A lot of times I will get asked this: What level should I be working on, on the machine? Or this: How do I know if I am working hard enough or too hard?

The truth is, only you know what level the machine should be at. If I could crawl into your body and feel what you are feeling, then I would be able to set you at your optimal pace, but, just like I can’t do the work for you, I can’t tell you how hard you’re working, either.

So, what I use with all of my clients is their “Rate of Perceived Exertion”(RPE). This is a scale of one to 10, with one being a lazy stroll in the park and 10 being an all-out “I can’t do any more; I think I am going to throw up, soon” type of level.

Now, just like pain tolerance, everyone has a tolerance for how “uncomfortable” they can be when working out, so, when available, I will also use heart rate and visual cues to help me guide the client into the right training zone. But, as a rule of thumb, if you are at Level 7 or 8, when in the middle of your program, you are working at about the right level.

This scale is very helpful when exercising outside, weight training, interval training or doing an activity where heart-rate monitors are either not available or not useful. As well, when exercise target heart rate is estimated from age, your RPE can be a much more useful and sometimes a more accurate tool to target exercise intensity.

RPE can also be useful those days when you are feeling rundown or may have a cold or illness coming or going.

When “checking in” with your rate or perceived exertion, it is important to remember that this is your rate and not to judge yourself by the person who may be working beside you. Just like workouts should be individual, the rate at which you work is also individual.

The RPE scale can be used no matter what training level you are at, no matter how much you have to spend on fitness, no matter what medications you may be on and no matter what your attitude is toward fitness.

Remember, through it all, to be honest with yourself: this is your workout and it doesn’t benefit you to be dishonest with yourself as to how hard you are working.

This column is provided by Peak Fitness. Mrs. Lee Randell is an ACE-certified personal trainer. Contact information and past articles are available at www.pkfitness.yk.ca/Clients. Anyone who wants to begin an exercise program should consult their physician first.

This column is provided by Mrs. Lee Randell, independent fitness consultant, who is an ACE certified advanced health and fitness specialist and personal trainer. You can reach her at www.mrsleerandell.com.