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How to Tell if You are Exercising with the Right Intensity

MAC Fitness Team - Thursday, September 06, 2018

Are You Pushing it too Far or Exercising Hard? – a closer look at exercise intensity.

When exercising, do you know the difference between working hard and pushing too far? To answer this, we must first look at what makes an exercise or workout challenging: duration, intensity, and mode of exercise.

Duration refers to how long you are engaged in the activity/exercise.

, during strength training, includes the number of repetitions and sets performed, the amount of resistance, and length of rest taken between exercises. During cardiovascular exercise, intensity refers to workout zones: moderate and vigorous. These zones are proportionally related to the heart rate achieved during the workout where a higher heart rate is associated with a higher intensity level.

Mode of exercise refers to the type of exercise you are doing such as running or biking, push-ups or squats.

This is why personal trainers prepare your workouts to have the right blend of difficulty and safety. It is important to challenge yourself when exercising for several reasons:
  • You’ll see improvements in overall strength and body composition.
  • You’ll have improvements in endurance and cardiovascular fitness.
  • Workouts may become more fun as exercises become more challenging.
  • Achieving a sense of accomplishment and more self-confidence. Consider the feeling which accompanies: 'I did it!' or 'I can do that!'
  • Challenges may improve metabolism and help with weight-related goals.
  • Improved sleep. Adding difficulty to your workouts may require more energy output. Drifting off to sleep when you're tired is much easier than when you're wired.
When exercising, some of us are motivated by extrinsic rewards such as muscle tone and weight loss. Others are motivated by intrinsic reasons such as a sense of personal accomplishment, increased energy levels, and competition. While both types of motivation are important, neither can be achieved without the right amount of effort applied.

That being said, there is a fine line between ‘challenging yourself’ and ‘pushing yourself too far’ that many of us cross. Let’s look at some of the risks of challenging yourself beyond your limits:
  • Injury risk. No one enjoys being hurt.
  • Unnecessary, debilitating muscle fatigue and soreness.
  • Loss of interest in being active.

How to tell if you are pushing yourself too hard
  • Use a heart rate monitor when possible. Make sure you know and understand your own heart rate zones and where your heart rate should be according to your age, abilities, and conditions.
  • Consider working with a personal trainer. Personal trainers can encourage you and challenge you by designing a workout to fit your individual needs, but he/she will also let you know if you may be ‘pushing’ yourself too far.
  • Apply self-care practices. When exercising, consider asking yourself: 'How do I feel?', 'How does this exercise feel?', 'How does my body feel?'. If words such as ‘pain’, ‘discomfort’, ‘unpleasant’ or ‘uncomfortable’, come to mind, then stop and re-assess the exercise, the intensity, and the weight.
  • Look at your form and observe yourself. Does the movement look sloppy? Your form is a great indicator of your effort. Too much effort can jeopardize technique as your muscles become more fatigued.
While pushing yourself comes with some risks, it is also important to try to recognize the different sensations of exercise. You may feel tired during your workout and experience some soreness for a day or two afterward. These sensations are to be expected. Never measure your workout by how much pain you're feeling. If you are unsure of how hard is too hard, then check in with a personal trainer, physical therapist, or a doctor for more advice.

Masha Proshutina, MAC Fitness Professional, loves to keep fitness fun for her clients while seeing them make progress. To learn more about Masha or get in touch click HERE.

The information presented here is for general educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or health condition. As always, please speak with your health care provider before beginning an exercise program and any modifications to physical activity.