RPE Scales – What, When and How

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Rate of Perceived Exertion is a scale used to help athletes and coaches understand how hard something feels. Attaching breathing rate and the ‘talk test’ to the RPE helps to define the levels in addition to your qualitative ‘feel’.
In the diagram below I consider endurance to be 5-6, tempo around a 7, threshold 8-9, tt 9 and sprints/hill intervals 9-10  but remember that endurance might feel like a 7 or a 4 depending on how you feel on a day. On those great days you feel like you can pedal for ever and intervals go really well you might have a lower RPE then typical range.

For the athlete they can get an idea of how hard they should be working for an interval. This might help them decide how they are feeling and how fatigued they might be OR inform them about their chosen intensity (watts or HR) and how they might need to adjust for the day or future workouts. An example would be if the prescribed (or displayed watts on garmin) are feeling quite hard for a tempo interval (e.g. RPE 10) then we might have to adjust the days wattage down to ensure we get in the prescribed interval time (ie. usually >30min of steady intervals) .

For the coach the use of an RPE scale helps them catch over-training or, again, workout intensities that are not hard enough or too hard. This adds another layer to the data and to comments.

Try including your perceived exertion on a scale of 1-10 (or 6-20) as below.  Some athletes / coaches find one system more intuitive then the other … use the one you like !

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