One of the most important aspects of fitness is intensity.  If you want to see improvements in your body and overall health, you need to have the right amount of overload to your body, but not so much that you are overspent.  Especially with aerobic training….things like running, biking, swimming, etc.  Things that are beneficial to your cardiovascular system.  With Aerobic training and your cardiovascular system, there is a thing called your VO2 Max, which is basically the maximum amount of oxygen you can get while you are working out.  There are places….labs…..secret caves….spaceships out there that can test you by having you wear a mask while running on a treadmill.  The treadmill intensity increases as the mask you breathe into measures the oxygen you’re taking in, and at some point it will know when you have hit the maximum amount of O2 you are capable of handling.  The school of thought is that your workouts should be between 55% – 85% of your VO2 max to maintain a good cardiorespiratory fitness level.  So, how do you know if you are doing this when you’re in the gym or outside on a bike/on a trail?  What is a more practical way to measure your intensity?  Luckily today there is an answer to this question.

The answer lies in your heart…..and no, I’m not talking about those sappy memes and quotes about “your heart” like these:

I’m talking about your actual heart rate.  Your heart is the key to everything when you are working out or running or anything, really.  It’s the organ that pumps the blood to meet the muscles’ demands for blood and oxygen.  If your heart isn’t working very hard at all during a workout, or if it is working so hard that it can’t keep up with your workout, you are either wasting your time or you are seriously hurting yourself.  In relation to the VO2 Max percentages, having a heart rate during your workouts of 70% – 85% is equivalent to having a VO2 Max of 60% – 80%.

There are a few different ways of knowing how intense your workout can be:

     1. The Target Heart Rate (THR)

     2. The Rating of Perceived Exertion scale (RPE)

     3. The Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET)

Of these three methods, I am only going to focus on number one, The Target Heart Rate (THR) because it is the simplest to understand.  It is just plugging some numbers into a formula and out comes a heart rate you can apply to your workout and know where your intensity should be.  I will use myself as an example, and if you want to use this formula for yourself, just replace my numbers with your own numbers.  All you will need is your age and your resting heart rate.  My age is 37 and my resting heart rate is currently 80bpm.  Also note, as mentioned before, that the desired percentage of your maximum heart rate during your workouts is 70% to 85%….so I will be using those two percentages in the equation.  Ok, here we go:

1. 220 MY AGE (37) = 183   (this is now my maximum heart rate during a workout)

2. 183 MY RESTING HEART RATE (80) = 103   (this is now my heart rate reserve)

3. 103 x EXERCISE INTENSITY OF 70% (.7) = 72.1

4. 72.1 + MY RESTING HEART RATE (80) = 152.1   (my desired heart rate at 70%)

Now, I’ll do the same formula at a rate of 85% intensity.  The only number I will change is step 3.  Instead of multiplying my heart rate reserve by .7, I will now multiply it by .85, and my new desired heart rate at 85% is now 167.55….I’ll round up to 168.

So, to sum this up, I want my heart rate to be between 152 and 168 for my heart to be at a “safe intensity.”  It’s not bad if I occasionally go above or below these numbers.  On days where I do sprints, for example, my heart rate will be at least in the 170s and maybe even around 180 during the sprints, and that’s ok because it’s good to get that cardiovascular system expanding.  It’s not like I’m straight out sprinting for 20 minutes.  I’m not Jason Bourne.  I’m probably sprinting for 20-30 seconds, and then I’m resting to get my heart rate back down before I sprint again.  This is why HIIT workouts are beneficial.  It can really benefit your cardiovascular system by working your heart to get stronger.  It’s easy today to know where your heart rate is.  There are heart rate monitors galore that you can invest in and always know where your heart is during a workout.  The cool thing about this as well is the training effect.  I wrote about this in an earlier bloooog.  As you get more consistent in your workouts and in your intensity, your cardiovascular system will adapt and make changes to accommodate.  Over time your resting heart rate will go down and your heart will be ready to handle more intensity, so you can occasionally come back to this formula and plug-in new numbers and get new results.  So just by doing that you’ll be able to see improvement when you see your max heart rate being able to go up.

I hope this helps you to find your intensity point during your workouts, especially your aerobic workouts.  Whether you’re on a treadmill, or on a bike, or hiking on a trail, or swimming in a pool, you can know if you are helping yourself or hurting yourself.  Please feel free to “like” or “share” this blooooog if you feel it helps.  Also, my view numbers have climbed immensely over the past few weeks….which is funny because I haven’t been blooooging during these past few weeks.  I also find it neat and wanted to say thank you.  Until next time,


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