by Pam George ACE CPT

How much intensity do you really need to achieve a training effect?

Intensity: The quality or state of being, extreme degree of strength, force, energy, or feeling (Merriam-Webster)

Do you judge a workout or and instructor by how brutally hard the class they teach is? Is really hard really good? Do you look at your workout as successful if you are sore the next day? As you push and jump your way into a heart pounding sweat session of exhaustion are you achieving better results? Are you comparing your level of fitness to the other sweaty participants, pushing yourself to a level of breathless intensity showing everyone you have achieved your spot as a contender?

Simply working a little above your current fitness level will help you achieve a training effect. You can safely continue to increase your levels over time as your body responds to the added intensity. Your work intensity will not be the same as other participants for you are unique. If you are new to exercise or have been off for a time, then your level of fitness will not be the same as someone who has been regularly exercising. Their perceived intensity for the same work or exercise will be much different. If you are new or returning, you can do the same amount of exercise for the same amount of time as the regular exerciser, but you will perhaps feel exhausted and the regular exerciser just will be getting started.

Over time as the training effect takes place your perception of intensity will change, and you can continue to work at a higher levels of intensity. How do you know if your intensity is too high? Stop an exercise when your form begins to break down. Pushing past this level can result in injury. Intensity is something you can control by listening to your body and pushing to a slightly higher new level.

Starting any new exercise will require a training period while you body acclimates. Training smart and listening to your body will result in continued progression on your fitness journey.

Regular exercisers can usually push their fitness with higher intensity classes, but they should watch for balance in their workouts by incorporating lower intensity classes to achieve that balance and avoid overuse injuries.