What is RPE in Running? The Power of Perceived Effort 2024!

As a runner, I’ve always found it incredibly useful to tap into RPE during my training. You might ask: What is RPE in running? Rate of Perceived Exertion is a dynamic method that has greatly enhanced the way I understand my body’s response to different running intensities. RPE is essentially my internal gauge that measures the effort I exert during a run, and it’s completely subjective, which means it adapts to my personal fitness level and daily condition.

A runner's perceived exertion (RPE) in running, shown by a scale of 1-10, with a runner on a path, breathing heavily

Running by RPE encourages me to listen to my body’s cues more closely than I would by just sticking to the numbers on a heart rate monitor or a stopwatch. This tool isn’t about being high-tech or crunching data; it’s about interpreting how heavy my breathing is, the degree of muscle burn I feel, and even my mental engagement during a run. It’s pretty empowering to know that I can manage and personalize my running intensity based on what my body is telling me, all thanks to the insight provided by RPE.

RPE: Understanding the Basics

I can’t wait to share some fundamental insights on RPE, especially considering its pivotal role in running. RPE stands for Rate of Perceived Exertion, and it’s all about gauging the intensity of your workout.

Defining RPE and Its Importance

In the realm of fitness, my understanding of RPE has been instrumental in monitoring and adjusting the intensity of my runs. Perceived exertion refers to how hard I feel my body is working during exercise. It’s a subjective measure, meaning it’s based on my personal feelings of exertion rather than objective data like heart rate. The importance here is immense because it allows me to train at the proper intensity based on my fitness level and goals.

The Borg Scale: Original and Modified

When I mention the Borg Scale, I’m referring to a renowned system developed by Swedish scientist Gunnar Borg. His original scale, the Borg RPE Scale, ranges from 6 to 20, where each number correlates with a certain level of exertion; for example, 6 means no exertion, while 20 denotes maximal exertion.

The brilliance of Gunnar Borg’s work didn’t stop there. He later introduced the Borg CR10 Scale, commonly known as the Modified RPE Scale. This version simplifies the range to 0-10, with:

  • 0 indicating no exertion
  • 10 representing maximal effort
Scale NumberDescription
0No exertion at all
1Very light
2-3Light
4-5Moderate
6-7Vigorous
8-9Very hard
10Maximal exertion

This scale is fantastic because it translates my workout efforts into numbers I can easily record and track over time. It aids in creating a workout plan that is finely tuned to respond to the day-to-day fluctuations in my energy levels and overall physical condition.

A runner wearing a heart rate monitor, breathing heavily, and sweating while running on a treadmill

Applying RPE in Running Training

Understanding how to leverage the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) in my running training has been a game-changer. It gives me control over the intensity of my workouts and helps balance effort with recovery. Now, let me guide you through incorporating this valuable tool into your workouts and how to balance it with other crucial training metrics.

Incorporating RPE into Workouts

When I plan my week, I consider RPE as a critical part of my workout. For example:

  • Easy Runs: RPE 2-4. These should feel relaxed, allowing conversation with minimal effort.
  • Tempo Runs: RPE 6-7. A comfortably hard pace that I can sustain for a notable period.
  • Intervals: RPE 8-9. High intensity, pushing close to max speed but not all-out sprints.
  • Long Runs: RPE 5-6. Steady, but I make sure it’s sustainable for the duration.

By assigning RPE levels to different workouts, I ensure a varied and effective training load. I also make use of an RPE chart to quickly reference the intended intensity before I head out the door.

Boat Interior Design what is RPE in running, girl on track training with this method
by Pinterest

Balancing RPE with Other Metrics

While RPE is an intuitive guide, I find it beneficial to balance it with measurable metrics:

  • Heart Rate Zones: By comparing my RPE to my heart rate data, I get a clearer picture of my effort level. For example, an RPE of 4 should align with my zone 2 heart rate, indicating a true recovery effort.
  • Pace and Speed: During specific training blocks—like marathon pace work or speed work—I align my pace with how the effort feels. If the intended marathon pace feels too easy (RPE 4 rather than 6), I adjust to ensure I’m hitting the right training stimulus.

This multi-faceted approach allows for accuracy and adjustment based on feedback from my body and my performance data. By synchronizing RPE with metrics like heart rate and pace, I can optimize each workout for my training gains.

RPE in Practice: Real-World Applications

Delving into the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) holds the potential to revolutionize my training, creatively weaving in the way I listen to my body and approach different distances.

