One way to exercise safely and effectively is to monitor your heart rate. A heart that is working too hard is in danger and one that is not working hard enough will not become stronger. Depending on your health and goals, we may be aiming for 40-80% of your maximum heart rate. Now here arises a problem. The only way to determine your actual maximum would be to slowly elevate your heart rate until it fails. Only then would we truly know what your real maximum heart rate ’was’. And, of course, at that point we no longer need to know. So we work with a theoretical maximum heart rate. We guess.
Another measure we use to make our ‘guess’ more accurate is perceived exertion. How hard do you feel you’re working on a scale of 1-10? 4-6 is a good pace that is sustainable. 7-8 is higher intensity is limited in its sustainability . Each has their own benefits.
The interesting thing about using perceived exertion is that the same athlete doing the same workout on a different day can have a very different perception of effort. So we modify the workout in order to maintain the desired perception – resulting in a workout that is just as effective.
How can this be?
Well, your body has an limited amount of energy or ability and it may be allocating it to offset stress, illness, sleeplessness, and a host of other things that can zap your reserves (some you may not even be aware of). That allocation and your perceived “best” (maintaining that perceived exertion) translates to progress.
Similarly in life, your best at any particular time in life may look completely different than another. And while it may look different, your best is still your best, and progress is made.
We all want to be best at everything- family, friends, our own health, job, school, community. But resources are limited. It’s a unique balancing act of shifting resources, priorities and skills.
I’ve said it often with exercise but let me say it about life, we need you to show up and we’ll give you space to modify. Whether you’re able to scale up or need to scale down this season, keep that rate of perceived exertion in a safe area and know that whether your best looks more like a superhero or more like a survivor this season, you win. And the rest of us win because you showed up.