There are two tests that fitness professionals often use to check the state of exertion in a group class setting or when personal training. The two tests are the Talk Test and the Borg Rating RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion). Both tests are easy to learn and helpful when determining your level of exercise intensity.
Have you ever heard a fitness instructor or personal trainer ask how you are doing? If you have heard that question, the trainer or instructor is looking for an audible response showing your exercise level. The basis of this measure is that the harder you work, the more breathless you become. The technical term is Ventilatory Threshold or (VT1). If you are exercising at a light-to-moderate intensity and can talk comfortably, you are below VT1 intensity. As you increase exercise, your breathing frequency rises, your blood lactate accumulates faster and talking becomes increasingly limited. Test results range from VT1, moderate intensity, to VT2, the highest exercise intensity.
The average person exercising is not looking for VT2 sustainability and can recognize when they have reached their maximum output and decrease their intensity. Being aware of how you are breathing is a good sign. An example would be walking or jogging while talking with a friend. Your conversation flows at a comfortable pace. Your terrain begins to change slightly, and now you are approaching a small hill or incline. Talking becomes a little more challenging, but you are not taxed to complete sentences. The slope you are on has become a tough hill or picked up your pace. Your small talk at this point becomes more difficult, and your conversation is becoming limited to a few, one or no words.
If you are working out by yourself and you know you can sing along with the song you are listening to, you are at a moderate or lower pace. That song gets harder to sing as you progress, and your level intensifies. You are at your max when you can only listen and cannot sing along.
It does not take the direction of an exercise professional to know when you are reaching your maximum. Another scale for monitoring a level of exercise intensity is the Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE). The scale level rates from 0 to 10, with 0 at nothing and 10 at intense exertion. A person exercising at a level 3 or 4 would be considered a moderate-intensity rate. A seven on the scale would be just above your VT1 and considered strong. It is a subjective way to quantify your overall feelings and sensations while exercising. As you exercise, you may begin to sweat or feel a difference in your breathing, and as intensity increases, you may start to experience fatigue.
A doctor may recommend that you use the RPE versus your heart rate because certain medications can cause functional and structural changes in the cardiorespiratory system and could affect a person’s maximum heart rate. Being aware of how your body reacts to exercise is essential to know what feels good and what does not and can help avoid injuries. As you become familiar with both scales, it will help you assess your intensity levels. Knowing when to increase and decrease your level of intensity will be a valuable tool in improving your overall fitness. Live, love life with health and movement.