25 February 2021

Intensity Is an Expression

You can not express what you can not recover from. It’s not something we build its something we express. It’s purely an expression.

Stalled out or burnt out from high intensity is usually an indication that we’ve gotten away from continual development of one of our foundations, our aerobic system.

We need to use intelligent design to build foundational qualities that grant us the ability to express our potential. The aerobic system is one of our foundational qualities. It sets the base of the pyramid from which we can build upon.

Mechanics – Consistency – Intensity applies to cardio as well.

But Aerobic Work is Slow and Boring

If ‘Aerobic” or engine work is boring to you because its slow and mundane, that’s an indication of how UNDER developed your aerobic system is. Read that again!

The aerobic system is capable of incredibly high outputs, every amazing athletic feat is built off the back of its potential. If your aerobic work is basic and boring it’s because that system is weak and needs development.

The aerobic system is very misunderstood. In traditional text the aerobic system is described as the marathoner. Long, slow efforts. As opposed to the sprinter. Short, fast efforts. This misrepresents the potential of the aerobic system. The implication is that its ONLY slow and long and that it has no bearing on high intensity training or even weightlifting and sprinting itself.

\The Aerobic Systems Potential

When we see elite marathoners run 42km in close to 2 hours, the paces these guys are holding is anything but slow. This is a simple demonstration of the potential of the aerobic system. Closer to CrossFit domains when we see sub 14min 5k runs or 4min miles, a sub 6min 2k row and of course the sub 3min (or even sub 2min) Fran, these are time domains that require sustained efforts, therefore our aerobic system.

These people hold ungodly paces to hit these milestones and there’s certainly a lot that goes into doing so, volumes, economy, pacing, etc but they are all built off the back of an incredibly robust aerobic system.

Where We Don’t Bridge the Gap

CrossFit, like any endurance sport is a pain sport. A large part of it involves very severe amounts of discomfort. So, when EVERYONE is working hard and suffering, why do some move faster for longer than others?

We see most things in this world through the lens of our own experiences. So, it’s easy to look at those who move at speeds that seem foreign to us and to fill in the blanks with our own perceptions and beliefs.

We start to misinterpret the things that actually matter for LONG term development.

The sexy stuff on the gram is for marketing, not results. Being in the pain cave is all well and good, but just because your there doesn’t mean you’re moving the needle.

The Bamboo Forrest

The Chinese bamboo tree takes 5 years to break the ground. It must be watered and fertilised in the ground where its planted, every day or it will not grow. After 5 years, it will finally break the surface, at which point it will grow 90 feet in 5 weeks. You can literally watch it grow.

Imagine for 5 years you watered and fertilised a patch of dirt and had zero to show for it. Just a bare patch of soil. But the persistence, patience and due diligence eventually pays off in the long term, and when it starts to pay, it pays fast.

The chines bamboo is your aerobic system.

You need to water and fertilise that patch of dirt for a long time, and you may never see the rewards for your efforts until the day you do. You can’t scream and shout at it, you can’t pain cave it, you can’t hashtag it, you simply must show up with a desire to put care into the system, knowing that one day it will pay dividends.

Make the Easy, Easier and the Hard, Harder.

If we are always at a hundred percent, then we aren’t ever at a hundred percent. Fact!

We make the easy stuff to hard, which makes us tired and to inefficient to tap into true intensity, so the hard stuff is never truly hard. We live in this middle zone where we miss the benefits of both ends of the spectrum. The net result is burnt out and tired with very little return.

It takes a lot of volume and a long time, as in years and perhaps even decades depending on the endeavour to properly develop the aerobic system. Most gifted endurance athletes peak around early to mid-30’s and have been training since childhood. That’s potentially 3 decades of work. It simply cannot be rushed.

My goal here is to give you a little more perspective and appreciation for the aerobic system. Make your engine work simpler and easier. Make it relaxed and meditative. Water and fertilise your foundation and enjoy walking away from the odd session rejuvenated rather then destroyed. See you all in 5 years.

-Written by Andrew collins