How to Gauge the Intensity of Your Workout… and Why it Matters

In All, Fitness, Workouts by Jenna MaxwellLeave a Comment

When I am training a client, it’s easy for me to see how intense they are finding their workout. From there, I choose exercises that will suit my goals for their workout and keep them within the heart rate zone I am trying to achieve for that day.

Some days you will have intense workouts, while others are more recovery based. When you are working out on your own, it is important to monitor yourself to make sure that you are conditioning in all heart rate zones in order to achieve optimal results. You want to do some things that leave you breathless and others that are slow and controlled. I like to use the ‘Rate of Perceived Exertion’ scale to monitor my own efforts and to make sure I am pushing myself hard enough within each workout. I have included my own descriptions for each zone to help you gauge what level you are at. Here is what the table means to me in my workouts — hopefully this helps you in yours.

1-2very easy – a warm up pace that you can talk through easily.
3easy – this would be a long walk pace. You can still talk with little effort.
4moderately easy – you can converse with little effort.
5moderate – conversation requires some effort.
6moderately difficulty – conversation requires quite a bit of effort.
7difficult – conversation requires maximum effort.
8very difficult – conversation requires maximum effort.
9-10peak effort – no-talking zone.

I won’t try to explain in one blog post how to schedule your workouts and what the intensity should be for each (there will be more of that to come in the future) but basically: if you have an intense workout on Monday, you should schedule a less intense workout (or workout a different muscle group) on Tuesday. This workout style will leave you feeling recharged after your workouts instead of burnt out. You should also try to vary your intensity levels within each workout. For the most part, I like to look at each session as a bell curve, starting with a warm-up that is low intensity, then slowly increasing the pace or difficulty of the exercises to have your heart rate peak at just about halfway through your workout. From there, I’ll bring down the intensity to a cool down and a stretch at the end.

Here’s an example of my workout schedule, to demonstrate what I mean:

Day of Week Type of Workout RPE level
Monday Strength: Full Body 5-7
Tuesday Toning: Cardio/Core/Arms 3-6
Wednesday Power/Strength: Full Body 7-10
Thursday Recovery: rest or light cardio 1-4
Friday Strength: Full Body 5-7
Saturday Power/Strength: Lower Body 7-10
Sunday Cardio 4-6

I find that this schedule works well for my lifestyle and body type, but everyone is different and so this is simply an example of how to schedule your intensity levels. Hopefully, this blog post gives you food for thought when planning your workout week and helps you push yourself into those higher exertion numbers.

More to come on this topic next month!

Enjoy your workouts!

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