“Yes, I know you’re already using a heart rate monitor, but precisely measuring your training intensity with power is the surest way to improve on the bike, plus it’s incredibly fun.”
While power meters have become an indispensable training tool since introduced nearly 30 years ago , their widespread adoption has come with a cost.
In the same way the smart phone has cannibalized much of daily life ; left unchecked, the power meter tends to devour all cycling experience in its path.
Power meters provide instant feedback on the bike and limitless opportunity for post-ride analysis, but they also introduce a destructive cycle of constant comparison and non-stop performance judgment.
In the 2020’s my pitch to athletes has changed:
One effective solution to power meter overreach is to integrate RPE into all aspects of your training.
Unlike the objective language of power, RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) is derived from our perceptions of how cycling intensity feels .
Subjective Balances Objective
If you’re quick to dismiss RPE on grounds of its subjectivity, you’re making a mistake.
While a power meter faithfully reports how hard you’re mashing the pedals, it will never account for the psychological effort involved in working hard.
If RPE had no bearing on our performance we might ignore it, but we know that when effort feels harder, our performance on the bike can suffer .
So, what does all of this mean in a practical sense? How does one integrate RPE throughout a thoughtful training plan?
There are two contexts for using RPE in your training:
“Follow the prescribed RPE in your workout”
Example: 2 X 20m efforts @ RPE 7 [3, 5].
“Record how hard a ride felt”
Example: This training session felt like an RPE 7 .
Our next step is to introduce six ways you can better understand RPE and begin integrating it into your training.
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- Foster, C., et al., 25 Years of Session Rating of Perceived Exertion: Historical Perspective and Development. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 2020: p. 1.