Skip to content. | Skip to navigation


Personal tools
You are here: Home / Blog / It's the Intensity, Stupid

It's the Intensity, Stupid

| filed under: , , ,
Any exercise, either with or without equipment or machine, can give you the workout of your life. It all comes down to intensity.

Any exercise, either with or without equipment or machine, can give you the workout of your life. It all comes down to intensity. From jumping jacks to the elliptical; from burpees to the humble stationary bike, it's all about work in, work out! If it's too easy, you're not working hard enough.

I started thinking about this since I have started going back to spin class at CYCLEBAR. Done right, indoor cycling studio classes should always be a spoon full of sugar to help the HIIT go down. The disco lighting, loud music, dark room, and attractive instructor are all distractions from all the hard work (you should be doing).

If you leave a spin class without feeling this close to vomming, it's on you. You, yourself, need to turn it up a notch. Performance in a class is all on you. Only you can judge your hard work. The performance board can give you numbers, but it's not there to tell you, "hey, you can do better than that." I mean, you should be having fun and it should feel a little like Ibiza; however, if you get home and don't feel spent, that's on you.

"Chris, any exercise machine can give you an amazing workout—even HIIT! It's the intensity, stupid! Haven't you noticed that there are programs on the elliptical machine at the gym? Those programs are supposed to push and challenge you. Same thing a stationary bike and your rowing machine. Of course, you could just get on there and just grind away for hours just to move your body; however, any machine and most objects like your kettlebells can be used to challenge your body to within an inch of its limits."

My ex-girlfriend was a genius—is a genius. Betsy's alive and kicking! I told her how my workouts went and that I would spend 30, 60, 90-minutes on the elliptical machine, catching up on stacks of unread magazines or other reading; or, I would sit down at my Concept2 Model C rowing ergometer and row a slow 10,000 meters at a time, all the while watching episodes of sitcoms on the short end and entire blockbusters on the long end when I might make it to 15,882 meters.

I think we got on this conversation when I went to a Friday morning coffee at the Potomac Boat House years ago. When I got there, spent some time hanging around while the Olympic Hopefuls were getting out of their boats and spending some time finishing their workouts on land at the boathouse.

While the ergs and the boats at PBC are brand new, everything else is extremely well-loved and well-used. From the weights in the scruffy weight room to the line of stationary bikes, everything looks and feels a little like my High School or College weight room—way before boosters started turning every humble weight room into a The Sports Club / LA. No, back in the day, all weight rooms were like this.

What I noticed is that all of these prospective Olympians were using all of these scruffy hand-me-downs with fearsome earnestness! They were jumping onto creaky old stationary bikes and grinding out sprints so powerful that these bikes complained underfoot. Sweat poured and giant lungs of breath were inhaled and exhaled, each rower out of breath and wringing themselves out, drinking water from bottles and wiping themselves with towels.

I told Betsy about that and she hit me with the "it's the intensity, stupid" tagline. And that's so true. None of these Olympians would ever actually need a Spin Coxswain or even a spin class to spin themselves up into a froth of exercise and exertion.

I always walk past my local XSport Express when I walk home from CYCLEBAR Columbia Pike and I feel a little smug after my 45-minutes of stoked fire and extreme workout, the high intensity coming from either the high cadence (RPM) or from the high resistance (gearing)—or both! What I almost always see is people who are just like I was (and am): they're just putting in their mileage. This is less true when people are running on treadmills, but it's almost always the case when people are cycling, stair-climbing, or doing the Chris Abraham grind on the elliptical.

Compared to how hard and how fast and how intensely the lovely Miss Natalie makes me spin, it looks like everyone in the gym are caught in the thick, viscous sap that prefaces amber; or, some awful planet with exceptionally heavy gravity, like Jupiter's, which has 2.5x that of Earth.

Don't get me wrong! I am still a fan of slow jogging and slow rowing; however, it's all about those power-10s! It's the intensity, stupid!

What ChatGPT Thinks

While I understand the argument for intensity being the primary factor in determining the effectiveness of a workout, I would like to present a counterargument, emphasizing the importance of variety, consistency, and individual fitness levels.

  1. Variety: While intensity is an essential aspect of any workout, it is not the only factor that contributes to its effectiveness. A well-rounded fitness routine should include a mix of cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and flexibility work. Focusing solely on high-intensity workouts may lead to overtraining and increased risk of injury. By incorporating a variety of exercises and workout styles, individuals can develop a balanced fitness routine that promotes overall health and well-being.

  2. Consistency: Regardless of the intensity of a workout, consistency is key to achieving long-term fitness goals. High-intensity workouts can be challenging to maintain consistently, especially for beginners or those with physical limitations. Lower-intensity exercises, such as brisk walking or slow rowing, can still provide significant health benefits when performed consistently over time. By finding a sustainable and enjoyable workout routine, individuals are more likely to stay committed to their fitness goals.

  3. Individual fitness levels: High-intensity workouts may not be suitable for everyone, especially those who are new to exercise or have pre-existing health conditions. It is crucial to consider individual fitness levels and personal preferences when designing a workout routine. For some, a lower-intensity workout may be more appropriate and enjoyable, allowing them to progress at a pace that is safe and manageable.

  4. Recovery and injury prevention: High-intensity workouts can be taxing on the body, making adequate recovery time essential. Incorporating lower-intensity workouts into a fitness routine can help promote recovery and prevent overtraining, reducing the risk of injury. Additionally, lower-intensity exercises can help build a solid fitness foundation that prepares the body for more intense workouts in the future.

  5. Mental health and enjoyment: Exercise should not only be effective but also enjoyable. Constantly pushing oneself to the limits with high-intensity workouts may lead to mental burnout and a negative relationship with exercise. Incorporating lower-intensity workouts that are enjoyable and sustainable can help foster a positive mindset and maintain motivation for long-term fitness success.

In conclusion, while intensity is an important aspect of a workout, it is not the sole determinant of its effectiveness. A well-rounded fitness routine should consider variety, consistency, individual fitness levels, recovery, and enjoyment to promote overall health and well-being.

What Bard Thinks

I agree with the statement that intensity is key to getting a good workout. However, I also believe that there are other factors that contribute to a successful workout, such as duration, frequency, and type of exercise.

  • Duration: The longer you exercise, the more calories you burn and the more benefits you gain. However, it's important to start slowly and gradually increase the duration of your workouts.
  • Frequency: You should aim to exercise at least three times per week. However, if you can only fit in two or one workout per week, that's better than nothing.
  • Type of exercise: There are many different types of exercise, so find something that you enjoy and that fits into your lifestyle. Some people prefer to do cardio, such as running, swimming, or biking. Others prefer to do strength training, such as lifting weights or doing bodyweight exercises. And still others prefer to do a combination of cardio and strength training.

Ultimately, the best way to get a good workout is to find a routine that works for you and that you can stick to. If you can do that, you'll be well on your way to reaching your fitness goals.

Here are some additional tips for getting a good workout:

  • Warm up before you start exercising. This will help to prevent injuries.
  • Cool down after you finish exercising. This will help your body to recover.
  • Listen to your body. Don't push yourself too hard. If you're feeling pain, stop and take a break.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Eating a healthy diet will help you to have more energy and to recover from your workouts more quickly.
  • Get enough sleep. Sleep is essential for muscle recovery.
  • Set realistic goals. Don't try to do too much too soon. Start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts.
  • Find a workout buddy. Having a workout buddy can help you to stay motivated and to push yourself harder.
  • Make exercise fun. If you're not enjoying your workouts, you're less likely to stick with them. Find activities that you enjoy and that fit into your lifestyle.