Have you ever wondered whether you are pushing yourself too hard during a workout? Maybe you have thought the exact opposite and wondered whether you are pushing yourself hard enough. Regardless, it can be difficult to know your limits when working out, which is why we have created this helpful guide. Our goal is to help you understand how to know your limitations when exercising so that you remain safe while getting the most out of your workout.

Track Your Heart Rate

The most efficient way to know if you are exercising at the right level while performing aerobic exercise is to understand and track your heart rate. This is why modern exercise equipment often comes with built-in heart rate monitors. But what happens when you aren’t using a machine that offers this luxury? For situations where you may be running outside or taking a group exercise class, you may have to keep an eye on your heart rate manually.  Now that you understand the importance of tracking your heart rate, let’s talk about where you want your rate to be throughout your exercise routine.

Maximum Heart Rate

To understand where you want your heart rate to be, it is vital to know what your maximum heart rate (MHR) should be. To do this, you must calculate:

220 – (Your Age) = Maximum Heart Rate

This number is the maximum number of times your heart should beat per minute so you must keep your pulse below this number. If you are doing moderate exercise, your target heart rate will be between 65-75% of the maximum and for more intense workouts between 70-85%.

Target Heart Rate

As previously mentioned, when you are exercising, it is recommended that you keep your rate within 55-85% of your maximum heart rate (MHR) for at least 20-30 minutes. This 55-85% range is quite broad, so it is often useful to determine the range for your target heart rate.

To figure out your target zone:

  • Determine your maximum heart rate
  • Determine your resting heart rate
    • To do this, count how many times your heart beats per minute when you are at rest. The best time to do this is first thing in the morning.
  • Determine your Heart Rate Reserve (HRR)
    • To do this, subtract your resting heart rate from your maximum.
  • Multiply your Heart Rate Reserve (HRR) by 0.7 (70%) and add your resting heart rate to this number.
  • Multiply your Heart Rate Reserve (HRR) by 0.85 (85%) and add your resting heart rate to this number.

When exercising or training, your heart rate should stay between those last two numbers because those numbers make up your target zone. If looking to speed up the process for determining your target zone, there are a number of online target heart rate calculators (like this one from active.com) that you can utilize.

Now that you understand the importance of knowing your target zone, it is important to understand how to tell if and when you are in this target heart rate zone. To determine this, you will have to periodically stop for a few moments during your workouts to check your pulse. All that is required is that you stop for 15 seconds, check your pulse and multiply that number by 4, which allows you to do a quick calculation of beats per minute.

These recommendations are general guidelines so if you are looking for a more precise range, you may want to discuss this with a personal trainer. If you have health conditions or take regular medications, it is also recommended that you consult your physician before jumping into a new exercise routine.