Is intensity scalable?
Intensity is one of the elusive aspects of CrossFit. Many people go through the workouts for weeks, months, or even years before they discover it. Some people prefer not pushing their boundaries, some people don't fully grasp what intensity it. They figure that if they are not the person with the worse time, that they are still working out intensely. These are the people who don't understand why some people puke after a workout, or are lying on the floor writhing afterwards. It takes a lot of mental fortitude to push yourself to that place. Some people are comfortable finishing the workout at their pace, breathing a little heavy, sweating a bit, and pushing to what they thought was close to their limit.
These people usually don't stick around long as Crossfit "is not for them". They don't seem to be getting the results that other people are getting. Greg Glassman once said that the biggest adaptation that happens with CrossFit is between the ears. Meaning that the mental changes are the biggest. Discovering what mental toughness is, finding your limits, and learning to push past them. These people also take that same intensity and bring it over to their work life, pushing harder towards their target and not accepting excuses or self-doubt. I see these people carrying themselves differently. More confident, more upright, a better version of themselves, even if physically, they have not changed.
Once you discover what intensity is, you understand. But intensity is tricky. Even once you understand how to push yourself properly, you need to understand how to scale and pace a workout. For example, if the workout was 30 thrusters for time, for the majority of people If I said the thrusters were at 185, the intensity would be fairly low. The weight is too heavy and would have to broken up too much, if it could even be done at all. If I lowered the weight to 115, many of you could do sets of 5-10, some animals could do two sets of 15. That would be more intense, now if I lowered the weight to 65 pounds almost all of you could do this. Some could even do is completely unbroken, that would be intense.
Now you are starting to see the picture. It isn't smart to choose weights that are too heavy, or movements that will restrict your intensity (such as toe to bar instead of sit ups). Sure you get to do the workout Rx, which for many is a badge of honour. Unforuntaly you missed the key aspect, the intensity. I would rather you go lighter and faster. At the CrossFit level one seminar they drill into you MCI, mechanics, consistency, then intensity. What this means is that first you have to be able to perform the movements properly through full range of motion. You then have to be able to continue these mechanics through repetition and exhaustion, only then can you reach intensity.
We have all seen the guy who chooses weights that are much to heavy and when everyone else in the class is done in 7 minutes, he continues pushing past the 15 minute mark, showing pure grit and determination to finish that workout. Problem is, it was a workout designed to take approx 7 minutes, not over double the time. This would be the equivalent of running a mile, but sprinting the first 400m as fast as you can, then stopping to catch you breath for a bit, stretch out. Then slowly jogging another 400 or two until you feel good enough to pick up the pace towards the end.
Don't be that guy, value intensity over ego.
Yours in fitness