Continuing the theme of discussing things that are partially rehab related but worthy of wider interest and consideration, a recent article on Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) got me thinking (yep, I know that's always dangerous isn't it!). People often turn their nose up at RPE; afterall all it's been around for ages, it's really simple, doesn't involve tech and therefore it can't be of much use... or can it? In an age where we are obsessed with technology and gadgets it's actually quite refreshing to consider something really simple. If we are so inclined we measure everything from how well we slept, how stressed we are, how many steps we took and where we took them GPS tracking and then we share this to compare and contrast with others and put it out there for debate, encouragement, motivation or just to swell our egos. Ultimately technology does everything but run, cycle or walk for us. This does seem somewhat ironic given it is that same modern technology that has us tied to our desks and enables us to lead such sedentary lifestyles too. Does any of this sound familiar? The chances are you have a Strava account, no? Just saying...!
|Wearable technology - nothing new but ever advancing|
Don't get me wrong, I embrace this technology as much as the next person and I'm always interested when another gadget is launched, but often from a point of view of can it really measure that metric accurately, does it add anything to a previous iteration or more importantly can it add value to health, wellbeing or training. There are perhaps two groups of people out there - those that like to track information and those that don't. For those that don't the challenge is to get something down on paper, for those that do the goal is to keep track of what is actually meaningful and think about how it adds to the bigger picture.
RPE makes things naturally simple (unless you overthink it). It's literally rating how you feel when you cycle, run, swim, sprint, canoe... Harness that memory - the sooner this is done the better, I'm sure we can all relate to struggling through a really tough session on our hands and knees but after a hot shower, a cup of coffee and a slice of cake we're rejuvenated enough to think that it wasn't that bad afterall.
|RPE on a 1 - 10 scale|
There are several iterations of RPE scoring out there and there is nothing wrong with choosing one over another - as long as you are clear about what the numbers relate to and use them honestly. I've previously used the Borg Scale of 6 - 20, which primarily maps against heart rate - 6 = a resting HR of 60bpm (so no exertion) and 20 = a maximal heart rate of circa 200bpm (maximal exertion). I have found that people often struggle to report an accurate number against this, especially if they are new to exercise, find it hard to quantify how they are actually feeling or are perhaps embarrassed at how hard they are finding it.
Professor Carl Foster put forward a range from one to ten, which for some might be simpler. For example on a scale to one to ten, easy exercise would be around one to three, threshold would be eight to ten, and tempo and Sweetspot would been the middle. Obviously this will change over time - when you are starting out and perhaps attempting tempo for the first time it might actually feel like eight out of ten or even higher. The key is what is normal for you. The simplicity of RPE means that you can track it alongside other variables, for example power output, heart rate or pacing in running. If after a twelve week block of training your heart rate is 10bpm lower for a given power output and you are reporting two points lower on the RPE scale then you've achieved some aerobic adaptation.
|Achieving flow state|
It might also change how you feel out on a ride, especially during the off season, its a nice opportunity to bank some base miles and build your endurance back up without constantly having your attention pulled to your Garmin every couple of minutes. If you know that an endurance session should feel like one to three (realistically nearer three) out of ten then the odd glance to check that your heart rate is where you would expect it to be should suffice. Why not give it a try; go and see if you can find that flow state, enjoy pedalling in your surroundings and appreciate what is happening around you rather than making yourself unnecessarily 'busy' by watching the numbers. It's a really important skill to be able to ride on feel, practice pacing and appreciate the art as well as the science of a good session. Afterall, there may be a day when technology fails you - the only lost session is the one that you didn't do. Yes, it's disappointing not to have that data to reflect on, especially if you think that you executed something particularly well or nailed every interval but your body still did that session and nobody can take those physiological benefits away from you!
|Exploring new places is a great way to put riding to RPE into practice|