There was an athlete that I worked with a few years ago, who, no matter how hard or easy his session should be, nor how I expressed the required effort level, just went flat out. He was a good athlete, but he never reached his potential, and I think that not understanding and/or regulating his effort played a role in this. Frustrating for both athlete and coach. By understanding effort levels, you can do better than this.
Understanding and reproducing different effort levels is crucial to your development. Your coach will have planned your week and sessions to have clear objectives and encourage specific physiological changes. If you do not perform a session correctly you could elicit a very different training response to the one envisaged by your coach.
You can get it wrong at either end of the spectrum. Some athletes can work really hard when they run because they are used to it, but getting them a little out of breath in the pool is a challenge. And of course, a low intensity recovery session should be just that! As you all know – it is during recovery periods that positive adaptation will occur.
How to do it. Tools such as heart rate monitors and power meters are valuable tools that can accelerate development, but at thetrilife.com we believe that you should learn from these tools rather than rely on them. As an experienced athlete you should be able to express your effort level without gadgets by referring to an RPE (rate of perceived exertion) scale. Listen to your breathing and think about how it feels – how would you describe it? Then take a look at your heart rate monitor and jot down the magic number. Knowing how hard you are working at any given time is also crucial in racing. How will you stop yourself going off too hard on the bike if your heart rate monitor lets you down?
You are experienced athletes and I have no doubt that many of you will have developed this skill already. If so, then challenge yourself every now and against to make sure you are still in tune. If not, then now would be a good time to start thinking about it.
You can download here thetrilife.com’s ‘Guide to Monitoring Intensity’ which describes RPE, and shows how different RPE numbers relate to often-used heart rate zones and power zones.