Perceived Effort

Perceived effort is a scale of 1 to 10 used to determine how much effort you personally are putting into a run. This means you’re not running to meet a specific time goal such as a 8 minute mile or completing 10 miles in 90 minutes. Perceived effort means how much effort you feel you are putting into a particular run. What each point on the scale means is different for every person and for each run.

If you have a hard workout, your perceived effort will reflect that in the next days run because a pace that is easy for you will be more challenging to maintain. This is normal and in fact if it’s now happening you are either exceptional at recovery or you are not pushing yourself hard enough in your hard workouts.

Why do we use perceived effort to measure how difficult a run is or how hard we should be pushing on a particular day? it is more personal and therefore more effective for you as an individual runner. If you are working with a training program you pulled off the internet, it doesn’t account for you as an individual. It is made to work for a range of people. Perceived effort let’s you adjust on the move and from day to day.

If a workout is supposed to be hard, you know what hard feels like on that day and you can push yourself to that level. Hard workouts should be competed at a 7 or 8 on the perceived effort scale. There are few times you want to push all the way to 9 or 10, maybe the last quarter mile of a run or a race. Easy runs should be completed at a 3 or 4. Tempo runs should be done at a 5 or 6, hard but maintainable for 6 to 8 miles.

Running based on perceived effort helps you ensure that your training is going to have the intended impact. If you are always running at a high level, you don’t let your body recover. No recovery means no progress.

Is running by time rather than perceived effort useful? yes, in small doses. It is a good way to see how you are progressing in your training. Mostly running by time should reserved for races.

First Ultra?

I love running and I want everyone else to love running, so I try to make this crazy ultrarunning thing easier for others to wrap their minds around and jump in. Here are my eight quick tips for runners who want to make the leap to ultrarunning:

  1. Physical Training.

Training must be a priority and it must be consistent. You don’t have to run a hundred miles a week to be an ultrarunner. Many ultrarunners run 60 miles a week and complete 100-milers. Your training does need to be race specific. If the race has mountains, you train mountains. If the race is flat, you train flat. If it’s going to be hot, run in the heat. If you’ll run through the night, train in the dark. ¬†Weekly long runs, up to 20-30 miles, are a must. Back-to-Back runs should be done at least a few times throughout your training. Speed work is good to include, but not necessary. Be careful, speed increases your risk of injury.

  1. Mental training.

In ultrarunning, training your mind is as important as training your body. There will be dark times during the race where you question your ability to go on. Positive self-talk, mantras, and remembering how you’ve overcome other difficult times can get you through them. My favorite is, no matter how dark it gets, the sun always rises.

  1. Rest.

An injury is the last thing you want to have as you near your goal race. Taking a rest week every fourth week by cutting your miles back by 20%, will decrease your risk of injury and help build your endurance and strength. Listen to your body and take a rest day when needed. It’s better to take a break early in training than push through and have it get worse and force you to rest late in training.

  1. Strength training.

It’s more important to add strength training than to cross train or to stretch. Core and hip strength are critical to maintaining your running form and preventing injuries. Two to three days a week is enough. If you have time add in squats and deadlifts with low repetitions(4-5) and maximum weight 4-5 days a week.

  1. Nutrition plan.

Plan what you’re going to eat during your race. If you’re going to take stuff from the aid station, know what’s there. Train with what you plan to use in the race (this goes for gear/clothes too). Relying on gels and chews is not enough for most ultrarunners. Train with solid foods that are easy to digest, high in carbs, low in protein and low in fiber. Use caffeine strategically. Stop using caffeine a month before the race, so you can use it to stay alert during the night portions of the race.

Know your hydration needs. Drinking to thirst isn’t enough during an ultra and electrolytes are a must.There are a lot of sports drinks out there, find one that works for you or use salt capsules. Pack enough for the whole race in your drop bags and with your crew.

  1. Body Functioning issues.

Plan for dealing with blisters, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, nausea, cramps, aches, and general pain. We all hope we don’t have to deal with these issues, but if you’re caught unprepared they can ruin your race. I keep a blister kit with my crew and a small one in my hydration pack. I also have ginger chews, antacids, Imodium, and Icy Hot. I avoid any pain medication.

  1. Crew/pacers.

Chose happy supportive people who won’t let you back out of your goals, even if you’re crying and limping. Family and spouses are not always the best for this. Finding crew and pacers who have experience with ultrarunning is going to be very helpful to you. If you don’t have anyone with experience, you’re going to need to educate them as best you can. See my page on the Ultra crew.

  1. TAPER wisely.

Trust in your training.

Adjust your calorie intake to match your decreased training.

Perfect your race day strategy.

Embrace the “free” time.

Rest and recover.