Personalizing the Target


The second recommendation regarding perceived exertion pertains to the instructional strategy utilized by this author for his clients over the last several years: developing a personalized target heart rate range (PTHRR). The concept is basic and effective, and involves the consistent monitoring and recording of both heart rate and perceived exertion during each exercise session. The initial development of a PTHRR usually requires 10 to 20 consecutive exercise sessions, with further refinement occurring over subsequent workouts.

Following a thorough instructional session on the concept of exercise intensity, and the proper mechanics of monitoring both target heart rate and perceived exertion, individuals measure and record heart rate, and assess and record their rating of perceived exertion. In addition, the mode and duration is also recorded. Individuals are instructed to adjust the external demand of the exercise (e.g., speed, grade, etc.) so that they perceive the workout to be challenging, but not overwhelming. On the original Borg Scale, for example, this perception may be equivalent to a rating between 11 and 13 or “fairly light to somewhat hard” for a novice, or to a rating of 15 to 17 or “hard to very hard” for an elite and genetically gifted endurance athlete.

Perhaps the key element to successfully developing a PTHRR is for individuals to be consistent and accurate with their perceived exertion terminology. Using their own terminology is acceptable, provided that they are consistent in expressing their perception of exertion. For example, if someone chooses to use the term “tough,” that term should consistently reflect the same perceived exertion over a series of workouts. The ultimate outcome of this process is that individuals will, through their own involvement, monitoring and adjustments, determine the heart-rate range that consistently results in a workout intensity best suited to their fitness profile and goals.

Finally, it is important that the instructor emphasize to their clients the most important exertional cues to monitor. Specifically, individuals should be monitoring the degree of their breathing effort and muscular sensations. As a general guideline, individuals should notice elevated breathing that is not excessively labored (such as during hyperventilation), while their exercising muscles should feel warm without feeling exhausted or painful.

It is interesting to note that the resultant PTHRR is often significantly different, in either direction, from the standard textbook THR of 50 percent to 80 percent, or 60 percent to 90 percent predicted maximal heart rate.

In fact, a controlled study is warranted to analyze the correlations and differences between standard THRs and PTHRRs across various demographics, health and physical fitness profiles.

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