Perceived Effort

Today I had a breakthrough moment of sorts, the actual run itself wasn’t anything to write home about. An hour and a half, with a few intervals thrown in for good measure, it went something along the lines of this:

45 min easy

7x (3 min @80% effort, 2 min @ easy pace)

10 minutes easy.

I actually did the exact same set last week, but it was raining so did it on the treadmill, I set the pace to exactly what I knew was 80% and ‘easy’ perceived effort, and executed it perfectly. Today’s run was definitely not executed to perfection, I ran the first 45 minutes at easy to moderate effort, was struggling a bit from the start but put it down to a big day yesterday, heat and dehydration. Then came the efforts… Trying to ramp it up from easy running to 80% was actually quite hard. But as I pushed I realised I had so much more in me to give, here I was dreading the intervals, but speeding up felt great.

The greatness continued for about 5 intervals, then I hit a wall, the increased efforts became ridiculously hard and the ‘easy’ parts where I was instructed to ‘float’ weren’t really easy, or floating. It was also mentioned to imagine I was carrying a butterfly, lets just say the butterfly would have either been squashed in frustration or let free to live out its last hours of life at a much happier place than running with me. Luckily by this stage I was 1 hour 10 minutes into a 1 hour 30 minute run, the light at the end of the tunnel was beaming and I knew I could make it home.


It wasn’t until I was home and a total wreck on the couch, hungry but too stuffed to even contemplate standing up to make  myself breakfast that I realised how hard I must have worked. I was literally so exhausted I didn’t know how I was going to get through everything I had planned for the day. So I decided to look at the data from my Garmin, expecting to see some magic, but I was bitterly disappointed.

My average pace was slower than I expected and the cool little graphs of my heart rate and speed were nothing special. I was expecting definite peaks and troughs of my efforts, but no, the whole run was erratically up and down… This is where the breakthrough came in and I realised that maybe instead of always thinking I know best, perhaps the coaches actually do.


Scotty my coach (T:Zero Multisport) had written ‘I don’t care about pace on this run, it’s all about effort and control.’ When I first read this I kind of screwed up my face, he had just written to run 80% efforts, then said pace didn’t matter… Wasn’t that a bit contradictory? But after the run it all made sense. I had run at my 80% perceived effort, exactly as instructed. I put in the increased effort when required, and less effort when instructed, although it may not have resulted in the graphs I had expected, I can honestly say I felt like I had done it right.

If we didn’t have the fancy watches graphing and tracking all the data would we be better or worse off? Yes it’s important to track our progress but at what stage do we stop and listen to our bodies? When should we go by feel instead of heart rate zones, average speed or power percentages? Is it time to go back to basics and train on perceived effort? It’s a part of my new program so I will let you know how it goes for me. For now I am still getting used to it but will be interesting to see how it plays out over the next 10 weeks in the lead up to Ironman Cairns.

I expect these runs will get longer, and my thoughts deeper, so to stay updated either subscribe to my blog or newsletter by clicking the link below, but until next time remember ‘the difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little bit extra.’

Chloe x

PS. An extra side note, after to speaking to a friend after she read my post. I’m not about to do ALL of my training on feel, I may have summed that up wrong. I still use a heart rate monitor, power meter and Garmin for pacing. It’s just the efforts within these runs that were done based on feel, that made me consider the over reliance on data compared to intuition.

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