In 2018, I trained to become a qualified fitness instructor. Not because I wanted to change my career or anything like that. I did it because I felt that after 30 years of regular exercising and fitness related activities, I just wasn’t getting optimised. I realised that I needed a boost and learn fitness 101.

Doing the fitness course really opened my eyes, especially with regard to understanding the concept of Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE).  But what exactly is RPE?

Let’s first start with defining what is perceived exertion?

Simply put it’s how hard your body is working in other words the “intensity”.

With that in mind, RPE is fundamentally a scale. Without getting bogged down with names (like the Borg Rating etc), let’s just say that it’s an indicator of how hard your body, heart etc is working when you are working out.

For simplicity, let’s just say your scale is 0 to 10 where:

  • 0 = Couch Potato
  • 10 = Doing a 100m at Usain Bolt’s speed…you wish!

Now you can compare your effort relative to that scale, of course, you may want to moderate the scale to your own aspirations.

With this scale in mind, I found that I began to exercise smart and not hard. This approach gave me huge positive benefits in that I found that after every workout, after understanding my scale and fine tuning, I was able to chill and allow my body to fully recover without feeling like I had done 10 rounds (or even 1 round) Iron Mike Tyson. I also felt less guilty because I exercised more regularly and had fun.

This principle basically follows the “less is more” approach or “less strain, more gain”.  It’s important to remember that more of something doesn’t always mean better results.

That glass of good wine might go down really well, but may leave you wanting more. But more than two glasses will likely turn the indulgence into displeasure the next morning, especially with that headache.


So, the next time you hit the gym or do that workout….ask yourself that question.

Am I exercising smart or hard?

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