RPE Scale

What’s Included?

  • WHAT is the RPE scale?
  • HOW can you measure effort?
  • WHY is it beneficial to use RPE?
  • HOW will we use it in AIM?

What Is It?

What is the RPE scale?

The RPE scale (Rate of Perceived Exertion Scale) is a charting tool used to determine how hard or how easy a run or workout feels or should feel when completing it. The chart typically ranges from very easy (like a nice and easy stroll around the block) to extremely difficult (like an all-out sprint that can only be held for a few seconds). All movement, activities, and exercise can fall onto this scale somewhere because they all require some amount of effort. Understanding and using the RPE scale can be beneficial for a number of reasons & allows you to measure and structure your training.

How Can You Measure Effort?

You can measure effort & how a run FEELS in many ways: breathing patterns, breathlessness, whether you’re able to carry on conversation, how sustainable a pace feels, how your legs feel, your heart rate, and more. Every run and every day is different (we consume different meals, get different amounts of sleep, have varying amounts of stress, cross-training, hydration, etc.) & the RPE scale allows and accounts for this, because instead of measuring a run by pace – you’re measuring by FEEL. But WHY is it beneficial to measure effort by FEEL instead of PACE?

Why is it Beneficial?

The RPE scale takes into account the many factors that impact our running on a daily basis. Let’s look at these two different scenarios for a runner who’s fitness level is the same on both days:

Day A

Our runner woke up after being awaken by her 3 year old child 3 times throughout the night. She got approximately 4.5 hours of sleep & walks over to the window to see that it’s pouring down rain & just 38 degrees. She can’t find her gloves & frantically looks all over the place, stressing out about potentially missing her workout. She finally finds them and steps outside for her run.

Day B

Our runner gets a solid 7 hours of sleep & wakes up feeling refreshed. She walks over to the window & sees that there are clear skies & it’s a nice and perfect 53 degrees outside. She quickly gets ready and heads out the door for her run.

There are a BILLION different scenarios that we could play through, but the point remains the same – if this runner was asked to do a 30 minute tempo run, it would likely feel a WHOLE lot harder on Day A than on Day B & her pace might look very different. THAT is where the RPE scale comes in. If our runner knows that she needs to do a 30 minute tempo run at a 5-6 RPE, she can listen to her body and allow it to run at a pace that FEELS like a 5-6 difficulty level on that given day.

By giving yourself the freedom to run by FEEL, you improve as an overall runner in many ways:

  • You develop the ability to listen to your body & tune into how you feel
  • You learn how to pace yourself and push yourself & what those efforts FEEL like
  • You learn to adjust instead of quitting because you “can’t hit a pace” on a certain day

How Will We Use It?

Each run that we complete within the AIM program will have prescribed RPE ranges. This is an important piece of information to take into consideration when reading and completing a workout. Not all runs should be performed at your “extremely hard” effort – even speed workouts! By using the RPE scale, we can ensure that all runners of all levels can complete the workouts.

For example: If a workout says to run 10 minutes at a 2-3 effort (easy) and then 5 minutes at a 6-7 effort (moderately challenging), that might look very different for a runner who’s brand new to running compared to a runner who’s training for a marathon PR. Our paces may vary, but we ALL can determine what pace feels challenging or easy for ourselves personally and can therefore complete the workout at the paces that feel like a match for those effort levels.

Here’s an overview of how different AIM running workouts might fall onto the RPE scale:

EASY RUNS: Are typically done at a 1-4 RPE

MARATHON PACE: Are typically done around 5 RPE

HALF MARATHON PACE: Are typically done around 6-7 RPE

TEMPO: Are typically done around 7 RPE

THRESHOLD & LONGER INTERVALS: Are typically done around 8 RPE

5K PACE: Are typically done around 8-9 RPE

SHORT INTERVALS & SPRINTS: Are typically done around 9-10 RPE

If you need help with how to use the RPE scale at any point, feel free to reach out via email at amy@runwithaim.com. Let’s crush some runs this season!!

Amy Haas
Run with Aim, LLC
UESCA Certified Running Coach
NASM Certified Personal Trainer
NASM Certified Nutrition Coach