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By Michael Scholtz, BiggestLoserClub.com Fitness Expert
Q: How do I know how hard to exercise when I do my cardio?
A: Combine these two methods for calculating the best cardio intensity for you:
I. Max Heart Rate Method
Keep in mind that 220 minus age is an ESTIMATE, and you may find that the calculation leaves you working too hard or not hard enough. How do you know? Your RPE tells you!
II. Rating of Perceived Exertion Method (RPE)
Using the chart* below, your target range will fall between 12 and 16.
10 or less very light 10 - 11 light 12 - 13 moderate 14 - 16 hard 17 - 19 very hard 20 or more maximal
(*Borg rating of perceived exertion, 6-20 scale from the American College of Sports Medicine Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription.)
11 is "light" like an easy stroll. You can hold a conversation without difficulty.
13 is moderate or "somewhat hard." You can talk in complete sentences, but your breathing is labored. Note that you CAN talk, but you don't necessarily WANT to talk. If you're exercising in a group, this is the pace where things start to get quiet!
15 is "hard" and takes focus to maintain. Your breathing rate is elevated enough that talking is restricted to shorter phrases. But, you can talk AND you can maintain this pace for at least a few minutes so this is not an effort that immediately makes you think of quitting.
17 is "very hard" and you will not be talking here. This is reserved for interval training, competition, etc. You will likely be focused on how much longer you have until you get to stop the effort, like the end of the interval or workout. How long you can maintain this depends on your fitness level, but even the very fit can only maintain it for a matter of minutes.
III. Bringing it all together
If THR and RPE don't match up, depend on RPE. As a general rule, if it feels too hard, it is. If you are trying to train at a "moderate" level for example (Remember, this is appropriate for all cardio except for harder, advanced workouts like intervals and tempo training), check your heart rate when you have been at an RPE of 12-13. Whatever your heart rate is, THAT is your THR!
Keep mind that manually taking HR is notoriously inaccurate. Take it often, compare workouts, and get good at it (or buy a monitor as mentioned above).
And, finally, you CAN use RPE alone. Simply use 12-13 for moderate workouts and 14-16 for hard workouts. Trust what you feel, and don't sweat trying to find your heart rate. It's not "cutting edge" but it works great!
Courtesy of BiggestLoserClub.com