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RPE Rate of Perceived Exertion

Apr 20, 2012

This is a scale that measures the level of intensity or effort exerted during a cardio-vascular exercise session. The Borg Scale was established based on a 1-10 rating system. A rating of 0 would mean you are not working at all, and a rating of 10 would symbolize all-out exhaustion.

Few regular exercisers will stop exercising to take their pulse in order to figure out if they are working at their target heart rate. Many others are not physically comfortable while strapped to a heart rate monitor. And others have tried to use heart rate monitors unsuccessfully in the past, discovering that often the low to moderately priced monitors (less than $100), simple do not work well.

Do you fit into any of these categories?

Nevertheless, it is clearly beneficial to become in tune with your body and instinctively know how hard you are working during your regular cardiovascular exercise sessions. Additionally, using the R.P.E. will help you cross-train and add diversity into your cardio work-outs.

These descriptions should help you to become aware of your work effort as you learn the 10 levels that were developed through Borg’s system.

What you should be feeling at each level is listed below:

  • Level #1: This is the feeling you get when you are at rest. There is no feeling of fatigue. Your breathing is not elevated. You will not experience this at all during exercise.

  • Level #2: This is the feeling you might get while getting dressed. There is little or no feeling of fatigue. Your breathing is not elevated. You will not experience this low level while exercising.

  • Level #3: This is the feeling you might get while slowly walking across the room to turn on the T.V. There is little feeling of fatigue. You might be slightly aware of your breathing, but it is slow and natural. An unconditioned person may feel this right in the beginning of an exercise session.

  • Level #4: This is the feeling you might get while slowly walking outside. There is a very slight feeling of effort. Your breathing is slightly elevated but comfortable. You might experience this level during the initial stages of your warm-up.

  • Level #5: This is the feeling you might get while walking briskly to the store. There is a slight feeling of fatigue. You are aware of your breathing and it is deeper than in level 4. You should experience this level during your warm-up.

  • Level #6: This is the feeling you might get when you are walking briskly somewhere for more than a few isolated minutes and are very late for an appointment. There is a general feeling of fatigue, but you know that you can maintain this level. Your breathing is somewhat deep and you are aware of it beginning to feel labored. You should experience this level in the transition from your warm-up to your exercise session and during the initial phase of learning how to work at level seven or eight. This is the lowest recovery level typically usedwhile interval training during an exercise session.

  • Level #7: This is the feeling you might get as you begin to increase your exercise intensity. There is a definite feeling of fatigue, but you are quite sure you can maintain this level for the rest of your exercise session. Your breathing is deep and you are definitely aware of it as you begin to challenge yourself to work harder. You can carry on a conversation, but would probably prefer not to. This is the baseline working level that you want to achieve during an exercise session. Often you will recover at this level, during brief interval periods, while training at high intensities.

  • Level #8: This is the feeling you might get when you are exercising very vigorously and in the zone. There is a very definite feeling of fatigue, and if you asked yourself if you could continue for the remainder of your exercise session, you think you could, but are not 100% sure. Your breathing is very deep, you can still carry on a conversation, but you certainly don't feel like it. At this level you are working hard, feeling challenged and focusing on your effort by necessity. It would be difficult to read or watch TV, if exercising on cardio equipment in the gym, at this intensity level. This becomes the feeling you should experience only after you are comfortable reaching a level 7 and are ready for a more intense work-out. This is the level that produces rapid results, but you must learn how to maintain it. Exercising at this level is difficult and challenging for many people.

  • Level #9: This is a feeling that you would experience if you were exercising very, very vigorously. You would experience a higher level of fatigue and if you asked you self if you could continue for the remainder of the exercise session, you certainly could not. Your breathing is heavy and labored. It would be very difficult or impossible to carry on a conversation. This is a feeling you may experience for short periods when trying to average out at a level 8. This is the level just short of an all out sprint. It is your highest working level that you test yourself at for very short time periods. This is a level that many conditioned athletes train at and it is difficult for them. You should not be experiencing a level 9, even for short time periods, until entering the last stage or end of your working session. This is the level that will challenge you to the max and produce lots of sweat, fatigue and personal gratification.

  • Level #10: You should not experience a level 10 until the last minute of your exercise session, if at all. This is the feeling you would experience with all-out exertion. This level cannot be maintained for very long, possibly not more than 30 seconds. This is not a training level and there is no benefit in reaching it before the last few seconds of a session. It basically serves to only maximize complete cardiovascular fatigue and to show you just how hard you are capable of working. If you are running a 5K race, you may exert to this level to reach a sprint while crossing the finish line. Only avanced and well conditioned and/or professional athletes should attempt reaching this level at the conclusion of their cardio session.

Take the time to learn each level listed above. You can apply these stages of exertion to absolutely any form of cardiovascular exercise. Focus on what your body feels like as you experience each level during your exercise session. Each level equals that number X 10 to calculate your maximum heart rate. For example: a level 6 X 10 =

60% of your maximum heart rate. Remember, you are ideally striving to achieve a level 7 thru 8.5 during your exercise session. Level 7 equates to approximately 70% of your maximum heart rate, while level 8.5 equates to about 85%. Averaging at level 8 to 8.5 (80-85% of your maximum heart rate) is a challenging level to strive for during your working phase of your exercise session.


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