High Intensity Training might be a cliche choice of words. It’’d be more appropriate to reference it as ‘intensity within sport specific conditioning’.

A growing trend emerges the more we consult with athletes and coaches: finding balance between volume and intensity (with intensity being the missing piece).  

Don’t get me wrong, coaches and athletes are attempting intense workouts, but either do too much (weekly frequency) or coaches poorly design workouts that do not appropriately challenge the athlete at the intensity needed for improved performance. 

Hamster Wheel.

I see this mostly in CrossFit, but it shows up in middle distance athletes (800-1500m) as well. 

The general rule is to have some sort of polarity in training intensity…  

Hard Day, Easy Day, Hard Day, Easy Day, etc.

We are finding that ‘easy days’ are not easy (either in intensity or volume), or in the worst cases there are not ‘easy days’ programmed at all. 

Do not make the mistake in thinking intensity = adding volume.  

It’s just volume.  

Coaches may think -…“ We have to do more!”

The result of this is athletes slogging through metcons or middle distance athletes doing 45 mins of general strength work or junk miles with subsequent speed and power indices (MB throws, Plyos, 30m flys) declining. 

This is what I call  “”Running on the Hamster Wheel” – Work With No Purpose”

A current athlete at Train Adapt Evolve (who previously spent the last couple of years passionately grinding away with shoddy results) recently told me… -

“”Hard days hurt more now."

The perceived “hurt” is the athlete finally working at the appropriate intensities, only made possible by combining appropriate workouts that support the higher intensity pieces and respecting the athlete’s ability to recover.  

Now the athlete has ample resources, both physiologically and psychologically to attack a workout as needed, instead of entering a workout on empty just trying to survive. 

Be Specific.

Training time is valuable. The goal should always be to train qualities that will actually help you within your sport. 

I go rounds with middle distance coaches about how they should focus more on improving speed at race pace and speeds faster than race pace, instead of solely focusing on LT, Vo2 workouts (???), or adding mileage.  

Don’t get me wrong. It’s all valid given certain athletes, situations, and time of year but if you have an 800m athlete that needs the ability to run the last 200m in 27 seconds and he struggles running that time fresh, you have bigger problems that need to be addressed other than 8 mile LT runs. This is an example of not prescribing the right intensities for success. 

This is a common occurrence within CrossFit as well.  

We’’ve already mentioned the ‘grind’; slogging through work slowly to survive. Now take these CrossFit athletes to a competition, add a touch of adrenaline, a sense of urgency and what you have is a recipe for athletes tanking early. 

CrossFit Coaches: prioritize high velocity and low velocity movements and pair them with specific targeted anaerobic-aerobic adaptations. Be specific!  

Or enjoy your turn on the wheel. 

By: Aaron Davis