What intensity should you be working at?
As a personal trainer, the question that I get asked most often is “What should my intensity be during exercise?” How do I know when I am working hard enough for the desired outcome? In this post, I hope to answer some of these questions.
Let’s have a look at what exercise intensity means, and how to maximise your workout.
Firstly balance is still the essential part of any program. You do not want to find yourself overdoing training as it can increase your risk of injury and burnout. If you are new to exercise, I suggest that you start at a light intensity and then slowly build up to moderate or vigorous intensity.
Once you know what your desired outcome is, you will then be able to understand at what intensity you should workout.
Do you want to improve your fitness level, focus on weight-loss or train for a competition?
Once you have determined what it is that you want to do, then you need to try to match your exertion to achieve maximum benefit.
I do believe that fitness is a life-long journey and if you decided to go too hard too soon, your risk versus your reward is far greater. Be patient and realistic. Don’t push yourself too hard, too soon. If you have any medical conditions, please speak to your doctor before starting any exercise regime.
There are two ways that we can determine your exertion. Firstly by how you are feeling, secondly by your heart rate.
1. Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)
Although perceived exertion is not as objective as your actual heart rate reading, it is still one of the most useful tools to understand how hard you are working. RPE is based on how you are feeling when you are doing your workout. At an exertion of 1/10, you can do this all day no sweat, whereas at 10/10 you can only do exert yourself for 20 seconds at maximum effort. To make this more realistic 1/10 is like taking a gentle stroll and 10/10 would be as if you are smashing a flat out sprint.
See image below for more details.
Let’s say that you want to remain in your fat-burning zone you need to be able to say your full name, your phone number and your street address without taking a breath and then you know that you will be in you 6/10 Zone.
2. Heart Rates Zones
If you have a fitness tracker with a built-in heart rate monitor, then you are winning. So, what does the number next to the bpm on the watch mean for you?
Your exertion zone for heart rates are based on your age and therefore it will vary for each individual.
I’ve broken down the steps for you so that you can easily work this out for yourself.
Step 1 – Determine your maximum heart rate by using the formula below
220 – AGE = Maximum HR (MHR)
Step 2 – Determine if you what energy system you want to focus on. Use the chart above to help you decide. For this example, lets say you want to become more efficient at burning body fat. Then you would use the formula below.
MHR x 60% and MHR x 69% = Beats Per Minute(BPM)
Just to make sure you understand this, let’s say that you are 35 years old, and you want to focus on becoming more efficient at burning body fat. You will need to exercise at an intensity on 60-69% of your MHR.
Step 1. 220 – 35(age) = 185 bpm (MHR)
Step 2. 185 bpm (MHR) x 60% = 111 bpm and 185 bpm (MHR) x 69% = 127.5 bpm.
Therefore my desire heart rate must remain between 111- 127.5 BPM.
If your desired outcome is different from the above example, use the steps above to guide you in the right direction.