Today, let’s talk about intensity. I’ve said a number of times throughout this blog that intensity of your workouts is important. Ask yourself, are you Really giving 100%? If you are, then great, but push harder.
Before you start to think I’m just another one of those “fitness dicks” out there. Let me explain. Actually, let’s let Mike Boyd explain. I’ve featured his videos in the past. He’s not normally a fitness guy, his videos are all across the board, he teaches himself a new skill in each video and documents the learning process and the time it takes to “master the skill”. In this particular video, he showcases how important it is to push your discomfort level if you really want to see results, and gives a pretty poignant example of himself learning this very important lesson:
At about the 4:42 mark, he breaks down the common self perception that we all have of our efforts. Typically, what we view as our “maximum effort” is probably not that. It’s more likely somewhere in the range of “Slightly uncomfortable”, but as Mike points out, the best results are obtained when we’ve pushed ourselves past what we think is our “best”.
So How Do You Really Know How Hard You’re Working?
Naturally the next most important thing is to find some way to measure how hard you’re actually working vs. how hard you feel like you’re working.
Thankfully, our friends at the Mayo Clinic have an article that can help: Exercise intensity: How to measure it. Basically, they have two benchmarks:
- How you feel. Exercise intensity is a subjective measure of how hard physical activity feels to you while you’re doing it — your perceived exertion. Your perceived exertion level may be different from what someone else feels doing the same exercise. For example, what feels to you like a hard run can feel like an easy workout to someone who’s more fit.
- Your heart rate. Your heart rate offers a more objective look at exercise intensity. In general, the higher your heart rate during physical activity, the higher the exercise intensity.
How you feel has two levels of intensity:
In this range, you’re breathing harder, but not out of breath, you develop a light sweat after about ten minutes of activity, and you could carry on a conversation with a partner, but doing something more breathing intensive might be difficult – like singing. Why singing is their example, I have no idea – please do not sing while working out – especially in a crowded gym!
When working vigorously, Your breathing will be deep and rapid, you’ll begin to sweat after only a few minutes, and talking without pausing often for breath will be difficult.
Your heart rate is a more reliable method, but to accurately track it, you’ll want to invest in a heart rate monitor. These aren’t too expensive, and if you’re going to pursue your fitness with any regularity, are probably worth the investment. Similar to the “how you feel” method, we have two variants here:
Moderate exercise intensity
50% to about 70% of your maximum heart rate.
Vigorous exercise intensity
70% to about 85% of your maximum heart rate.
You can calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. For example, if you’re 45 years old, subtract 45 from 220 to get a maximum heart rate of 175. This is the average maximum number of times your heart should beat per minute during exercise.
There’s a difference between high intensity, and overexerting your body. If you are short of breath, experiencing pain, or your exertion level is causing you to cut your workouts short. You may be pushing your body further than your current fitness levels allow. Back off of your intensity, and slowly build up your intensity levels. Remember, something is better than nothing, but pushing TOO hard and injuring yourself means that nothing will be your norm for a little while while you recover. Be safe and be smart!
One Last Helpful Tip
These are strange times we live in right now, and I know a lot of people feel like their fitness efforts have been handicapped by local gym closings. However, MANY gyms are providing free online “work at home” classes that you can use to make sure that you’re getting your work in. PLEASE take advantage of these if you’re not comfortable coming up with your own routines! It’s more important than ever to eat right and exercise to help keep your immune system strong!
Having a hard time finding these workouts? Here’s a list my wife sent to me with 25+ options with fitness styles (resistance training, HIIT, yoga etc.) all across the board. No excuses!
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