Graphic Treatment: Team RMHC Runner's Circle

HOW DO YOU FEEL?--Monitoring the Intensity of Workouts.

Have you ever noticed how many new technical tools and “gadgets” are available to help us measure our training? Tools that monitor where we run, how far we run, how fast we run, lap times, the intensity level of our workouts, calories burned, etc. — more information than most of us can likely process during a training run.

And even the most accurate of these products needs to be calibrated correctly and requires periodic ‘adjustments’ to account for our ever-changing level of fitness and external conditions (i.e., interference from high rise buildings; cold, heat and humidity when running outdoors).

Ultimately, the best way to monitor our exertion level is based upon how we feel on a given day or during any particular workout. “How we feel” is a subjective measurement by the most important pieces of equipment we have – our bodies and our minds; and monitoring and recording “how we feel” on a consistent scale is an important means to measure our progress over time.

Scientist Gunnar Borg developed just such a scale that can be used under all circumstances to monitor how our bodies respond to the effort of a training session. His scale, based on our “perceived level of exertion” ranges from 6 – 20 with guidelines as follows:

Borg Perceived Level of Exertion Scale

6 No exertion at all
7 Extremely light
9 Very light - (easy walking slowly at a comfortable pace)
11 Light
13 Somewhat hard (It is quite an effort; you feel tired but can continue)
15 Hard (heavy)
17 Very hard (very strenuous, and you are very fatigued)
19 Extremely hard (You cannot continue for long at this pace)
20 Maximal exertion

This scale takes into account how we feel during a workout, allowing us to increase or decrease our effort level as necessary and appropriate. For example, heat and humidity raises both our effort level and our perceived level of exertion, causing a decrease in intensity. Cooler temperatures lower both our effort level and our perceived level of exertion, allowing an increase in intensity.

Long Slow Distance (“LSD”) runs should be in the range of 10 to 11 for most of the workout; tempo runs in the range of 15 – 17; speed training and short (5K – 10K) races should be in the range of 17 – 20, depending on your training, the length of the race, your goals for the race and weather conditions.

For longer races (such as a half or full marathon) our effort level and our perceived level of exertion increase with time on our feet. Given the length of time to run these endurance events, the perceived level of exertion (even when running the same pace throughout) increases in the latter stages of the event. This is why our LSD’s start slowly, allowing for ‘exertion creep’. Likewise, on the day of our half or full marathon, start with a low perceived level of exertion and adjust later in the race. We should not be in the high numbers in the early stages of an endurance event.

Learning the abilities and limits of our bodies in training serves us well. Following the Borg system is a good way to consistently judge and record what our bodies are trying to tell us during our workouts. Resistance and “not listening” to what we’re being told is futile. Ignoring the signs and symptoms puts us at risk for injury or illness.

Always listen to your body and train safely.

Coach Brendan
“Good form will carry you through”®

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