Running on RPE

Why Use RPE

At Mindful Runner we favor using Rate of Perceived Exertion as a training guide. It fits in with our Mindful practice of paying attention to your body. It has also been proven as the most accurate measure of how difficult or easy a particular pace is for a runner.

Being dialed in to your effort level is the best way to pace yourself during an event of any kind. GPS watches can vary radically depending on buildings, tree cover, clouds, mountains and a lack of visible satellites. HR is a not a good indicator because of the effect of downhills and the impact of cardiac drift. Average speed can vary widely depending on terrain and gradient. An athlete who has learned to trust their own perception of effort is going to pace themselves best over any distance or event.

Monitoring your breathing is one of the best ways to begin fine tuning your Perception of Effort. Athletes are prompted to focus on breathing rates at various RPE’s. The table below is a good guide to use.

Rating of Perceived Exertion

Rating of Perceived Exertion RPE or just PE is a subjective evaluation by the athlete of just how hard they are exerting themselves. The Borg rating of perceived exertion is a scale ranging from 6 – 20 where 6 is no exertion at all and 20 is maximal exertion.

The table below show a modified Borg Scale. The modified scale is more practical from a training point of view and it’s the one we use. I have added in a Race effort and HR percentage of max for reference purposes. Race Effort is a maximum effort for the distance indicated.

Our ultimate goal is to run on Perceived Effort only. 

PE (modified Borg Scale) Race Effort HR %age of Max
1 Very light exertion. Sitting on a couch watching TV
2 Light exertion. You can maintain this for hours. Talking is easy
3
4 Moderate exertion. Breathing heavily, can hold a short conversation. Easy(MAF) 60 – 70
5 Long Steady Distance and Ultra (70km +) 70 – 78
6 Marathon 78 – 85
7 Vigorous exertion. Borderline uncomfortable, breathing heavily. Can speak short sentences. ½ Marathon 85 – 92
8 5 km 94
9 Very Hard exertion. Very difficult to maintain exercise intensity. Rapid breathing, can only speak 1 or 2 words at a time 3 km 96
10 Max exertion. Almost impossible to talk. Can only maintain for a short while. 400 m 100

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