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Rate of Perceived Exertion

What is this again?: It's not Relative Perceived Effort....

It's Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)

RPE is a way for coaches and athletes to regulate their training intensity.

On a coaching level RPE can be a way to gain an understanding of an athlete’s level of exhaustion, plus what they have left in the tank.

As a continuing athlete, you can learn about your level of exertion and apply that knowledge to your training to make sure you are getting the desired stimulus from the training and conditioning workout. Accurately using an RPE scale correlates to understanding training heart rate, percentage of VO2max and breathing rate (think biking with a full facemask on).  In our world a 60s max calorie row or bike would be a 9-10.  Whereas a 15 minute AMRAP, would probably be a 7-8.   A Warm up may only be a 4 or 5.

Guess what, most people have no clue what their pacing, % of max effort, or RPE levels are, until they have repeatedly practiced and gained experience using this scale. 

Here is a breakdown of the levels with some examples to go along with Chesty's notes on the front board.

1 – Sitting on the couch resting, watching Survivor

2 – Gentle Walking

3/4 - Light warm-up activity or light weight that could be considered active recovery like 50% effort.

5 & 6 – Beyond your warm up where your getting sweaty. A little bit of heavy breathing but still can maintain short conversations with the group. BUT – not yet uncomfortable.

7 & 8 – Borderline uncomfortable, but you can keep it for a little while. Fitness Industry would consider it “Vigorous Activity”. Here you should be able speak short sentences but maybe not in a row. HR should be 80-90% MHR.

9 – Rogue has the Echo/Assault Bike. We have them.  Ever tried a 30Cal or 90s sprint on one?  It’s very challenging to keep this intensity up and maintain your pace. You are working harder and harder, but only getting worse and worse.

10- Maximum Intensity and Effort. This pace is impossible to keep for very long, and you cannot speak to others. Have you ever seen an athlete rolling back and forth on the ground flailing and doing head and hand gestures for water, help, or yes/no? This is level 10.

11- You’re dead


Strength Training

is a bit different, though it can still work.  However,  ReactiveTrainingSystems have come up with a much more useful chart to work off of. Coincidentally, this is great when we are asking you to work up to a specific number of reps and how it should “feel” as opposed to % based work.



Some basic tips for beginners:


Don’t run a 5k @ 10

Don’t warm up @ 2, warm up @ 5 (or even higher if called for) for the majority of the warm up.

Normally, the shorter the workout, the higher the RPE level should be. *But always listen to your coach.