Workout Wednesday: How Hard Should I Workout

I often here from people who are exercising, but aren't seeing the results they hoped for. If you are exercising but not noticing yourself getting stronger, it might be because you are not exercising hard enough. 

The #1 way to judge how hard you should workout comes from listening to your body. You should feel your heart rate increasing and you should begin to breathe harder and faster if you are doing cardio vascular exercise. During strength training you should feel your muscles begining to fatigue It is actually this breaking down of muscle fibers that allows our muscles to get stronger. 

I also hear from people who are dealing with injuries because they pushed it too hard. If your muscles are getting tired and you are starting to lose proper form it’s time to slow down. If you start to feel light headed or nauseous it is definitely time to ease up. 

If you are new to exercise it might be difficult to evaluate your exertion level by listening to your body. It might be easier to use the target heart rate test. This approach requires that you measure your pulse periodically as you exercise. This formula will help you determine how hard you are working out. When exercising you generally want to stay within 50% - 85% of your maximum heart rate. This range is called your target heart rate.

Here is how the target heart rate test works:
220 minus your age = maximum heart rate (MHR). So if you are 50 years old, your MHR is 170.

Your target heart rate zone, during exercise, should typically fall between 50% - 85% of your MHR

So for a 50 year old, the target heart rate zone would be between 85– 144 beats per minute. (MHR or 170 times .50 = 85 and 170 times .85 = 144

Most of your workout should be done is you Target Heart Rate Zone. You should only work out above 85% of your MHR for short periods of time. When you are exercising at more than 85% of your MHR it is called anaerobic. You do not want to stay at this rate longer than 2 minutes.

Typically if you are just starting an exercise program you should keep your Target Heart Rate closer to 50% of your maximum heart rate. As your fitness level improves it is safe to bring your Target Heart Rate closer to 85% of your maximum heart rate.

I suggest when you first begin an exercise routine to take your heart rate several times during your workout. (It’s best to take your pulse at your wrist and use your index and middle finger. Take it for 15 seconds and multiply that number by 4 to give you your beats per minute.) This will begin to help you get a feel for how hard you are working.

These numbers are estimates that provide an average value. Many people have a higher or lower MHR, sometimes by as much as 15 to 20 beats per minute, things like your resting heart rate can influence it.

After you have worked out for a while you can feel how hard you are working just by listening to your body. This is called a perceived exertion test.

Perceived exertion is a measurement used during exercise to determine the level of difficulty of your exercise routine. The measure of intensity is commonly called the RPE, or Rating of Perceived Exertion

A simplified version of the rating scale is listed below:

0 No exertion
1 Very light exertion
2 Light exertion
3 Moderate exertion
4 Somewhat hard exertion

5 Hard exertion
6 Heavy exertion
7 Very hard exertion
8 Very heavy exertion
9 Extremely hard exertion 10 Maximum exertion

A great way to determine where you are on this scale is the talk test. At 0 -1 you can sing a song without a problem, at 4-5 you can say a sentence, 6-8 it’s difficult to say a short sentence, over 8 it’s hard to say even a word. The Faithful Workouts DVD’s are designed to take you through several different levels of the perceived exertion test.

If you feel you are always around a 2-3 you need to do something to make the workout more challenging if you are continually around an 8 or higher (typically you do not want to stay at this level more than 2 minutes) you want to slow it down a bit. The best fat burning workout brings you up and down the scale during the workout.

Walking is a great way to exercise if you are keeping a pace that elevates your heart and breathing rate. If the only exercise you do is walking, you will be missing out on many of the health benefits of exercise. Make your walk a bit shorter and add strength training that challenges your muscles!!


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