Nate discusses how to use RPE to get stronger on the bike


Show Notes


  1. Full-time coach in Sacramento, San Francisco, and Online.
    1. Coaching
    2. Pre-built training plans
    3. Napa Valley Training Camp
  2. Two other great coaches at DDA
    1. Matt Chatlaong
    2. Sam Bassetti

What is RPE?

  1. Rate of Perceived Exertion
  2. Subjective measure of effort/intensity

How is it used?

  1. Method of capturing the integrated physical/psychological nature of effort
    1. Record RPE for workout session
  2. Method of prescribing workout intensity
    1. 2 X 20 @ RPE 7

Classic Scale

  1. Developed by Swedish psychologist, Gunnar Borg
  2. Modeled on HR, with easy exercise around 60bpm and maximal around 200.  RPE scale from 6-20

Example of Borg Scale

Why is RPE valuable?

  1. Perception often drives reality of performance.
    1. Indoor trainer vs. outdoor race
  2. Objectivity can hold us back.
    1. Power or HR targets can be limiting
  3. Physical limits alone can’t explain endurance performance
    1. Central governor model of performance

Factors influencing RPE?

  1. Many factors can influence our perception of effort
    1. Life stress
    2. Ambient gemperature
    3. Caffeine
    4. Thirst
    5. Competition

Together with Power

  1. Captures the physical and psychological domains of performance
  2. Contributes to a sustainable method of long-term training/development

Opposites Attract

  1. Balanced and flexible use of power and RPE makes the most sense

Practical Suggestions

  1. In place of power targets on a really hot day
  2. In leu of power targets when carrying high life stress
  3. To get a break form data and constant feedback
  4. In competitive environments where numbers matter less than holding a wheel or winning
  5. When you don’t have access to a power meter


  1. Learning the language of RPE will expand your training options and help to ensure that data improves your performance rather than hold you back.

Further Reading

  1. Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance – Alex Hutchinson
  2. Noakes, T.D., Time to move beyond a brainless exercise physiology: the evidence for complex regulation of human exercise performance. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab, 2011. 36(1): p. 23-35.

From fondos to road races, learn why our cycling coaching is among the best in the industry.