When it comes to answering the question, ‘How hard should I exercise?’ who would have imagined that a little girl in the cottage of three bears would be so prophetic? Goldilocks instructed us, ‘not too hard’, ‘not too easy’, ‘but just right’! Time and time again, exercise research has demonstrated the exact same thing; use just the right intensity to safely get really good exercise results.
There are a lot of factors that determine the effectiveness of exercise: how often you do it, how long do you do it for, what type of exercise it is, and so forth. But, generally speaking, the most important factor is, how hard do you do it? Exercise too lightly and your body does not receive enough stimuli to undergo significant improvement. Exercise too hard and you risk hurting yourself and can stress your body so much that it struggles to recover from your workouts and improve. This is true for each category of Welcyon exercises: aerobic, flexibility, balance, and strength.
To help apply this ‘Goldilocks concept’ to your workouts, let’s review how you can pressure-check to see if you’re working out “just right”.
Aerobic exercise intensity: Once you’ve warmed up and are in the middle of your aerobic workout, keep your heart rate within a ‘moderate’ range. This range can be determined for you by your Welcyon Fitness Coach. Research shows that using heart rate to guide your exercise is the best way to go. Olympic athletes train this way. Another good method is during your exercise, ask yourself this question, “How hard am I exercising?” You are exercising at a good intensity if your answer is “Somewhat hard”. If your answer is “Easy,” exercise harder. If your answer is, “Hard,” back off a bit. Sounds simple, but it works.
Flexibility exercise intensity: Apply enough force so you feel a comfortable stretch in the targeted body part. Research shows that maintaining this intensity of stretch for 60 seconds is more effective than doing it more intensely for shorter periods of time. On the other hand, applying very light stretching forces will not improve flexibility.
Balance exercise intensity: Think “Safety First.” When doing the ‘Balance Clock,’ always do the exercise at a level that you feel confident about. Take steps that are just the right length that are somewhat challenging but very controllable. Also move at a rate that is ‘Fairly easy’ to ‘Somewhat hard’. If you do not feel confident at all about your ability to do the exercise, then skip it.
Strength exercise intensity: First of all, concentrate on moving slowly on each machine, through your full available range of motion, using very good posture and technique. Also, breathe. Do not hold your breath. While continuously focusing on these things, use enough resistance so that the exercise is ‘Somewhat hard’ or ‘Hard’ to do during the first few repetitions. The exercise will get harder as you continue, so that by the time you approach your 8th repetition, you begin to struggle somewhat to do more repetitions. At this point, do not ‘cheat’ by speeding up, jerking, or thrusting your body this way or that. Just keep going, focusing on good technique. When you can no longer continue, just stop exercising and move onto the next machine. Exercising at this intensity, to a point of momentary muscle fatigue, while using very good form and technique, will result in excellent strength gains and a better physical version of you.
With all of this having been said, we know that some cannot or should not exercise at a middle-of-the-road intensity. Some need to exercise a bit lighter and some are able to exercise a bit harder for short periods. Your Welcyon Fitness Coach will help you determine what is best for you. The chances are good they will show you that the proper exercise intensity is ‘just right’!