got to run faster or farther. Or both.
Open Workout 19.4 got people out of the comfort zone twice through a clever combination that created intensity. It’s actually one of my favourite Open workouts of all time.
Intensity in Two Servings
The workout’s first couplet was simple and something just about everyone could complete under 9:00. But to earn more time for the second part, you had to push through Part 1 as fast as possible. Offering just small-ish numbers of snatches and burpees, the workout gave you an opportunity to try for unbroken sets on a light bar before pushing yourself to keep moving on the burpees.
By itself, the workout would have given people a chance to slip into a comfortable pace. Those who have the intrinsic ability to push themselves hard would have done so, but others would have felt less urgency to keep moving.
But in 19.4, everyone wanted a chance to play with the second workout—either to try and perform a gymnastics skill for the first time or to show their gymnastics skill.
So I saw people push really, really hard on Part 1 even though some risked being unable to recover for Part 2. But the three-minute rest turned out to be just enough. It wasn’t enough to leave you totally fresh, but it was enough that you felt recharged for the second challenge.
For programmers and coaches, 19.4 is a good example of how to set up a workout to create intensity. Short, light couplets are always a good idea, and intervals can help athletes learn to push because they know programmed rest is coming.
For athletes, it’s worth remembering that you’re capable of movement even when you aren’t fresh. You might want to rest, but you don’t need to rest. 19.4 forced you to move and taste intensity, but you’ll get opportunities to do that in our regular classes.
In upcoming workouts, rest one breath less, pick up the bar 2 seconds sooner, do one extra rep in every set, or push the pace just a little bit. We’re not talking about dramatic increases in intensity. Just small steps outside the comfort zone.
That’s where the magic happens.