Measuring Intensity – Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)

In the Coventry Half Marathon training plan I have been referring to rate of perceived exertion or RPE as a measure of how hard to work during the planned fitness sessions.  Here’s a brief explanation of the scales and the method that we use with our fitness and fat loss clients at and

There are a number of RPE scales that fitness professionals get taught in personal trainer school, they are commonly based on the research of Gunnar Borg and as a result are often referred to as the Borg scales.  The rate of perceived exertion is how hard you feel your body is working, and is therefore a subjective measurement.

We prefer to use a simple scale from 1-10 to measure our personal training clients and bootcamp members workout intensity.  It is a good method to use when beginning any new exercise programme to help you build up gradually and not to try and push for world record times in your first week.  We are aiming to set the intensity at a level that is challenging enough to reach our goals, but not so hard to make us feel like our hearts will explode and our legs fall off.

The levels will vary slightly depending upon the activity, distance or time being aimed for, that is; a level 9 for 6 miles, would feel very different to a level 9 over 200m. Here is a rough guide to each level:

  1. Chilling out and lying on the beach.
  2. Taking a casual stroll around the park, you could carry on all day.
  3. Strolling with purpose, breathing a little harder.
  4. Feeling good, maybe sweating a little, you can hold a conversation.
  5. Starting to work, sweating a little more, talking is still comfortable.
  6. Good work rate, feeling slightly breathless, but can still talk.
  7. Struggling to hold a conversation, underarm taps have been turned on.
  8. Breathing heavily, the effort you would put in if a dog* were chasing you.
  9. Breathing very heavily, it’s a big dog with big teeth, heart may explode.
  10. Struggling to breath, it’s a pack of dogs; your legs might fall off.

 * No dogs were harmed during the writing of this blog :0)  I love dogs and training your dog to run with you can be a great motivational tool.  I use this example because everybody remembers being chased by a dog when they were young, if it happened or not.



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