What Is RPE and Why Develop It

What Is RPE and Why Develop It

Almost any training plan involves exercising in different heart rate zones. Most often they are calculated on the basis of maximum heart rate values. So, what are heart rate zones and how do you set them up according to your own training plan?


Basically, heart rate training zones are ranges of training intensity where a certain HR (heart rate) falls. They always involve a maximum workload, so knowing your maximum heart rate is a prerequisite for setting your heart rate zones.

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The best way is to organize the heart rate zones around two thresholds, aerobic and anaerobic. But using heart rate zones calculated based on maximum heart rate is good for beginners because it gives them a general vector of development and an understanding of how the body reacts to different loads.


Even with a small margin of error in calculating the zones, this breakdown will be enough for beginners to learn not to go overboard with training intensity, which is exactly what is needed in the first 2-3 years of training.

Where to Start

Strictly speaking, to determine your aerobic and anaerobic threshold, you need to go to a sports lab and get tested on a treadmill. Of course, such labs aren’t always available, and the test itself is expensive. But if you’re training for a specific result, it makes sense to take such a test and tune your heart rate zones based on its results.


For those who are just beginning their journey to a healthy lifestyle after looking at the fastest athletes being on the tops of bet Uganda users, you can use the two-zone classification proposed by the American Heart Association:

  • Moderate-intensity workouts: 50-70% of maximum heart rate.
  • High-intensity exercise: 70-85% of maximum heart rate.


If you have led a sedentary lifestyle and decide to start a new life full of sports, consult your doctor first. Then start working out in a moderate zone. As you gradually increase your activity, you can train periodically in the high-intensity zone.

What Are Low-intensity and High-intensity Workouts?

As we increase the intensity of our workouts, the body changes the way it gets energy. At low intensity, the body mainly uses oxygen (aerobic mode) to convert fat into energy.


This process is slow, so at high intensity, when the body needs energy quickly and we need speed, the body focuses on converting carbohydrates into energy. This doesn’t require oxygen, so this mode is called anaerobic.


Logically, high-intensity workouts are more tiring for the body and should be approached gradually and cautiously. Too much high-intensity training started too early can cause progress to stall and put the athlete on a plateau for a long time. Progress will only be made if the rule is followed: first the aerobic base (which is low intensity training) and then the speed (high intensity training).

Evaluating Exercise on a Rating Scale

The RPE, or perceived exertion score, is a scale used to determine the intensity of your workout based on your level of exertion. The RPE scale typically ranges from 0 to 10, where zero means literally no effort at all (you’re lying on the couch) and 10 is the heaviest effort you can barely handle.


For example, an RPE of 7/10 means that you should be at about a 7 out of 10 in terms of perceived exertion. That’s about 70% of your maximum effort.


An RPE is a subjective assessment of how physically and mentally hard something is for you during that particular workout on that particular day. The same effort on different days may be perceived as harder or easier – due to fatigue, illness, weather, etc.


Even mental fatigue makes a workout harder. That’s why RPE is commonly used as one of the indicators among the many tools to help optimize training.

Why Use RPE?

If your workout plan specifies a target pace or heart rate zone, RPE provides a more versatile scale for measuring physical exertion.


Another benefit of RPE is that it gives you the ability to check more objective metrics such as heart rate or power. There are always workouts where your usual pace, power, or heart rate don’t match how you feel.


Think of the days when tempo training for effort seemed like an all-out sprint! That’s where the RPE can come in handy – as supplementary information.


If you develop a sense of effort for each training zone, you can spend less time looking at the clock display. You’ll have more time to feel your activity. You will learn to listen.


Developing RPE for each of your workout zones will help you with your heart rate monitor. You can set it to alert you when you are above or below your heart rate for the zones you plan to train in.

How to Know What Your RPE Is?

The original RPE, or perceived Borg Stress Scale, was created for cyclists. Its values were broken down from 6 to 20 (corresponding to a heart rate of 60 to 200).


The idea was this: if you add zero to perceived exertion, you get an approximate heart rate. For example, a score of 12 on this scale would correspond to a heart rate of about 120 bpm. On the Borg scale, this is considered “fairly easy” activity – such as brisk walking.


In the 1960s, this scale was changed to a more understandable scale of 0 to 10, but the recommendations still apply.


Right now, the social network Strava is actively using RPE as a metric to add to your workouts. Here’s how they define the scale from 0 to 10:

  • Easy (1-3): can speak normally, breathe naturally, feel comfortable.
  • Moderate (4-6): can speak in short phrases, breathing is difficult but within your comfort zone.
  • Heavy (7-9): can barely speak, breathing is heavy, you are uncomfortable.
  • Maximum (10): at or slightly above your physical limit, gasping for air, unable to speak.


The most correct method of forming your heart rate zones is to break them down relative to two thresholds: aerobic and anaerobic. What these thresholds are and why they are so important will be discussed in the next article.

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