I’m talking about the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE). The RPE scale is a widely used effort metric in sports and it is a simple and easy to use method of analysing an individual’s effort.
Using this technique may not be the best idea for absolute beginners, because it requires you to know and understand your bodies signs of fatigue. Usually, this only comes with time and experience.
Why use the RPE scale?
As you know, a 4:30 pace run can feel easy on one day and feel impossible just a week later! This change in performance can come from many things - work related stress, built up fatigue from overtraining, not having enough recovery time between sessions, stress from our daily lives, etc...
Scientific research has shown that stress has a real effect on our bodies, decreasing our performance and increasing rate of injury, therefore, it's important to listen to the body and train adequately.
That is why I choose to use the RPE scale with athletes. The RPE scale allows an athlete to train at the highest intensity it can tolerate on any given day. By using the RPE Scale, we know that the athlete is always giving his best effort and is not overtraining.
For example, a 10km Tempo Run with a '9' RPE will always be executed to a high intensity by the athlete, no matter what pace he/she chooses, they will always be pushing their body to the highest effort on that particular day. However, a 4:20 10km Tempo Run might feel just-right on some days but on other it is too intense for the body, due to day-to-day stress, and by forcing our body to follow that pace, we might be causing harm instead of improving our performance.
Click here to read a recent study regarding the RPE scale and it's validity in sports.
So, What Is It?
Basically, the RPE scale is based on the feelings and sensations of physical stress a runners feels during activity. The scale goes from 1 (very easy effort) to 10 (incredibly hard effort). The RPE scale is usually applied to any cardiovascular activity but it can also be used to measure effort in resistance training.
To become for efficient at using the RPE scale, you need to do it consistently. Make sure you rate each one of your training sessions with an RPE rating! By doing this, you will quickly learn which training effort relates to which RPE reading and you will then become more efficient at using this method. The RPE scale is different for everybody, as mentioned above. A 4x800m @3:50 pace interval training session might be relatively easy (7 RPE) for an experienced athlete, but it may feel like hell for a novice (RPE 10)!
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