Aug 03

Perceived Effort

Categories: General, Glossary

Perceived effort (also known as subjective effort) refers to your own personal view on the level of exertion required to perform an activity / workout. The crucial point is that it is an individual’s perception of the exertion or strain they are experiencing during the activity. Perceived effort is influenced by a variety of factors, including physiological, psychological, and environmental factors.

Physiological factors: Perceived effort can be influenced by physiological factors such as heart rate, breathing rate, muscle fatigue, and oxygen consumption. As these factors increase, the perceived effort tends to increase as well. For example, running at a faster pace or on an incline requires more energy and can lead to a higher perceived effort.

Psychological factors: Psychological factors, including motivation, focus, and mental state, can impact perceived effort. If a runner is highly motivated and in a positive mindset, they may perceive the effort to be lower, even if they are physically exerting themselves. On the other hand, negative emotions or distractions can increase the perceived effort.

Environmental factors: The environment in which running takes place can also influence perceived effort. Factors such as temperature, humidity, altitude, terrain, and wind can affect how hard a run feels. For instance, running in hot and humid conditions can increase perceived effort due to the added strain on the body.

Individual differences: Perceived effort is subjective and can vary from person to person. Factors such as fitness level, training background, running experience, and genetic predispositions can impact how individuals perceive the effort of a run. Two runners running at the same pace may have different perceptions of the effort based on their individual characteristics.

It’s important to note that perceived effort does not always correlate directly with objective measures of exertion, such as heart rate or speed. Two runners can have the same heart rate or pace but perceive the effort differently based on the factors mentioned above.

Understanding and managing perceived effort is crucial in running as it can affect pacing, performance, and overall enjoyment of the activity. Runners often learn to gauge their perceived effort to adjust their pace, push through challenging moments, and maintain a sustainable level of exertion during their runs.

Perceived Effort in TrainAsONE

Within the TrainAsONE platform, Perceived Effort is rated using a 0 to 10 based scoring system. Below is a guide on how to rate your workouts.

0RestApart from lying, sitting or standing still, you are not doing anything! Get off that couch!
1Very very easyVery light exertion, such as gentle walk.
2Very easyLight exertion, such as a fast walk or even a gentle run.
3EasyAn exertion level that you can easily hold a conversation. One you feel that you could maintain for hours. This is commonly the level for a typical easy run.
4ModerateYou can still hold that conversation, it’s just getting a little more difficult.
5Somewhat hardIt is difficult to hold a conversation at this level, and you certainly need a little time between sentences to get your breath back.
6Moderately hardYour breathing’s getting hard and you can only manage short sentences at a time. Generally, this is the level that TrainAsONE Threshold workouts are aiming for, though you might feel otherwise.
7HardAn intense level of exercise, where you are breathing hard and when asked to do it for 15 minutes your only thought is ‘no way’ (to put it mildly).
8Really hardA high level of exercise that you could maintain for at most 6 to 8 minutes. You might be able to utter a word or two, but you’d be gasping if you did. Generally, this is the level that TrainAsONE Interval workouts are targetted at, though you might think differently!
9Really really hardThis is an extremely high exertion level that you could maintain for not much more than a minute – if you are lucky. Talking is probably out of the question. Generally, this is the level that TrainAsONE Repetition workouts are aiming for, though you might feel otherwise!
10MaximalYour maximum effort. This would be ‘all out’ efforts such as your fastest sprints or a race where you ‘gave it your all’. Consequently, this should mean that this rating would include fast assessment runs.
A guide to Perceived (Subjective) Effort.

Four important points:

  • Whilst the above is centred on expressing effort with respect to breathing and conversational ability, your rating should also reflect additional factors such as duration and general fatigue. For example, a very slow paced run that you can easily hold a conversation (level 3), but is of a long duration on tired legs would be upgraded to a higher score. As such, and expressed above, by definition a best effort race would also be a 10.
  • When scoring speed workouts and assessment runs you should primarily be thinking about the fast steps. However, if (for example) you found the warm-up and cool-down steps a little harder than you would expect you may wish to increase your score slightly.
  • This is a guide. Do not feel bound by it. For example, we know users who find Repetition runs not as strenuous as the above would suggest and mark them nearer a 7 and feel Intervals are more of a 9.
  • Find a set of rules that seem right for you, and stick to these. Consistency of how you score is more important than the scores themselves, i.e. If I always score my easy runs as a 4 and you a 2, that is fine.

About The Author

Dr. Sean Radford, the Founder & CEO of TrainAsONE, is a medical doctor, IT expert, coach and podium finisher in international endurance events. He has dedicated more than 20 years to the research of health, fitness and social well-being of the general population. He has been developing Artificially Intelligent (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) tools to help tackle some of the world’s leading health issues. Dr Radford is a Tech Ambassador for the UK, considered a leading expert in his field, and is a regular speaker at key events, as well as an author of numerous research publications.