Effort Level Training

Back before running watches or mobile phones were a thing, runners relied solely on stopwatches and how they felt in regard to what pace they were running at and gauging if their effort was a hard or easy one. There is a lot that we can still implement and learn from these kind of practices.



Effort level training is running at a specific given effort based on your own perceived rate of exertion. For example a very hard effort will be a 8-9 out of 10 and an easier effort a 3-4 out of 10.

It is so important to distinguish how we are feeling in relation to this rather than focusing on what pace our watch is telling us when we are training or running an event.

Sometimes we might be having a bad day. We may be dehydrated or our legs may just be tired or feeling sluggish, so you may not be hitting the paces you want. Being able to evaluate how your body is feeling instead of relying just on numbers is a great tool to have.


The best approach for effort level training is using the BORG RPE (rate of perceived effort) scale. How you are feeling on a scale of 1-10.

For an harder session, depending on what kind of session it is, your RPE may start off at around 6-7 out of 10 because you are feeling fresh, there is minimal fatigue in your body and you are feeling great!

Add 10 more minutes of running into your legs and that RPE is going to rise to about 8-9 out of 10 and for that specific session, that is what you want to be feeling.

In an event scenario you can use this as a pacing judgement, are you half way through a half marathon and your RPE is already at 8? Time to dial back the pace and evaluate how you are feeling.

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The way in which you can apply this to your running is by knowing what type of run you would like to accomplish for a given day.

If you want to keep your running nice and easy then keep your RPE at around 2-5 on the scale, on days where you want to maybe add some faster running to your runs add some 3 minute efforts into your run at around a 7-8RPE with a 2 minute recovery then repeat up to 5 times. That will give you a good 15 minute workout to add mid run!


Use these pointers below to get a feel of what a specific rate of perceived may feel like:

RPE 2-4: The effort is going to feel light, you should be able to hold a full conversation at this effort.

RPE 4-5: This effort should feel light/moderate and feel like you could keep running here for quite a long time.

RPE 6-7: The effort is getting a little harder now, this will feel like you can only say a short sentence.

RPE 7-8: Breathing is going to feel pretty laboured at this point but not so much that you can’t mutter a word or two

RPE 8+: The effort is now very hard, you will find it difficult to say anything and you will be breathing very heavily.


Using RPE means that you can listen to your body instead of what technology is telling you and you will become a better runner for it. You’ll soon be able to distinguish what pace feels too fast or too slow because you have trained by feel.

Not only is it going to benefit your faster sessions and events but it will also help you with your easier recovery runs, these should be run at around 3-4 out of 10 and if you feel like you are running harder than that then it’s time to evaluate, (unless your running up a hill then it is bound to change!)

An easy way to apply this to your training is to check the watch at the end of your runs rather than during for one or two of your runs a week and slowly introduce it to your speed sessions then onto your races. Our coaches here at Eastnine have put together a couple of workouts that you can follow here and here to how you can run more mindfully and at a more of a perceived effort level

Marcus Sladden