Michele Cannell

Fitness professional certified in Personal Training, Wellness, CPR/AED, Cycling, Pilates, YogaFit, Tai Chi, and living with Celiac Disease.

How Hard Should I Workout?

When you are on the treadmill have you ever thought, ” I know that I was breathing heavy for at least half my workout. I’m sure I worked out hard enough”. You look at the clock while you are on the elliptical and realize you have been working out for 30 minutes and you think to yourself, ” 30 minutes is good, I have a lot to do today”. How do you really know that you worked out hard enough? There is one way… Learn how to monitor your heart rate.

First, knowing the difference between target heart rate and maximum heart rate is very important. We were all born with a heart rate of 220. As we age, our heart rate lowers. To calculate your maximum heart rate you simply take 220-age. Typically, if your heart rate meets max, you will feel dizzy, nauseous and may even pass out. This is an important number to know when you start an exercise program. You should never be anywhere close to this number while you are exercising.

Your target heart rate is definitely a number that will change periodically during your wellness/fitness journey. Your target heart rate is typically a range that is safe for you to maintain while working out depending on your fitness level. As you get more fit, that range will increase. To calculate your target heart rate, you simply take:

220-age x level% =your safe target heart rate.

Now you are asking, “how do I know my level%?” See the chart below:

50-65%: beginner level (I haven’t worked out in a while or never)
65-75% : intermediate ( I work out a few days per week-nothing consistent)
75-85% : fit (I work out at least 3-4 days per week)
85% or higher: Athlete ( I workout 4-6 days per week, some programs are intense)

I recommend that you start at a level a little lower than you think so you feel comfortable with exercising and monitoring your heart rate. See an example below:

Linda is 40 years old and works out a few days per week but nothing consistent.


What is your target heart rate? Knowledge is power. Know your numbers before you do your cardio. Once your know how to calculate resting heart rate, you can upgrade your target heart rate formula.