Jackie Wright: Simple methods of monitoring exercise intensity
March 18, 2015
Understanding how to monitor your exercise intensity is important regardless of your fitness level. And, there are dozens of external monitoring devices (i.e. heart rate monitors, etc.) that track this information for you so that you may access the data throughout your workout and beyond.
However, when you do not own or have access to a heart rate monitor, you may use the following simple methods of measuring exercise intensity during your workouts. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.
Ratings of Perceived Exertion Scale (RPE Scale) and the Talk Test – these two methods of monitoring exercise intensity are simple to apply and work in conjunction with one another. The Ratings of Perceived Exertion Scale is a scale of 1-10, with "one" describing a rest level exertion such as sitting and relaxing and "10" describing an exhaustive level exertion such as sprinting uphill all out. We utilize the RPE scale constantly with our clientele throughout their exercise programs even when they have all of the external monitoring bells and whistles because there are times when the heart rate monitor may not accurately depict how a they are feeling and what they are experiencing. Check out the following rules of thumb for both the RPE scale and the talk test:
• Easily carrying on a continuous conversation, exertion level probably at an RPE intensity level of 1-2 which is very light to light exertion (i.e. think warm-up).
• Able to converse, but are having to take a breath every sentence or so, then you are probably exerting at an RPE intensity level of 2-3 which is light to moderate exertion.
• If you are very aware of your breathing but still able to carry on a continuous conversation, you are probably exerting at an RPE of 3-4 which is moderate to somewhat hard exertion.
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• Unable to carry on a continuous conversation but are able to say your name and phone number, you are most likely exerting at an RPE intensity level of 4-6 which is somewhat hard to heavy exertion.
• Unable to answer a question with more than a one word answer such as "yes, no or maybe", then you are probably exerting at an RPE intensity level of 6-8 which is heavy to very heavy exertion.
• If you are unable to speak, are winded/breathless, you may be exerting at an RPE intensity level of 8-10 which is very heavy to very, very heavy exertion (i.e. HIIT).
The talk test correlates with the RPE scale so that the trainer may request the client's intensity to be a 5 on the RPE scale and indicate that they should be able to say their name and phone number only. If the client is unable to do so, then their intensity level is too high for that point in the exercise program.
Conversely, if the trainer requests that the client's intensity needs to be a 5-6 on the RPE scale and should be unable to converse continuously and the client is still able to chat, then they may need to "kick it up a notch" in intensity. Whether you have a trainer or are exercising on your own, the RPE scale and talk test are valuable intensity monitoring methods.
Jackie Wright is the owner/manager of Mountain Life Fitness LLC in Granby. She may be reached at her website at http://www.mtnlifefitness.com, her email at email@example.com and her Facebook page at Mountain Life Fitness.