Monitoring Exercise Intensity With Personal Training

The next time you’re in the cardio room, take a look around. Some people are working up a sweat. Others are reading a magazine and just cruising along. When it comes to maximizing the benefits of exercise, you reap what you sow. A personal trainer can help you monitor your workout, to determine whether you are working in the right training zone.

The So-Called Target Heart Rate

Calculating the target heart rate is the most commonly used method for determining exercise intensity.  The classic method involves subtracting your age from the number 200. This is your supposed maximum heart rate. Next, calculate 55 to 85 percent of that number, and you supposedly have your target heart rate range. People do this by wearing a heart rate monitor, using the monitors on the machines, or taking periodic pulse checks throughout the workout.

There’s Something Wrong With This Picture

Notice the use of the words supposed and supposedly in the previous section. That’s because some sports medicine experts do not believe in the target heart rate concept. Dr. Fritz Hagerman, an exercise physiologist at Ohio University, believes that the whole target heart rate thing is “silly” and “ludicrous.”

He explained the “New York Times” that he has worked with Olympic rowers in their 20’s with maximum heart rates as high as 220.  Different strokes for different folks – literally. Target heart rate still works as a general guideline. Your personal trainer might even do heart rate checks, but there are other ways to monitor your exertion level.

Perception Is Everything

Another type of exercise intensity monitoring is referred to as rate of perceived exertion. This method allows you to rate your exercise intensity on a scale of one to ten. One means you’re not really working. Ten implies that you are working at the top range of your heart rate. Several studies have found that higher oxygen uptake corresponds to a higher level of perceived exertion.

Sometimes, however, a healthy dose of endorphins might decrease your perceived exertion rating. Your personal trainer knows how to spot cues such as poor posture and bad form as indications that you are approaching dangerous levels of fatigue. As such, your trainer saves you from yourself!

So How Hard Should I Be Working?

That’s a good question. During the 1970s, most fitness enthusiasts did LSD. Before you get too excited, LSD stood for long slow distance. This form of long duration, low intensity exercise supposedly used fat as its primary fuel source, and was thus the preferred method of losing body fat. It sounded good in theory, but then how come there are a surprising number of overweight marathon runners?

The answer is math-related. During low-intensity exercise, 60 percent of the calories burned come from fat, in contrast to the mere 35 percent of fat calories burned in high intensity exercise. Performing 30 minutes of low-intensity aerobic exercise burns about 200 calories – approximately 120 coming from fat.

When you up the intensity,  the same 30 minute workout burns 400 calories, about 140 of fat. Numbers don’t lie. Another problem with consistently working at a moderate, steady state, is that you are not challenging your body. Eventually, your body adapts to the workout. It no longer helps you lose weight. You are simply maintaining. Working with a personal trainer keeps your progress in check.