Do you ever hear a fitness trainer say, “Give it your all!” or “Maximum effort here!”? Is it confusing? Do you know how to gauge what is your all-out or what is your true maximum effort? Many exercisers will rate their intensity based on their heart rate by wearing fitness trackers, using heart rate charts posted in gyms and online, or manually counting their pulse. Heart rate numbers are good to know, but is this really the best way to measure exercise effort?
Heart rate values provide us insight as to how our body is responding to our exercise but it is not an indicator of our actual effort. Heart rate is a response to the to the work your body is currently engaging in. Heart rate can be affected by factors including; fitness level, the workout taking place, resting heart rate, body and room/outside temperature, sleep, caffeine, and hydration.
Taking into account all these factors, you may feel discouraged when working at a high intensity but you may not be reaching your designated heart rate zone. You could be working at the correct intensity for you, but your heart rate may be slightly lower or higher than it should be due to the factors listed above.
A more accurate way to potentially measure the effort of your workout can be determined by rating your level of perceived exertion. The Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale is a numerical chart which allows you to gauge the intensity of your workout based solely on yourself. In addition to, or in replacement of, a heart rate (HR) monitor, it might be considered a more reliable method of evaluating how hard you are working.
On days when all the external factors which affect HR cannot be manipulated to make for perfect workout conditions, if those exist, the RPE chart may be a better way to gauge your workout.
The RPE scale allows you to individually gauge the workout exclusively based on how you feel during that exact workout! This scale for rating your perceived exertion allows you to choose a number, one through ten, to that corresponds with how you feel. Rating your exertion at one would be hardly exerting any energy; light activities around the house or work but more exertion than sleeping or sitting reading. Rating your exertion at a ten would be equivalent to your maximum effort. You will be out of breath, unable to talk, and feel as if you can barely keep going. This level of effort can only be maintained for a very short amount of time.
It takes some trial and error to really feel comfortable using the RPE scale. You may experience a period of adjustment using this scale before you are able to find your true maximum effort. As you become comfortable using the RPE scale, you will be better able to understand if you have given just enough effort during your workout or if you could have given a little more. But it is worth the effort to learn how to use this scale because sometimes, as exercisers, we underestimate how hard we are truly able to work!
Did you know that there’s even an RPE scale hanging in the Riverside Center Fitness Center? Try to use the RPE scale for you next workout!
Key Word: Effort