Some people have inquired recently about how to judge proper intensity levels on short intervals.
My answer is that, much like you have to train yourself to do a snatch, you have to train yourself to recognize what max intensity really feels like and how to combine mental, physical, and technical details in order to make it happen. I find that of all the things I work on as an athlete, the true feeling of high intensity is one of the easiest to forget. A lot of times I will blow out a PR on a “good day” when I’m feeling great, and it makes me realize how many other training sessions I’ve done in which I thought I had reached max intensity, but I really hadn’t.
High intensity is also about working the margins, eliminating the tiny last few variables in your technique, and finding a few incremental changes that, collectively, will give you that last 1% that separates high intensity from max intensity.
I approach any short interval workout of <1 minute work cycles as a "max watts while maintaining technique" intensity. I.e. on the C2 , while I might aspire to average 385 watts (~1:37 pace) for a 2K time trial, I would try to exceed 500 watts (~1:28 pace) for repeated 30-sec intervals. This would still be about 150-200w short of absolute max watts in a 10-stroke test, however absolute max watts would not be done with clean and sustainable technique.
Another gauge of intensity that I use is more subjective. As the workout progresses, I try to hit the same or better results for each interval. This gets harder and harder with each progressive interval. If I reach a point where, no matter what I do, I can’t push the results any higher, or they start to go down, then I know I’ve reached the max intensity I’m going to on that given day. If your heart tells you that you had nothing more to give, then it’s probably true.