Listening to Your Body: Subjectivity in Training

When adopting RPE in my routine, the shift from rigid to fluid becomes apparent. Gone are the days of slavish adherence to my heart rate monitor; now, I tune into how my body feels. This subjective measure lets me acknowledge daily variables like muscle fatigue, sleep quality, and stress. On days when I’m feeling particularly spry, what I might categorize as a moderate effort could feel easy, which means I can push a little harder without the risk of overtraining. Conversely, if I hit the pavement and my legs are heavy, my breath labored, that’s my cue to throttle back.

By maintaining a training diary where I record not just my pace but also my RPE alongside external factors such as weather and terrain, I gain insights far richer than numbers alone could provide. It’s not just about sweating more on a hot day or the extra exertion needed when I’m facing an unforgiving hill—listening allows for training compatible with my current physical condition.

From Sprinters to Marathoners: RPE Across Distances

When it comes to varying running distances, RPE becomes a versatile player in my arsenal. For short, sharp activites like interval sprints, RPE helps me monitor the crucial difference between hard effort and tipping into the red zone. As I explode forward with each burst, I focus on reaching that sweet spot—high enough RPE to boost my VO2 max, but not so high that I can’t finish my set.

Conversely, with endurance runs or marathon prep, the goal is to find a sustainable effort—where the conversation is possible, and injury is kept at bay. Maintaining a steady RPE that aligns with a threshold or cruise interval allows me to build endurance without undue risk of dehydration or fatigue. Tracking how this effort feels over weeks, I can see my progress as the same effort gradually feels easier—a clear sign that my endurance and physical condition are improving.

Evolving with RPE: Advancement and Recovery

I’ve always found Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) to be a thrilling way to both amplify my performance and smartly navigate recovery. With RPE, I feel empowered—guiding my training intensity based on how I subjectively perceive my effort levels.

Enhancing Performance through RPE

In sharpening my performance, I use the RPE scale during various runs, from tempo to high-intensity intervals. My subjective feedback melds with the data from my heart rate monitor to discern the perfect intensity for each session. I’ve learned to listen to my body cues—like breathing rate, sweating, and muscle fatigue—to alter my training load responsively.

  • During resistance training, I ensure I’m pushing my muscles just enough by staying in tune with the effort I feel, aiming not to cross into overexertion territory.
  • When gearing up for races, I align my peak with tapering, so my excitement and energy levels are sky-high.
  • I keep a close check on my recovery pulse, leveraging insights I gather while warming up or cooling down to tailor subsequent workouts.

Mitigating Risks and Promoting Recovery

My RPE-informed strategy is equally crucial for mitigating risks and fostering recovery. Here’s what helps me come back stronger every time:

  • I track my fatigue and sleep quality to adjust my training load and prevent overtraining.
  • Understanding my fitness level, I cool down effectively after a bout of hard exertion, ensuring my heart rate gradually falls back to normal.
  • Life’s stressors, even my menstrual cycle, affect my RPE, so I tweak training sessions to be gentler when I’m more susceptible to stress.
  • Cardiovascular training isn’t always about going hard; sometimes, I take pulse-checking easy runs for a spin to recover while keeping the momentum.

My personal excitement for RPE is what makes my running journey so dynamic. It’s an individualized approach that allows me to understand my body intimately and race smart.

Frequently asked questions about what is RPE in running

How do I calculate my RPE for running?

To calculate your RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) for running, assess how hard you feel your body is working on a scale of 1 to 10. Factors include breathing rate, sweating, and muscle fatigue. No equipment is needed; it’s based on your subjective feeling.

What does a 7 RPE mean?

A 7 RPE in running indicates a high intensity level where conversation becomes difficult, and you’re pushing beyond a comfortable pace. It’s challenging yet sustainable for a short duration, typically associated with tempo runs or vigorous effort.

What is the RPE for runners?

RPE for runners is a subjective measure to gauge exercise intensity without relying on heart rate monitors or other gadgets. It helps runners adjust their pace based on perceived effort, ensuring training is effective and tailored to their fitness level.

What is the RPE of 6?

An RPE of 6 for runners signifies a moderately hard effort where you can talk in short sentences. It’s a comfortable pace for steady-state runs, ideal for building endurance and aerobic capacity without overexerting.


Do you now know the answer to your question: “What is RPE in running”? Make sure to also read about CrossFit Track Workouts or Running Endurance Workouts.

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