How to Measure Exercise Intensity?

Posted on 01 October 2012


As you train you will want to guage the amount of exertion based on the type of exercise you are performing.  As a Triathlete in Training, there are a ton of training articles that use the Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion… or simply put: RPE, Rate of Percieved Exertion, to indicate how intense the exercise should be.

The scale is a scale of 0-10. Some simplify it by using a modified version on a scale of 1-5, but I like to use the universal RPE scale.

So what is the Rate of Percieved Exertion?

The RPE scale is used to measure the intensity of your exercise. The RPE scale runs from 0 – 10. The numbers relate to a scale on how easy (0) or difficult (10) you find an exercise.

0 – Nothing at all
1 – Very light
2 – Light
3 – Moderate
4 – Somewhat heavy
5 – Heavy
7 – Very heavy
10 – Very, very heavy

If we were to do a 30 minute time trial to g measure Heart Rate for Heart Rate Training, I would have you run a 30 minute time trial where the first 10 minutes would be at an RPE of 5-6… You’d rapidly increase to a 7 and try very hard to maintain an RPE of 8-10 (which is rare) for the last 20 minutes of the TT.

At the end of the TT you would have to feel like you gave it everything you had… you gave it ‘your all’. If you were running a race, crosing the finish line and leaving it all at the finish line is what you will need to accomplish a TT with an RPE of 10.

This is a tough-though challenge but that gives you an indication of what a 10 is like.

RPE is a measure of everything you do – it’s what’s happening now – you’re sitting there reading this blog post. If you stand up that might be a 2 and if you repeat the process over and over you might, eventually hit a 4 or 5 with a HR reaching a below average rate if you do this ‘exercise’ moderately.

More on heart rate training zones later.

So if you see me reference RPE in other articles and blog posts – you’ll know what it is.

For more on RPE reverence the offical Borg Rating of Percieved Exertion chart visit The Center of Disease Control and Prevention website: “Rate of Percieved Exertion

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