How do you Rate your Training Exertion?

How do you Rate your Training Exertion?

How do you Rate your Training Exertion?

How we perceive our Training regime will differ from everyone else and in these trying times of Isolation due to Covid-19, the disruption to group training has weakened the resolve of many trainers. Those still training may find themselves taking their foot off the accelerator and underachieving in their training sessions.

Well I know I did, and the motivation level was as low as it’s been in many years and as more Races cancelled, things started to look grim for trainers. But the advent of Virtual races and creating short challenging time trials made me think, paddling is more a lifestyle then an annual race and to be ready for a race if and when it may come back on line, you need to stay on the program but just change the GOAL Posts.

Getting back on my board and training solo again like I have done for most of my paddling years, made me rethink what I was really doing in my sessions right down to each stroke. So, with my GPS device and my thoughts on how I can improve the quality of my training sessions, straight away it made me more accountable and my motivation came back in one session. My results on my GPS device showed me that I had dropped the ball over the last month also these results gave me the motivation to get back out there the next day and I have been out most days since.

So, my message is don’t give up or lower your personal standards in training, improve your quality of training with this simple procedure I recommend.

Do you really need a heart rate monitor to tell you how hard you’re working? It turns out you probably already innately know, and that’s where the Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale comes in. Perceived Exertion is simply how hard you feel that your body is working at any given point during a workout. This includes things like heart rate, respiration, sweating, muscle fatigue, and much more. You know, all the delightful physical sensations that we experience during a workout. Using these factors to determine the amount of exertion you feel is a good estimate of your measurable variables such as heart rate (how many times your heart beats per minute) and lactate threshold (at what level of exertion your body manufactures lactic acids faster than it can flush it).

I know what you are probably thinking: “That is fine if you aren’t that serious but for my training program, I need the accuracy of a watch that can measure down to the square metre.” Well, I am here to tell you that you probably don’t. Your own sense of your exertion is nearly as accurate as using the latest tech. The trick is to have a scale to judge it by. That is where Swedish researcher Gunnar Borg comes in.

I like to use the Borg RPE 1-10 scale to tell me how hard I’m working, and I only use the watch like we all do to tell me the time (of the workout period) and speed (I’m working at).

So long before we had the GPS/ Heart rate monitors all we had is what we were born with, the sensors of feel (RPE).  You all use it every day in all movements of life, it’s our 6th sense.

The sense of feeling (RPE) controls your speed to slow down or speed up with 100% accuracy, a Heart rate monitor will only show you the results in BPM of your Rate of Perceived Exertion and mostly with a delay in upload.

So how do we best use RPE in our Training and measure our adaption in the physiological and psychological sense?

I totally believe, and see it first-hand, that trainers don’t get the full benefits of a training program without understanding the feel of their craft under their own power and seeing the results of their effort in speed.

By using the combination of the feeling of exertion and visual monitoring of those result in speed over water on a GPS, ignites the Psychological energy for maximum adaptation in your training program.

So, the best metrics for monitoring Training intensity is the use of a GPS watch for time and speed in conjunction with The Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE).

Just like when you are driving a car the feeling of your foot on the accelerator can give you the feeling of how fast your car is travel and by visually checking your Speedo you can adjust the pressure of your foot to increase or decrease speed.

It also can apply to the craft you train, set it up so that you can see your GPS device for time and speed and adjust your RPE to increase or decrease speed.

Now I hear you thinking, and I have heard it many times before, what about the current and the wind?

Yes, well that’s why training using RPE conditions the training to develop a very good feel on the water and build Stamina to adjust to the resistance of wind, tide and current and not fatigue physically and psychologically as quickly as someone that’s not as trained in using RPE as their training intensity scale.

Quality training/ Interval training is best performed in stable conditions eg Flat water with protection from wind and strong currents.

But even in the best conditions you will always find more resistance in one direction than the other.

So, to get the best development in using RPE you train half of your desired training session in one direction and half in the other direction.

This will give you an accurate average speed for the Training session as the resistance against is equal to the assistance coming back.

Eg. 1 interval set up and 1 set back or 4 km up and 4 km back.




TZ RPE (1-10)/How you feel Speed/






Purpose Physiological Adaptations
1 2-3 Very relaxed. Able to carry on a conversation Eg:







< 75%

Regeneration and recovery and establish base endurance Increase blood flow to muscles to flush out waste products and provide nutrients. Improves fat metabolism, gets muscles/tendons/ligaments/nerves used to cycling. Increases economy
2 4-5 Working. Feel warmer. Heart rate and respiration up. May sweat. Eg:


8.5-9 km/hr





Improve efficiency Improves the ability to use oxygen, produce power and increases efficiency
3 5-7 Hard work. Heart rate and respiration up. Carbon dioxide build-up. Sweating. Breathing hard. Eg:







Improve sustainable aerobic power Improves carbohydrate metabolism, changes some fast twitch muscle to slow-twitch
4 7-8 Stressed. Panting. Sweating freely –RPE 8 Very stressed. Gasping. Sweating heavily. Eg:







Push threshold up, sustain a percentage of maximal aerobic power Develops cardiovascular system and VO2max, improves anaerobic energy production and speeds turnover of waste products
5 9-10 heavily stressed. Gasping. Sweating heavily. Eg:





115% Increase sprint power output Increases maximum muscle power, develops neural control of paddling at specific stroke rate
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