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I’m quite fortunate that I have a power meter. I find it the most useful training tool imaginable. It allows you to know exactly how much power you’re generating. Just like when you do a bench press, you know exactly how many plates you have loaded up on the bar. No questions. I can’t wait to start blogging more about the benefits of a power meter. However, if you don’t have access to a power meter or even a heart rate monitor, you may want to keep a measure of your workout in your training diary called Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE). Even though I have a power meter, I still use this gauge in my training log.
All people have the ability to sense how hard they are pushing themselves, even though individual outputs may not be the same. Perceived exertion is how hard you feel that your body is working. It is based on the physical sensations you experience during physical activity, including heart rate, breathing, muscle fatigue, etc.. If you don’t have a power meter and you use a HR monitor, you should really know what 160bmp feels like, what 165bpm feels like, what 170bpm feels like, etc. Because of the ~30sec lag between the power output at the rear wheel and your HR, you should know your approximate perceived effort at different intensity zones so that you can hit those zones properly and not worry about your HR lag.
1 No exertion at all – Watching the TdF
2 Extremely light ride with Grandma
3 Very light ride coffee ride
4 Light ride to work
5 Somewhat hard
6 Hard (heavy) – sitting in a fast bunch ride
7 Very hard – rolling turns in a fast bunch ride
8 Extremely hard – off the front from a fast bunch ride in the crosswinds
9 Maximal exertion – add some hills into #8
10 off the charts! – Melbourne – Warnambool
Through experience of monitoring how your body feels, it will become easier to know when to adjust your intensity. When keeping track of your RPE in your training diary, you should take note of how many days in a row you have workout days rated as 7 and above. In general, these should not exceed three days in a row to allow for sufficient recovery.