Should EVERY Workout Be Hard?

Every workout should stimulate an adaptation.
If you’re a runner, you want your workouts to make you faster. If you’re a lifter, every workout should make you a little bit stronger. If you’re overweight, your workouts should build your metabolic engine and trigger fat breakdown.
Sometimes you have a foot in each camp. So you do workouts that have different goals.
For example, I build workouts at Catalyst around the ten elements of fitness:

  • Strength
  • Power
  • Aerobic Capacity
  • Flexibility
  • Stamina
  • Balance
  • Agility
  • Speed
  • Flexibility
  • Accuracy.

We combine these in different patterns every day, so instead of “training legs” you’re getting stronger or faster. Every workout is designed to design one or more of these benefits.
That doesn’t mean they’re always HARD. Many of these benefits can be achieved with sub maximal effort, repeated over time.
Watching the CrossFit Games on TV (you can do so tonight on CBS Sports) will expose you to models of intensity: the fittest people on earth doing some of the toughest workouts ever invented.
But that’s not what WE do. These guys are submitting Everest, but we’re all mountain climbers.
I’m more concerned with giving you a strong back so you can carry your canoe on the weekend.
I want you to dominate your rec hockey league, not post a worldwide deadlift record.
As I wrote earlier in the week, you should like working out MORE after a workout than you did before you started. And that means not every workout should be murder.
Yesterday, we completed a little timed circuit without keeping score. It was challenging, but you just moved through it without stress over performance. I got sweaty, but nothing really burned.
Earlier in the week, stuff DID burn. It was hard in the way that only CrossFit can be. But doing it that way every day is a recipe for burnOUT.
I know, I know…all the stuff you read on memes (those hallowed bastions of science) seem to indicate that “if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you” and “die today/live tomorrow” and all that stuff. Sure, usually  your workouts SHOULD be hard. Sometimes they should be VERY hard. Sometimes you should show up for workouts that look impossible…but you should show up for the easy ones, too.
Trust me: there’s plenty of glory in repetitive effort at 80% intensity. Even when you’re not at your best, an easier workout can help you become more.