Explaining RPE

29 Apr 2020

Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is a subjective measure of exertion during exercise. At Wodly, we have added a feature to log RPE for workouts. Read more to learn how you can use RPE to track your exercise.

Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) was first developed by Gunnar Borg in 1982. While the original scale was rated from 6-20, in 2010, Borg created a new categorised scale from 0-10 (CR-10 scale). In sports and performance science, this scale is commonly used to score RPE in athletes. This concept has been used for many years to track an athletes internal feeling of exertion compared to the work done.

Imagine a sport in which many athletes complete the same training session. In this situation, a coach might track the athletes performance based on results (weight lifted, distance run, tackles made etc.), but how hard the session was on the athletes might not be immediately apparent. Looking at athletes RPE, it's possible to see the level of effort athletes had to exert to achive their stated result.

"In short, RPE can help monitor training load in athletes."

Why might this be important? Consider as a coach, you run your athletes into the ground; looking only at their results and not at their opinion of how hard they are traning. Suddenly you are confused that your athletes are not performing in competition. If you, as the coach, monitored their athletes exertion, you would see that your athletes are exhausted. In short, RPE can help monitor training load in athletes.

Let us now consider our own training. The above example shows us how in a coach-athlete relationship, RPE scores from athletes can be used to guide a coach in terms of training load. If you train on your own or programm your own workouts you are both coach and athlete.

We can all be guilty of over training and sandbagging at times. However, it can happen that we don't even realise we are doing this and both sides of this have their negatives. If you overtrain constantly, you reduce your work capacity for future sessions and increase risk of injury. If you sandbag constantly, you can lower your potential improvements by not pushing yourself. There is a sweet spot in there somewhere that involves mixing your workouts in terms of higher and lower exertion.

"It is natural to assume that you have gotten fitter or more efficent; either way, you performed better internally regarless of the score on the board. If we looked only at the score on the board, we would miss some of the picture and assume that we did not get any better."

There is no perscription that is universal for everyone as to where they need to sit on the RPE scale to avoid injury and increase fitness. The nature of everyones different fitness levels make this impossible. However, by tracking and recording RPE for your workouts, you can start to see patterns and progress in your training.

Try comparing two results for the same workout several months apart. Lets say you scored the same in both attempts but the first one you recorded an RPE of 8 (Very Hard) and in the second you recorded an RPE of 5 (Somewhat Difficult). It is natural to assume that you have gotten fitter or more efficent; either way, you performed better internally regarless of the score on the board. If we looked only at the score on the board, we would miss some of the picture and assume that we did not get any better.

RPE & Wodly

Hopefully by now you have some understanding of and belief in the value of tracking RPE. Let's talk about how you can do this in Wodly and how you can see it!

When you go to log a result for a workout on Wodly, you can now use the new RPE slider input to add an RPE value between "Nothing" (0) and "Max Effort" (10). At Wodly we have implemented the RPE scale as follows. We have compiled this list based on ease of understanding and practicality.

RPE Description
Nothing Resting, no exertion at all.
Min Effort Little effort, parely noticeable.
Very Easy Some effort, but no noticeable fatigue.
Easy Some effort, only slight fatigue.
Comfortable Moderate effort, able to breathe comfortably/little muscular fatigue.
Somewhat Difficult Moderate effort, slight loss of breath/some muscular fatigue.
Difficult High effort, loss of breath/muscular fatigue.
Hard High effort, noticeable loss of breath/high muscular fatigue.
Very Hard High effort, very out of breath/high muscular fatigue.
Very, Very Hard Extreme effort, extremely out of breath/intense muscular fatigue.
Max Effort Peak effort, you could not possibly push any harder.

Once you have started to log results with RPE on Wodly, on your Results page, you will be able to see graphs of your RPE for previous workouts as well as your current average RPE for the selected period.

RPE graphs on Results page

With the above information, you will be able to see the exertion of your training over time. You can also compare your workout results with their physical toll.

We hope you have enjoyed reading this and hope you enjoy our new feature! As always, if you have any questions or feedback, don't hesitate to reach out to us.

Ian Carey
Better. Every. Day.

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