If we’re lucky enough to have found our passion, the chances are we exercise out of the sheer joy of it. We do our chosen sport because it’s our thing, our way of life – and it’s fun and makes us feel awesome!
In addition to the fun and feel-good factors, most of us have specific sports and fitness goals we want to achieve; be it weight loss, gaining strength or boosting endurance. But how do we know if we’re hitting those goals or even headed to the right direction?
The intensity level of exercise (together with duration and frequency) determines how effective your training is. If you want your workouts to be effective (in addition to being fun), you’ll need to know if the intensity of your training session was what you planned. To make sure you on the right track, you’ll want to know if your high intensity session turns out to be a light effort thing.
To improve your fitness, it’s crucial to not only monitor if you’re doing enough but also to make sure you don’t overtrain.
To improve your fitness, it’s crucial to not only monitor if you’re doing enough but also to make sure you don’t overtrain. As counterproductive as it sounds, if your training is too intense or repetitive with no variation, it can, in fact, hamper your performance and/or put you at risk of injury. Especially if you rigidly focus on one thing and one thing only – it’s rarely enough.
You can overdo any form of exercising, even something as simple and seemingly low effort as walking – walk too much, too often, while ignoring strength training and stretching, and you may soon find yourself with lower back pain, aching hip joints, inflamed Achilles tendons or knee problems.
Specific goals or not, it’s key for all exercisers to find that sweet spot where you’re exercising enough, at the right intensity without overdoing it. But, how to find it?
Exercise intensity is a measure of how straining a physical activity is for you – it is always personal. This means the exertion from the same exercise may be completely different to different people so what feels to you like a tough workout may feel like an easy walk in the park to someone who’s more fit.
There are two ways of determining exercise intensity: your subjective feeling and a physiological measure – your heart rate.
It’s important that you listen to your body.
The first and most simple indicator of exercise intensity is how you feel during exercise – so it’s important that you listen to your body. Although based on subjective assessment, studies show that the perceived level of intensity compares well with heart rate – if you feel that you’re working hard, your heart rate is likely high.
The most accurate way to gauge the intensity of your workouts is monitoring your heart rate.
The most accurate way to gauge the intensity of your workouts is monitoring your heart rate. It’s important to pay attention to your subjective feeling, but the most reliable and comparable measurement of exercise intensity is heart rate data. Heart rate takes into account your body status and readiness. It’s mainly physiological, but is affected by mental aspects, too.
Monitoring your heart rate is key in making sure that you exercise at all the intensity levels and have enough variation in your routine. When you use a heart rate monitor, you can more reliably monitor if you stay at the intensity level you planned: you will better manage to maintain a light effort throughout your workout or reach the peaks in interval training – you will know, instead of just guessing by the way you feel.
When your fitness improves, you may notice that it's harder to get your heart rate up when you run, jog or power-walk. These are clear signs that your fitness level and body capacity have improved.
To improve your fitness you need to vary the intensity of your workouts. This means you need to train on different heart rate zones. You'll want to focus on improving both your cardio training and your strength training. Continue to progress your challenges every day to improve your performance.