Training by Feel, or Perceived Exertion
One of the most basic ways to measure and monitor your exercise intensity is to subjectively gauge your effort level, or perceived exertion. To help in this task, a common tool is a rating of perceived exertion (RPE) scale, such as the Borg RPE scale (6-20), as seen in table 3-2, or Borg category-ratio scale (0-10). With these scales, the exerciser subjectively evaluates how they feel during a workout and points to a number on the scale to quantify their perceived exertion level.
Table 3-2. The Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale
Lactate threshold roughly corresponds to about 16, or between a hard and very hard effort on the Borg RPE scale. With this in mind, Zone 1 falls roughly between a rating of 7 and 8 on the Borg RPE scale, or an extremely light to very light effort. Zone 2 corresponds to about 9 to 11, or very light to light. Zone 3 approximates the Borg ratings of 12-14, or a somewhat hard effort. Zone 4 corresponds roughly to 15, or a hard effort. The lactate threshold arrives at the bottom of Zone 5a, which translates to about 16, or between a hard and very hard effort on the Borg RPE scale. Now in the anaerobic range, Zone 5b corresponds to 17-18 on the Borg RPE scale, or a very hard effort (bordering on extremely hard at the upper end). Finally, Zone 5c corresponds to 19-20 on the Borg RPE scale, or extremely hard to maximal exertion.
You may find the Borg RPE scale helpful, especially if you have used it before in a health club setting. But if you are looking to “train by feel,” I imagine you are after something even simpler. Moreover, we need a way to translate the subjective evaluation of your effort into the training zones system discussed earlier and shown in figure 3-1. Figure 3-2 provides that key.
As you see in figure 3-2, now you simply have five perceived exertion levels to think about: easy, conversational, comfortably hard, uncomfortably hard, and all out. Think of these as cues for the type of pace you want to utilize.
An “easy” pace is the type of pace you would use during warmup, warmdown or recovery. You should certainly be able to talk to a training partner working out beside you, and could even break into song if you and your training partner are feeling musical. The “easy” designation corresponds primarily to Zone 1 (and maybe a bit into Zone 2).
A “conversational” pace means you should be able to hold a conversation while working out (but you should be working hard enough that singing would be somewhat difficult). Conversational pace corresponds primarily to Zone 2 (and into Zone 3).
With the “comfortably hard” pace, it should be difficult to hold a steady conversation. This is where those who like to talk while working out are relegated to abbreviated communicative efforts rather than a full-fledged conversation. The comfortably hard pace, also widely referred to as a “tempo” pace, corresponds to Zone 3 all the way into the bottom of Zone 5a. This is a wide range, but keep in mind that your comfortably hard pace will vary considerably depending upon where you are in your training. During your base building, your “comfortably hard” tempo work may be in Zone 3. As you progress through your training, your “comfortably hard” will move into Zone 4 and approach (and even cross over) your lactate threshold (the bottom of Zone 5a).
The “uncomfortably hard” pace moves you into the anaerobic range. To put it bluntly, anaerobic work can be downright uncomfortable. As running coach Joe Vigil has remarked, though, the key to going faster is to learn “to be comfortable being uncomfortable.” In any case, the “uncomfortably hard” pace takes you into Zone 5b where you would have difficulty maintaining the pace for the same length of time as a sustained tempo session at your “comfortably hard” pace. You should be able to handle this type of pace for about 5 minutes at a time before needing a well-deserved recovery period.
Finally, the “all out” effort is simply that. It is the maximum effort that you can hold for up to a few minutes at a time. The “all out” pace corresponds to Zone 5c.
By simply focusing on these five designations, you can learn to vary your intensity to target different training effects. The workouts provided in this guide prescribe intensities in terms of Zones 1-5c. If you choose to solely “train by feel” or use perceived exertion instead of heart rate, power, and/or pace, simply aim for the designations summarized in figure 3-2. But it can be helpful to triangulate your perceived exertion with heart rate and/or pace at least until you learn to accurately “feel” what these different intensity levels are like.
TRAINING GUIDE CONTENTS
– Train with a Purpose
– The ABCs of Systematic Training
– The R&R of Training
– Begin with the End in Mind
2. Exercise Science Concepts
– Overreaching and Overtraining
– Energy Systems
– Aerobic Capacity
– Lactate Threshold
– Aerobic Threshold
– Muscle Fiber Types
3. Monitor Your Training Intensity
– What is Training Intensity?
– Key Indicators of Intensity
– Using Training Zones
– Training by Feel, or Perceived Exertion
– Training with Pace
– Training with Heart Rate
– Running with Power
4. Create Your Training Plan
– Prioritizing Your Events
– Overview of the Training Phases
– Choosing Your Periodization Schedule
– Filling in the Details of the Overall Plan
5. Create Your Weekly Workouts
– Creating Weekly Schedules
– Establishing and Developing Your Base
– Building Upon Your Base
– Peaking for Your Target Event
– Race Week and Race Day Warmup
6. Functional Strength
7. Recovery and Nutrition
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