Rate of Perceived Effort/Exertion (RPE)

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Rate of Perceived Effort/Exertion (RPE). If you have a heart rate monitor then you can be very exact. Most people don’t and you have to FEEL it. There are 5 different zones and 10 levels to rate your effort/exertion:


Zone 1 is a super easy effort, probably a 4/10 on the RPE.  It’s so easy that you should feel ‘guilty’ when you are done. You don’t think you went hard enough; it didn’t feel like a workout; you don’t think there was any benefit because it felt too easy, etc. If you have these types of thoughts after a Zone 1 workout, then congratulations, you are doing it right!

Zone 2 is a bit more complicated, as it should feel pretty easy, at least in the beginning. But you should feel as though you have to work if you’ve been doing this several hours. You may even see cardiac drift towards the end of this workout. How easy is easy for Zone 2? I would recommend somewhere around 5-6/10 on the RPE scale. You should be able to hold a conversation for the duration of this workout, and I mean being able to talk in full sentences, not 1 or 2 word gasps.

Zone 3 gets a little gray, and literally it is a ‘gray zone’. You typically aren’t going easy enough to get the benefits of a nice easy effort and you aren’t going hard enough to get the benefits of a ‘Race Pace’ type workout. This is an effort of about 7/10 on the RPE scale.  It is the low end of your aerobic zone and you can talk in one to two word answers.

Zone 4  is where you have burning legs and lungs and you can’t keep the effort up for much more than an hour. And yes, you have to be pretty fit to keep this effort up for an hour, but by definition, your threshold is an effort you can manage for one hour. You know when you are in Zone 4 as your breathing is labored, your arms and legs get very heavy and all you want to do is stop. This effort is 8-9+ on the RPE scale.

Zone 5 is for shorter efforts and these are usually 9+ to 10 type of efforts on the RPE scale. These efforts may last from a few seconds to a few minutes maximum. This zone is out of your comfort zone and is beneficial in so many ways.  It is where change happens in your body. Build the strength of your lungs and your heart. Increases your red blood cells and increases your threshold for lactic acid tolerance.

RPE Scale

RPE       HR                    Description
Zone      Zone
0               Z1                 Complete Rest
1                Z1                 Very easy; light walking
2                Z1                 Very easy; light walking
3                Z1                 Very easy; walking
4                Z1                 Still easy, maybe starting to sweat
5                Z2                 Starting to work just a little and you can feel your HR rise
6                Z2                 Upper Working but sustainable, able to talk in full sentences
7                 Z3                 Strong effort; breathing laboured, bottom of the aerobic zone
8                 Z4                 Effort to maintain control over breath, top of the aerobic zone, just under  anaerobic
9                 Z5                 Working very hard, takes you into anaerobic breathing, this is out of your comfort zone
10               Z5                 Maximum effort that you cannot hold more than a minute or two

10 reasons Spinning is one of the best workouts ever

By James S. Fell | Chatelaine – Tues. Nov 27, 2012

Spinning is a popular brand name and though all Spinning classes are indoor cycling classes, not all indoor cycling classes are Spinning classes-are you with me? This winter give your body the exercise it deserves by adding these intense workouts to your routine. Here’s my 10 reasons why:

1. They’re more fun than most classes
Okay, this is just my opinion. Also, I’m a terrible dancer, so Zumba would be a major challenge for me.  Still, I’ve experimented with quite a few fitness classes, and I’ve found that indoor cycling is always the most fun, has the highest energy levels, and the most passionate participants. It’s one of the toughest workouts you can get.

2. It has practical applications
Being in good shape from other fitness classes can certainly make your cardiovascular fitness, strength and flexibility better, which all transfer over in a positive way to daily living. But indoor cycling classes make you a better cyclist. If you like hitting the roads and paths in the nicer months of the year, indoor options can keep you trained.

3. They’re full of other eager exercisers
You often have to get to classes early to get a good spot, or one at all. This is a good thing. It’s motivating to know that you have to be on time or you’ll miss out, and who wants to be in a class that’s half empty? When the class is full of hardworking people, who all really want to be there, it makes it more fun.

