Why Do CrossFit Workouts Leave Me Lying On The Ground Gasping For Air?

We all know that dreaded feeling after a killer CrossFit session. You know, the feeling that leaves you gasping for air like a guppy out of water.

 But do you know the cause of this feeling? Today, we go over the physiological reasons why intense workouts make you feel exhausted. We also explain the benefits of crazy CrossFit sessions.

How Do We Define Intensity?

When we think of intensity, we often think of how fast our heart rate is or how swamped we feel after a workout. But things like sweating, heart rate, and fatigue don’t define intensity.

Intensity refers to your perceived effort. According to CrossFit’s definition, intensity is power that is measurable, observable, and repeatable. In other words, it’s how much work you put in and in what amount of time.

For all the math and physics nerds out there, here’s an equation used to measure perceived intensity:

  • force x distance / time = intensity

Let’s break it down even further.

Force refers to the amount of weight you’re lifting or using during exercises. Distance is how far the weight goes against gravity during a movement. Every repetition you do of an exercise adds to the total distance.

The total work you do during a workout is the result of the force and distance — and the faster the work is completed the more effort thus higher the intensity.

That’s why you gasp for air after a crazy CrossFit session. The fast pace causes a shortage of oxygen in your lungs, which causes your body to breathe as heavily as possible to replenish airflow. Excess oxygen also helps fire up your metabolism — but we’ll get into that a little later.

What is Relative Intensity?

Relative intensity is personal. It pushes you to extend past your own limits. To increase the intensity, scale up your workouts. Scaling your workouts means changing either the weights or exercises so that it challenges you.

Your goal here is to complete a predetermined set amount of work faster than your previous effort.

For example, if you can usually do 50 pushups in one minute, strive to complete 55 or more in one minute.

Scaling your workouts and recording improvements helps you develop a measurement of intensity.

Can a 5-Minute Workout Really Make You Fit?

Sounds kinda counter-intuitive, right? We’ve been conditioned to think that fitness is earned by spending hours in the gym, but that’s not necessarily true.

The secret behind the magic of short and intense workouts is your neuroendocrine response.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • When you perform high-intensity exercises, your body’s neuroendocrine system becomes activated. Your neuroendocrine system refers to the relationship between your nerves and hormones.
  • Your nervous system tells your body to release certain hormones, and these hormones are what helps your muscles grow and change.
  • Both your nerves and hormones work to regulate how your body responds to stimuli — in this case exercising.

A few hormones responsible for physical muscle growth include:

  • testosterone
  • Human growth hormone (HGH)
  • Insulin
  • Cortisol
  • Catecholamines (a.k.a adrenaline)

Each time you train, you stimulate your nervous system to tell your muscles to move. If you’re performing exercises at a high intensity, your muscles go through a breakdown process. This prompts the release of hormones like testosterone, which causes bigger muscles.

After your workout, your body continues to release hormones that help repair and grow muscles.

So, if you want to get fit in a shorter amount of time, you have to do workouts that activate your neuroendocrine response.

How Can You Make the Most of Your 5-Minute Workout?

The key to an effective short workout is to maximize the neuroendocrine process. This means packing on heavy loads with short rests in between sets. You also have to work larger muscle groups — legs, chest, back, shoulders, and arms.

Exercises like heavy squats and deadlifts are dynamic movements that work more than one muscle group at once.

When you weight train large muscle groups, your body releases more muscle-building hormones.

What Are the Benefits of High-Intensity Workouts?

CrossFit workouts not only increase your muscle mass and tone in a shorter period, but they enhance your overall health.

Here are a few benefits of high-intensity training:

Increased Metabolic Rate

As briefly mentioned earlier, high-intensity exercise increases oxygen in your lungs. When this happens, your metabolism goes into overdrive. With more oxygen, your body burns more calories and fat.

More Results in Less Time

Short on time? No worries! High-intensity workouts pack a huge calorie-burning punch. You can burn twice the amount of calories doing a 15-minute HIIT session than you could a standard 60-minute low-intensity workout.

Enhanced Strength and Endurance

By scaling your workouts and pushing against your limits, you’re training your body to tolerate muscle stress. Having a high tolerance for physical demands makes it easier to lift heavy weights and run long distances.

How Much Is Too Much Crossfit?

Although high-intensity workouts yield many rewards, they should be done in moderation. We recommend the 3 days on, 1 day off rule. With this rule, you’re taking a one-day break for every three days of exercise.

Training too much may over-stress your body and cause your muscle tissue to weaken and degenerate.

So, ensure that you’re taking time to rest and recuperate after your CrossFit sessions.


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