I'm Working Hard...I Swear!

Introduction to RPE

Rate of perceived exertion is a subjective measure of how hard you FEEL you are working.  Your heart rate, if you track it, is an objective measure of how hard your body if working.  A high heart rate probably means you are working hard.  Maybe you are halfway up that hill. Or 10 reps into your jump squats. Or 3 flips into your tire flip.  If you FEEL like you are working the hardest you’ve ever worked in your entire life, and your heart rate is elevated, you’re working hard.  But, if your heart rate is at say 110BPM and you FEEL like you’re working the hardest you’ve ever worked, something doesn’t match up.  At 110BPM, for most people, this isn’t quite that hard. It’s hard, but, not drop dead from lack of oxygen hard.  At 110BPM, you’re probably able to tell me what you ate for lunch, in great detail, as you execute more of your jump squats.  And, if you’re able to talk in full and coherent sentences, you’re really not working that hard.  Here’s where RPE comes in.

(This is taken from Jason Koop’s Training Essentials for UltraRunning)

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So if you’re telling me how crappy your Monday morning was, in great detail, while you are in the middle of your jump squats, then claim to need a break because you are working at RPE 10, you’re not going to get one.  If you’re talking in sentences, your effort is more of a 4.  In which case, we need you to work harder (at least that’s the case if I’m making you do jump squats - I probably want max effort to stimulate cardiovascular changes).

Working at varying intensities serves many purposes.  And, being able to identify when you have more to give is a skill that will help you get fitter.  Your RPE may change as you get fitter because you’ll be able to do more with less effort.  In June, perhaps doing 20 jump squats felt like a 10.  Now it feels like a 6.  And, that’s my goal for you. To get you fitter so that you don’t need as much energy to kick ass!