4. Everyone has their own space
In a crowded fitness or yoga class, where people are dancing around or stretching to high moon, you can run into one another or have people’s toes far too close to your face. Put dumbbells into the mix, and it’s a recipe for a personal-space disaster. With indoor cycling, everyone has their own bike, and you never crash into your fellow exerciser. Things can get sweaty however so having a towel on hand is a good idea.

5. It burns a lot of calories
The number of calories burned depends on your body weight, so let’s do some quick math. This is rough, but if you take your weight in pounds, and multiply that by 0.4, that’s how many calories you burn per hour just living. If you weigh 150 pounds you’ll burn 60 calories an hour on the couch. Trade that couch for a stationary bike and the numbers go way up.

Moderate effort means you multiply those 60 calories by 7, for a total of 420 calories burned per hour. Go at a hard effort, and you can multiply it by 10, for a total burn of 600 calories per hour (remember, this is a rough calculation for a woman weighing 150 pounds).

6. It can give you a great looking butt and legs
When you’re going hard, mimicking hill training, it goes beyond aerobic training and makes the larger muscle fibers work, developing excellent muscle tone. Though cycling is waist-down exercise you’ll still want to do something for your upper body.

7. You train the mid-range energy system
Uh, what? I hear you say. Weightlifting trains for short-burst power, and steady-state aerobic training is cardiovascular exercise. In cycling classes there are lots of periods of one or two minutes of massive effort, which trains the mid-range (glycolysis) energy system or the sugar-burning range. This is great for getting quick results. I find this type of interval training also great for downhill skiing.

8. You can make friends
“It is consistently the same group of people coming to my classes. Some of the people have been in these classes for 10 years and have developed close friendships as a result.” When something becomes fun you’re much likelier to stick with it, and that’s what we’re working towards.

9. The instructors are awesome
Maybe not all of them are awesome, but I’ve found indoor cycling attracts a certain breed of instructor who treats every class like a performance and it becomes almost like participatory theatre. They make it as fun as they possibly can and it’s one of few classes I’ve been to where people are encourage to hoot and holler.

10. No one knows how hard you’re working
Don’t be intimidated if the classes you see are filled with very fit people. Everyone’s got to start somewhere and the joy of cycling is you work at your own pace – only you know what tension your bike’s at. Be careful that you don’t keep the tension so loose that your legs whip around too fast – that can cause injury – but know that you get to decide how much you crank the bike tension based on what you feel you can tolerate. No one else will know if you’re dogging it or pushing to the wall.

If you’re a beginner, look for shorter or beginner classes to ease your body into this vigorous workout. Arrive early and get help setting your bike up.

Proper cycling technique is about focusing on pushing the pedals and maintaining good form.

Tabata Intervals – High Intensity Training Intervals

Go for Broke with Tabata Intervals

Matt FitzgeraldTriathlete magazine

What can you possibly accomplish in just four minutes on the bike? A lot, actually. All you have to do is ride as hard as you can. Better yet, instead of riding as hard as you can for four straight minutes, ride at your true maximum power-output level in several short bursts, resting just long enough between bursts to avoid a precipitous decline in power output from one burst to the next.

What will this hellishly challenging four-minute session accomplish? It will boost your aerobic and anaerobic capacity simultaneously, increase your fatigue tolerance and lead directly to improved cycling performance in triathlons.

The session I just described is known as the Tabata protocol. It is named after Izumi Tabata, Ph.D., a former researcher at Japan’s National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kanoya, who learned about the workout from the coach of the Japanese national speed-skating team.

Specifically, the session consists of six to eight maximum-intensity sprints lasting 20 seconds apiece, with mere 10-second passive recovery periods between them. The session is so challenging and painful that most of the world-class speed skaters who were lucky enough to be the first to try it were totally exhausted after seven intervals. Only a handful could do eight.

Intensity vs. Duration

Tabata’s primary research interest was the effects of exercise intensity on fitness. Through his work he came to believe that exercise intensity was at least as important as, if not more important than, exercise duration. So when he heard about a workout that packed two minutes and 40 seconds of maximum-intensity work into a four-minute period (and that’s for those who could do eight intervals), he was intrigued.

