RATING OF PERCEIVED EXERTION (RPE): How to run by feel


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!

WHY DO WE LOVE RPE??

For some of our advanced runners, heart rate watches are our go-to when programming some, but not all sessions. 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 supports of running by FEEL and program our sessions using RPE. 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.


Why??

  • Because we want you to leave your ego at the door

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

  • Because on race day, watches can get confused and stuff up

  • Because we don’t want to create slaves to your GPS watch

  • Because 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 than running with your eyes on your watch….


As you get fitter, stronger, faster your pace will increase as the intensity feels the same. For example, at the start of your running journey, you might run your threshold run (~RPE 6-7) at a 6:00 min/km pace. A couple of months later, you can now run 5:50 min/km but it still feels like RPE 6-7. If you were only running to your watch and disregarding feel, you might feel like you are pushing the pace too fast and cause you to pull back and train in the wrong training zone.


Similarly, several factors can make a certain pace feel harder than usual on any given day e.g. 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. This can cause you to push it too hard during a long easy run for example as you feel like you should be able to hold that 5:45 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!)


WHAT ARE THE TRAINING TYPES, AND HOW DO WE LEARN HOW THEY SHOULD FEEL?


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.







KEY TAKE HOMES:

  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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