Training by Feel


Training by Feel is using your physical sensations to asses which training zone you are in. Although it was developed before the advent of heart-rate monitors and power meters, it’s useful to be aware of how you feel in each training zone.

Feel can be measured using what they call ‘Rate of Perceived Exertion’ (RPE). The Borg Scale was developed using a rating of 1 to 20 and this was later reduced to 1 to 10. However, for most people who are training for fitness rather than high-performance, it’s more practical to reduce this to 5 training zones.  You can always refine this to 10 once you get used to it.

If you don’t have a means of measuring heart-rate or power here’s a table that will help you to assess which zone you’re in.  If you do have a heart-rate monitor and power meter, it’s a useful exercise to pay attention to how you feel in each zone.

The table below provides some guidance to help you identify which zone you are in.

Zone Intensity Legs Breathing Sweating
0 Recovery Easy spinning Easy Non Effortless pedalling.
1 Endurance Light resistance Light Light All day pace.
Relaxed pedalling.
You can talk normally.
2 Tempo Some resistance Slightly deep Some Brisk riding for a couple of hours.
When talking you have to pause between phrases to breath.
3 Threshold Some muscle pain Deep but controlled Heavy An effort you can maintain for 40-60 minutes.
You can only say short phrases.
4 VO2max Lots of effort Panting
Can say odd words
Dripping You can keep this up for a few minutes.
You can’t talk more than one or two words.
5 Anaerobic Maximum effort Soon get out of breath Dripping Sprint.
You can’t talk.

There’s a lot of talk nowadays about ‘Sweet Spot Training’.  This is an effort level just below Threshold and is more-or-less the upper half of Tempo.  When cycling it can be described as an effort just below where your legs start to hurt and your breathing is deep but not gasping.  One pointer I use is that if I can’t easily take a drink or eat an energy bar then I’m going too hard.


 Flow and Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)

When you get into a state of Flow your RPE will be reduced for a certain effort level. See Flow

 Training by Feel and Cycling Technique

Riding by feel will help you to become a better cyclist. As you become more aware of your body and mind you’ll be able to pace yourself more effectively and learn to be more aware of your posture and pedaling style. This will help you to assess your fitness and fatigue.


Useful Links

Non-Athlete Fitness : How to Develop a Lasting Running Habit

Triradar : Triathlon Training by Feel

Competitor.com : Train by Feel for Better Results

Competitor.com : Learning to Run by Feel

Runners World : Learn to Run by Feel

Physical Therapy : Perceived Exertion

Sports Fitness Adviser : Health Benefits of Running