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Finding Your Fitness Sweet Spot – Tools for Measuring

Is your fitness program balanced? Is it providing what you need to get the benefits you’re after? When it comes to fitness there’s no one size fits all, as was made clear in my recent Nancercize internet radio show, “Finding Your Fitness Sweet Spot,” a conversation with personal trainer and yoga instructor Lisa Priestly. To listen to the complete episode, please go to

Your sweet spot is like that point in a tennis racquet that gives you the power to hit the ball out of the court. How can you find your own fitness “sweet spot?” Like me, Lisa believes in customized workouts, based on your goals and your current fitness level.

During our conversation, we discussed several ways of determining if you’re exercising enough, with the right frequency, intensity, and duration ... and that you are covering the three major components of strength, cardio, and flexibility.

Here are the tools we talked about during the show, which you might not have been able to jot down, most of which come from the American College of Sports Medicine (ASCM):

Strength Training- (at home or in a gym—weight training or bodyweight training)
The ASCM reommendations:
- Do eight to 10 strength-training exercises, twice a week.
- Do eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms)
- Do at least one set that is less than 30 mins. Multiple sets (2-3) are even more beneficial

Cardiovascular (aerobic, or endurance) Training

To prevent significant weight gain and reduce associated chronic disease risk factors, the Surgeon General on Physical Activity and ACSM recommendations:
- At least 150 minutes of moderately intense cardio 30 minutes a day, five days a week.


- Do vigorously intense cardio 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week.

The intensity is important—how do you measure that? Here are two ways to measure intensity – the BORG RPE Scale or Heart Rate:

Instructions for Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale
While doing physical activity, we want you to rate your perception of exertion. This feeling should reflect how heavy and strenuous the exercise feels to you, combining all sensations and feelings of physical stress, effort, and fatigue. Do not concern yourself with any one factor such as leg pain or shortness of breath, but try to focus on your total feeling of exertion.

The rating scale below is an aaptation of the BORG scale, whichgoes from 6 to 20; we have simplified it to range from 1-10. 0 means "no exertion at all" and 10 means "maximal exertion." Choose the number from below that best describes your level of exertion. This will give you a good idea of the intensity level of your activity, and you can use this information to speed up or slow down your movements to reach your desired range.

Try to appraise your feeling of exertion as honestly as possible, without thinking about what the actual physical load is. Your own feeling of effort and exertion is important, not how it compares to other people's. Look at the scales and the expressions and then give a number.

USING a Scale of 1-10

0 No exertion at all
1 Extremely light
2 Very light
3 Light
4 Somewhat hard
5 Hard (heavy)
6-7 Very hard
8-9 Extremely hard
10 Maximal exertion

Target Heart Rate and Estimated Maximum Heart Rate
One way of monitoring physical activity intensity is to determine whether a person's pulse or heart rate is within the target zone during physical activity.

For moderate-intensity physical activity, a person's target heart rate should be 50 to 70% of his or her maximum heart rate. This maximum rate is based on the person's age. An estimate of a person's maximum age-related heart rate can be obtained by subtracting the person's age from 220. For example, for a 50-year-old person, the estimated maximum age-related heart rate would be calculated as 220 - 50 years = 170 beats per minute (bpm). The 50% and 70% levels would be:

50% level: 170 x 0.50 = 85 bpm, and
70% level: 170 x 0.70 = 119 bpm

Thus, moderate-intensity physical activity for a 50-year-old person will require that the heart rate remains between 85 and 119 bpm during physical activity.
For vigorous-intensity physical activity, a person's target heart rate should be 70 to 85% of his or her maximum heart rate. To calculate this range, follow the same formula as used above, except change "50 and 70%" to "70 and 85%". For example, for a 35-year-old person, the estimated maximum age-related heart rate would be calculated as 220 - 35 years = 185 beats per minute (bpm). The 70% and 85% levels would be:

70% level: 185 x 0.70 = 130 bpm, and
85% level: 185 x 0.85 = 157 bpm

Thus, vigorous-intensity physical activity for a 35-year-old person will require that the heart rate remains between 130 and 157 bpm during physical activity.

To find out more about Lisa Priestly, visit her web site:
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