What level of intensity should I be working out at?

Training methods like HIIT and Tabata are so popular because of the “afterburn effect” they create in our bodies. In simple terms, the more intense your workout, the more oxygen your body burns to recover and the more calories you burn from your increased metabolism post workout.

Whilst the calculation of exactly how many calories you burn from a workout and how long this afterburn lasts for are up for debate, there is sense from a fat-burning perspective in pushing yourself as hard you you can, rather than pacing yourself. Less reps at a higher intensity will burn more calories.

However, if you’re currently growing a tiny person or looking after / feeding one, I’d urge you to consider if this level of intensity is what your body needs right now.

  • if you’re pregnant, research has proven that moderately intense exercise is both safe and beneficial for mom and baby*. So exerting yourself to a level no higher than 6 or 7 out of 10. (Or in heart rate terms, which is a bit more subjective, somewhere around 120-140bpm.)  The impact of vigorous exercise is not clear, particularly in the third trimester when the oxygen needs of baby are greater.
  • Post-natal depletion is a real thing. Having a baby can leave you physically, mentally and emotionally fatigued. So ask yourself if fat burning is your priority or if more gentle movement might actually be better for your body at this time. If you wipe yourself out, you still have to be mom for the rest of the day…and night.
  • And when you are doing HIIT / Tabata / moderate intensity cardio, make sure that the moves you’re doing are appropriate for your core and pelvic floor. High knees and star jumps are not the most appropriate moves for pregnant or postnatal women.

The final point I wanted to make around intensity relates to lifting weights. There are lots of ways to make an exercise harder without adding more weight. Instead you could do more reps, add a pause at the bottom, add an extra 1/2 or 1/4 of a rep in or slow down the eccentric phase (so the lowering in a squat for example). It doesn’t always have to be heavier to be harder!

If you need support with your training or don’t know where to start, please do get in touch.

(* Assuming mom and baby are fit and healthy and there’s no medical condition that makes exercise unsafe)

Share your thoughts

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.