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Updated: Apr 16

Rating of perceived exertion (RPE) is a widely used and reliable indicator to monitor and guide exercise intensity. North Shore Running & Fitness have been delivering programs using the RPE system from the word go using the 10 point Borg Scale.

You can either think of it as a score out of ten or a percentage of your maximum INTENSITY (not speed or pace).

Leave your ego and your Strava profile at the door and let's do a deep dive into why we love to run by feel!


For some of our long term runners, heart rate training zones, heart rate straps and watches are our ‘go-to’ when programming some (not all) sessions. However….

No matter how accomplished of a runner you are, knowing how different intensities feel is one of the most important skills you can learn!

We are big supporters of running by FEEL. If you have run with us before you would have heard about “huffy puffy pace” or been asked to sing the ABC on your long run.

Don’t get us wrong... We LOVE data. We love to know your accurate lactate threshold, your maximum heart rate, your training zones, your pace and so on.

We use this data more as a revision that you’re hitting the right intensities and moving the needle in the right direction, to monitor your training load and educate you on training zones and how to use them. BUT it is crucial that you learn what each training zone feels like first.


WARNING: unpopular opinion ahead…

  • We want you to leave your ego at the door

  • Not all of our runners’ race or run with a fancy watch

  • Watches can get confused, they can randomly sync with someone else, the GPS can get lost in trees and tall buildings and confuse your pace (making you look faster or slower)

  • We don’t want to create slaves to your GPS watch

  • We want your training to be driven by intensity, not pace or the need to create a name for yourself on Strava

Here’s more reasons why running by feel can be more accurate and more enjoyable than running with your eyes on your watch….

As you get fitter, stronger, and faster your pace will increase, but the intensity feels the same. For example, at the start of your running journey, you might run your threshold run (~RPE 6-7 or 60-70% of your maximum speed) at a 6:00 min/km pace. A couple of months later, you can now run 5:55 min/km but it still feels like RPE 6-7.

If you were only running to your watch, and disregarding feel, you might think you are pushing the pace too fast and pull back, which will have you training in the wrong zone.

Similarly, several factors can make a certain pace feel harder than usual on any given day. For example if you’re battling a cold, if you had a bad sleep, if it’s hot outside, if you’re stressed, if you’ve had a small break from running, if you’re carrying an injury or niggle, if it’s that time of the month, if you’re overreaching or approaching recovery week (to name a few).

This can cause you to push it too hard during a long easy run for example as you think you should be able to hold that 5:55 pace as you usually do, yet on that day your heart rate is spiking to threshold levels. You will either cut the run short because you are too fatigued, or you’ll miss out on the crucial physiological adaptations that come with low intensity running (which if you’re interested in the science behind this down to the cellular level, I will put it in another blog!)


Here is an overview of the most common sessions we program, why we do them and a few different ways to gauge that you are hitting the right intensity.


  1. It is important to learn to FEEL what each training type and training zone feels like to ensure we are getting the most out of our running

  2. Ensuring you understand the session purpose and intensity will enhance your endurance, speed, and strength as a runner.

  3. Relative effort will feel different from day to day, and week to week depending on the training phase you are in, your energy levels, stress, the weather and a myriad of other reasons.

This can be a lot to take in, we don’t want to scare you off running. All running will make you a better runner. If you’re in the ballpark of the effort goal for each workout then you’re on track! One final reminder.... Don’t let your ego get in the way of your workouts!

Do you love to run but you're not really following a plan or training consistently!? We can take care of that for you by setting you up on an annual training plan that considers your goals, events, training load, form and fitness! You just need to wake up and run! Click below to find out about our training options!

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