Workout of the Day

The Problem With High-Intensity Training


There’s a potentially dangerous trap involved in high-intensity training. In this case, it has very little to do with the frequent topics of conversation like injury or overtraining, and is more an issue of what we can gain in the cognitive and experiential side of movement. When we layer intensity on top of movement, and particularly when we push into threshold efforts (think of the last 100 meters of a maximal effort mile run), we frequently encounter a point where exertion blinds our intention and awareness. We lose touch with how we move and why we move, and redirect all attention to just moving. Think of the sight of someone caught off-guard, tossed and tumbled underwater by a large wave -- movement becomes haphazard and desperate. There is little intention or focus; only a reactionary, desperate attempt to move somewhere in the hopes that it will pull your head up for a breath of air. Yet ask any big-wave surfer and they will tell you that intention and awareness in such a situation is the very thing allows you to make it to your next breath.

Without dedicated effort to awareness, there is an almost numbing effect of maximal exertion. Not a numbness to pain or the feelings of fatigue, but a numbness to our actual presence in movement. We disregard whether we move well and instead direct our efforts simply to keep moving. We ignore whether we move with attention to the purpose of the movement and instead simply work to get the task done.

The thing is, intention and awareness are not mutually exclusive to intensity. They, in fact, are supportive practices, and can yield greater results and capacity for intensity in the long-run. The challenge is that they demand more from our intention and mental dedication to the effort.

We have countless opportunities to be present in our movement. Our strength and skill work provides the perfect opportunity to step into a place of focus and awareness of the finer details, to direct attention to singular attempts rather than repeated efforts. And when the clock starts and we aim to move fast, we have to opportunity to double-down on our focus -- to move with intention and awareness despite the distractions of fatigue and high-speed, high-threshold effort. Next time you’re sprinting that last 100 meters of your mile time trial, or completing those last push-ups before the timer sounds, take a moment to be present and aware. Are you moving well? With purpose? With understanding? It will be hard, and it will take vigilance, but it will be worth it.

- PS


  • For time:

    • 1 mile run

    • ---

    • 21-15-9 reps of

    • Thrusters (95/65)

    • Pull-ups

    • ---

    • 1 mile run