To test the effects of this workout, Tabata first transferred it from speed skating to stationary bikes. Then he recruited subjects and had them perform the protocol five times a week for six weeks. At the beginning and again at the end of the study period, Tabata and his team measured the subjects’ VO2 max and their anaerobic capacity. To provide a basis for comparison, Tabata conducted a second experiment in which subjects pedaled stationary bikes for one hour at a moderate intensity (70 percent of VO2 max) five days a week for six weeks. Their VO2 max and anaerobic capacity were also measured before and after the intervention.

The results were staggering. Subjects in the moderate-intensity exercise trial improved their VO2 max by a healthy 9.5 percent, while their anaerobic capacity did not change at all. Subjects in the maximum-intensity intervals trial—despite exercising for only 20 minutes per week, compared to five hours per week for the other group—improved their VO2 max by 14 percent and their anaerobic capacity by a whopping 28 percent.

Needless to say, this study got a lot of attention when it was published back in 1996, and coaches and athletes began to adapt the protocol to sports ranging from swimming to boxing. Virtually everyone who tried the Tabata protocol made the same report: It was excruciatingly painful, but it was effective.

I learned about Tabata intervals from Brian MacKenzie, owner of Genetic Potential, a fitness facility in Newport Beach, California. MacKenzie trains a number of triathletes and incorporates stationary-bike and treadmill Tabata sessions into the program of all who are willing to endure the suffering these workouts entail. An ultra-runner himself, MacKenzie credits his own twice-weekly Tabata sessions with enabling him to improve his performance on a training schedule averaging only 6.5 hours per week, and he says his triathlete clients have reported similar benefits.

The Setup

If you think you have what it takes to survive the Tabata protocol, set up your indoor trainer and warm up with a few minutes of easy spinning followed by a few short (10- to 20-second) efforts at 90 percent of maximum intensity at increasing tension levels. Reset your computer to zero so you can record the total distance covered in the following 20-second intervals alone. You will try to increase this total each time you repeat the workout.

To perform your first interval, simply churn out the highest wattage total or perceived effort you possibly can for 20 seconds. You can stay in the saddle or get out of the saddle and use whatever combination of gear ratio and cadence that works best. After 20 seconds have elapsed, stop pedaling for 10 seconds—and 10 seconds only. Now do your second interval. Do not expect to be able to do more than six intervals in your first attempt. Cool down with just a few minutes of easy spinning.

If you’re like a lot of triathletes, you will be tempted to incorporate this session into a longer workout. Don’t. If you do more than a warm-up beforehand, you will fall apart completely after just a few intervals, and while you will still be giving a maximum effort, you will not be working at your true maximum output level, and that’s what counts. And you simply won’t be able to even think about doing anything more than a short cool-down after completing your Tabata intervals.

There are two approaches you can take to incorporating the Tabata protocol into your regular training. One option is to do the session regularly—from once every 10 days to as often as twice a week—during the base-building period of training to quickly and efficiently boost your aerobic and anaerobic fitness. Continue to do the session regularly until your performance (i.e. your maximum total distance covered) within the session stops increasing and levels off, and then turn your focus to more race-specific types of high-intensity workouts. Henceforth just do the session whenever you feel the need for a good blast.

A second option is to use the Tabata protocol primarily as a time-saver. Whenever you’re pressed for time but you still want to get the fitness benefits of a solid workout, toss in a Tabata and have it both ways.

Active Expert Matt Fitzgerald is the author of several books on triathlon and running, including Brain Training for Runners and Runner’s World Performance Nutrition for Runners (Rodale, 2005).

Inspiration # 3 – Add a dash of sweetness and a sprinkle of love

I am one of the worst cooks you have ever met.  I have a secret to share that will help make EVERYTHING taste better.

When I make food for my family or guests, I ALWAYS add a dash of sweetness and a sprinkle of love.  They are the most important ingredients.  Seems to cover up my inability and even earns me some compliments and thank yous.  Next time you are making something, try it out.  Like a Pepsi taste test.  I bet your eaters can taste the difference.

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