The completely (un)official CHP RPE scale for endurance training

The finish of a well paced 10 mile race

Here at Complete Human Performance, we aim to provide the most cutting edge, scientific, yet immediately applicable and practical information to our athletes and followers.  The following RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) scale for endurance activities may prove useful to yourself or your colleagues:

1/10: This doesn’t feel like exercise at all. It is actually challenging to keep your heart rate and activity level this low. If you are not careful, moss will start growing on the leeward side of your body. You may be mistaken for shrubbery. If you’re not paying attention, you may become involuntarily mummified by the elements before completing your chosen activity.

2/10: Oh look, you’re moving. This is somewhere between “recovery” pace and “catatonic”. When you were three years old and played the “who can run slower” game, this is the pace you adopted, shortly before running past the other kid and smacking them in the head while shouting “Ok, you win”.

3/10: This is a recovery/slow pace. You can actively recover while maintaining a modicum of speed. Even if you have just sprinted to the point of near-vomiting and loss of bladder control, you can still technically push yourself to a 3/10 and keep going. 3/10 is like the jello of exercise. There’s always room for it, it helps get rid of the burn, and is made from cow hooves.

4/10: This is still “breathe through your nose” pacing, though I don’t recommend anybody ever do this as an actual test because this is a recipe for scattering snot rockets all over the front of your shirt. You’re moving here, but it doesn’t take much effort. Mentally, you can easily zone out, just don’t think about how much you owe in taxes this year or whether or not you remembered to lock the front door or the irrevocable march of climate change (whether man made or natural) and how your children’s children will inherit a world devoid of much of today’s natural beauty- those things may cause you to either inadvertently enter zone 5, or quit everything and go live in the mountains.

5/10: This is a warm up pace, you can remain here for several hours if you loathed yourself enough to do so, but you’re actually working a bit. 5/10 is where your coach typically recommends you stay during cool down but nobody ever does- the best way to determine if you are at RPE 5 is to try the “speak in full sentences” test. If you can speak in a full sentence, you can probably push a LITTLE harder, but should be right on the threshold. Another test you can do is the “Hook, by Blues Traveler” test. If you can get through “Suck it in, suck it in, suck it in if you’re Rin Tin Tin or Anne Boleyn” you’re just about right. Don’t worry about the rest of the lyrics, nobody knows them without google. If you can use google while running, you are below 5/10.

6/10: This is starting to push into the work side of the spectrum. If you stayed here for a few hours, you’d probably be fairly well demolished. You should be breathing moderately hard, but there should be little to no burning in your legs around here. 6/10 is the pace you run at when you know you’re already dead last in your age group but the damn race photographer is there snapping pictures and that one asshole is saying “YOU’RE ALMOST THERE” so you pick up the pace a bit and try to look like you’re moving quickly, but your heart isn’t really in it at all and why the HELL did you sign up for this stupid race but at least you can fantasize about the bacon cheeseburger you’re having once you’re done with this nonsense.

7/10: This is a solid tempo pace. This is that pace where you don’t have the satisfaction of sprinting or really moving fast, but you’re far from just cruising easy as well. Nobody actually knows what a true 7/10 feels like, because it’s sort of in that odd range that only 10k runners seem to enjoy, and they are a weird breed that nobody talks to outside of other 10k runners because the first question you want to ask is “why don’t you run marathons” and this makes them very mad. You COULD maintain this pace for an hour if your life depended on it, but quite frankly after 61 minutes you may very well consider just continuing your shuffle right off this mortal coil. This is the point where, if you try to snort in boogers, you find that you become temporarily unacceptably out of breath.

8/10: This is the first of the truly awful paces. Everything should hurt when you get here. This is the pace you run at the very start of a marathon when you think you’re going to go out and crush it, then realize to your horror that everyone running around you is 142 pounds and covered with sponsored clothing and suddenly your vision starts to go and you realize you’re 215 pounds and shouldn’t have signed up for this thing at all, and all your training has been a waste of time and you should have listened to your friends and played softball this year instead, but opted out because you thought you were some special “Oh, I’m in shape person who’s too GOOD for beer league sports”, but now you’ve finally realized what hubris actually means. You can’t speak in more than one or two words at a time, which usually consist of profanity. Your coach likes to say things like “3 x 10 minutes at 8/10”, which is a fantastic thought exercise that keeps you mentally sharp, as you devise new and creative excuses for bailing on this particular workout every week.

9/10: What are you even doing here? This is just madness. Stop, you’re going to tear something. You have no business in this area. This is the point where life stops making sense. Everything hurts. You may very well die at this pace and not realize it. If you’re still running after 5 minutes here, chances are you’re running right past the gates of hell and sliding into the sixth circle. 9/10 is the fastest you can go that isn’t really considered a “sprint”- the point of 9/10 is really I have no idea. The blue pocket is smells like electric guitar and butterfly. Oh my god your face hurts. You can’t tell if you pissed yourself or you’re going to piss yourself. This is also the pace you run at when you see somebody extraordinarily attractive who is clearly an amazing athlete cruising past the other direction, and you temporarily want to seem like a badass. Because nothing screams badass like a heaving, sweating mass of spittle and mucus threatening everyone around with impending emesis. Good thing there’s a turnoff ten yards ahead that you can hit to get out of sight. Oh god, this sucks. I wonder if Uber picks up near here.

10/10: This is actually a great pace, because you can just go all out for like 4 seconds then call it good. 10/10 is the finest effort you can put out- your apex, your peak output, the culmination of all your training, speed, and power. The net result will probably be as mediocre and unsatisfying as the rest of your life’s ambitions, you sheer and utter failure.

Originally posted on Facebook.

Interested in actual coaching, so you don’t have to rely on RPE scales on the internet?  Check out our Coaching Packages to get the best coaching and programming available for both specialists and multi-sport hybrid athletes.

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