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How and why we monitor exercise intensity

So, what is exercise intensity?

Exercise intensity refers to how hard your body is working during physical activity. Your health and fitness goals, as well as your current level of fitness, will determine your ideal exercise intensity. If you're trying to improve your aerobic fitness or train for certain endurance events, then you want to know with a reasonable accuracy what intensity you're exercising at. There are three key methods to monitor and rate exercise intensity; the talk test, rate of perceived exertion (RPE) and heart rate monitoring.

Talk Test

The talk test involves rating your level of exertion based on your ability to hold a conversation while exercising. It has three levels; light activity (you can talk and sing without puffing at all), moderate activity (you can comfortably talk, but not sing) and vigorous activity (you can’t say more than a few words without gasping for breath). Its an easy test to perform, particularly as you dont need any special equipment.

Rate of perceived exertion

RPE provides a scale of how hard your workout feels when exercising. You should think about symptoms of exertion, such as breathing, muscular fatigue and the subjective feeling of effort. The generally accepted scale runs from 0-10; 0-3 are typically seen as the warm up and cool down, zone 4-7 is the aerobic zone and 8-10 is high intensity intervals or anaerobic zone.

Heart Rate

Heart rate is traditionally the most common method of monitoring exercise intensity, and when using a heart rate monitor the most accurate. This is my preferred method of monitoring intensity and prescribing workouts; by working out within specific target heart rate (THR) zones we can tailor training to focus on your goals; be it increasing aerobic capacity, your anaerobic threshold or programming effective active recovery sessions.

Heart rate zones are calculated on a percentage of your maximum heart rate, so they are specific to you. As you become more fit, your resting heart rate should drop and you will notice being able to work harder or longer while remaining in your target heart rate zone. Many of The SUP Coach cardio and paddle workouts use THR, and dont worry everything will be worked out for you!

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