Posted On:
Wednesday, April 18, 2018
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Coach Tip Tuesday: RPE Should be King

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It’s already that time again…Coach Tip Tuesday!

This week I’m going to be suggesting that you all do something that will make at least half of you quake with fear.  I’m going to tell you to ditch the Garmin.

Now, I’m not telling you to *actually* toss your device out the window.  But, what I am suggesting is that you ditch the Garmin (or app, or tracking device, etc.) for some workouts.  Data is WONDERFUL.  It’s an important piece of the puzzle when I’m coaching an athlete, and I like to see their data regularly.  As an athlete myself, I personally love my Garmin devices and feel that they have helped make me a better athlete.  But, it’s not actually the devices themselves that have done that.  It’s what these devices have done to teach ME about MYSELF that has made me a better athlete.

I say it frequently: RPE (Rating of Perceived Exertion) should be king. If you are willing to listen to your body, RPE will NEVER steer you wrong. This is different from technological devices, which can fail. Your battery can die, the device might not find satellites, it might not pair with your accessories. What happens when this happens? Do you skip your workout or cut it short? More than one athlete who I have worked for has admitted to at least considering doing this, even if they haven’t actually done it. To this type of thinking, I present this question: Does your Garmin tell you whether you’re an athlete or not? Or, is it you who makes that determination? Workouts DO count even if they aren’t recorded on some sort of app or device.

I have also said in the past that Coach Garmin is my biggest and toughest competition, and I believe that this still holds true. I have watched many, many athletes obsess over their data and wonder what it means, if they were working too hard, etc. I always follow up expressions of concern over this with this question: How did you FEEL?

Data such as heart rate, power, stroke rate, and cadence are great tools to help teach you what a given RPE feels like.  Learning what your maximum heart rate is (and it is different for every athlete...don’t go off of the factory defaults in your device or some quick online calculator) allows you to learn what it feels like to work within aerobic and anaerobic ranges and how long you can sustain those efforts.  If you learn to train within certain zones, you can learn what those zones feel like so that you can go off of how your body is responding to a particular day and environment.

In the end, I want to encourage you all not to become slaves to devices that are spitting out numbers at you.  You don’t need a Garmin to tell you how hard you’re working; if you listen, you’ll be able to feel it.  Get to know yourself.  Let RPE be king, and let devices and apps become supporting characters.  You’ll be a much smarter and stronger athlete for it.


Coach Laura Henry

Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.

She can be reached at

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