Workout Intensity

When you press play are you working hard or hardly working? Are you giving it 100%, putting in your maximum effort? 

With all the great workout program that Beachbody offers  it’s easy to put in a DVD and “just press play”, put in half the effort, and call it a day. Great way to check off today’s workout on the calendar, right? WRONG!  Just pressing play isn’t enough. You need to exercise at the correct intensity level. This means making sure that you aren’t dogging it or for the crazy ones out there, overdoing it (we’re not here to work until we pass out or see stars, lol).

So how should you judge exercise intensity? Intensity is generally based on personal perception. If you think you’re working hard, you probably are.  If not, then you should step it up a bit, dig deep and BRING IT! To gain the most benefit from physical exercise you should be working out in the moderate to vigorous range. “Wait you just said that judging intensity is highly based on perception. How am I supposed to know what moderate and vigorous mean for me? “ Let’s see…

Judging intensity by feeling

There are several ways besides self perception to judge how hard you are bringing it.


  • Light intensity: No change in breathing pattern.
  • Moderate intensity: Breath quickens, but now out of breath.
  • Vigorous intensity: Breathing is deep and quick.


  • Light intensity: No sweating (unless its hot/humid).
  • Moderate intensity: Light sweat after about 10 minutes.
  • Vigorous intensity: Heavy sweat after a couple minutes.


  • Light intensity: Able to carry on full conversation.
  • Moderate intensity: Able to converse, but not sing.
  • Vigorous intensity: Struggle to say a few words without pausing.

Judging with a heart rate (HR) monitor

One of the best ways to judge how hard you are bringing it is a heart rate monitor (preferably one with a chest strap). I find one useful because it lets me know whether I need to quit dogging it and dig deeper. Sometimes I think I am working really hard, but see that my HR is only at 140 bpm which is pretty low for a high-intensity workout like T25 or Insanity! I had better step it up a notch. If I am in the 170-180 range, I know that I am really crushing it! Of course, maximum heart rate changes as you age so you should consult a max HR calculator to see what your maximum is.  The following chart is useful for gauging your workout intensity.


HR monitors aren’t just good for seeing workout intensity. They are also a great tool for calculating caloric burn, or how much energy you are using. I think this is very useful for judging how hard I am working. If I’m halfway through A p90X workout like Legs and Back and I have only burned 200 cals, I need to turn up the volume!  HR monitors are also great for measuring post workout burn.

So do you need to go out and get a HR monitor? No, they aren’t essential and your money may very well be spent somewhere else. But, if you want a better understanding of how hard you are working out, it might be something to look into. Regardless or whether you decide to invest in one or not, make sure you are giving it your all to gain the most benefit from your program.

Bring it Fellowship of Fitness!


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