Borg Scale For Triathlon Training1

What Is Borg’s Scale And How It Helps Your Triathlon Training

A New Tool For Your Triathlon Training Belt

A couple days ago, I wrote a post about “How to Run Faster” by using a couple of basic techniques that require you to pick up the pace at different intensities – a little bit to a lotta bit. That’s kind of vague, though, so wouldn’t it be nice to be able to put a number to it so that you could better measure your efforts? That would be helpful especially when you read a training article that says something ambiguous like, “run at 80% effort for 2 mins…”

triathlete training with borg scale |

Here is something that I’m sure you’ll find supportive in planning your training and measuring your output during training.

It’s called the Borg’s Scale of Perceived Exertion. Sounds intimidating, but it’s not.

The Borg’s Scale is an easy and understandable way of assigning a value or number to your current rate of exertion.

I believe that the original Borg’s Scale was numbered 6 – 20, but I simplify it for myself by just using 1-10, maintaining the exact same principle.Basically, you rate your “exertion” at whatever you “perceive” it to be based mostly upon how you feel at the moment. It’s just like a friend asking you a question like, “What you think on a scale of 1-10?” Side note: See how it is totally subjective?

[box] The original 6-20 scale was a way to follow the general heart rate of a healthy adult by multiplying by 10. For instance, a perceived exertion of 12 would be expected to coincide with a heart rate of roughly 120 beats per minute.[/box]

Borg’s Scale Examples

On the chart, an effort of “10” (maximal) would be something like, “If I do this any longer I’m surely going to die.”

A “3” would be something like sitting.

A “2” would be sitting in a comfortable chair, in the warm sunshine, with a perfect wine-tasting buzz. Ahhhh…. (By the way, I’m in Sonoma County, CA as I write this…)

And “1” would be sleeping like a baby.

Get the idea?

Another good way to measure your exertion is to gauge your rate of breath – or shall I say shortness of breath? Can you easily carry on a conversation at that current rate of exertion? Or, could you still converse with your running partner if you picked up the pace a notch or two? Obviously, you won’t be shooting the breeze when you’re sprinting. I used this same “conversation test” method in the gym when talking with clients while they were training on a bike or treadmill, to test their effort. And if they are talking too much, I simply turn up the pace. Heeheehee…

Use Borg’s Scale for Training as a Triathlete

Ok, so with all that said, here is an example of my personal Borg Scale with the “conversation test” built in. It goes something like this:

4: Brisk hike, conversation is no problem.

5: Nice jog, still talking.

6: Good run, decent pace, talking but you’d be able to hear me sucking air between sentences.

7: Medium run, focused on maintaining an even breathing cadence makes it hard to speak more than a couple words at a time.

Borg's Scale | TwoTri.com8: Hard run, this is a (uncomfortable) training pace and takes forced effort to maintain. This also would look something like the highest-intensity sprint of an interval or fartlek. It’s pretty hard to talk out loud at this point.

9: All out sprint, not going to last because it’s not physically possible to keep up this level of intensity very long, only capable of huffing, puffing, and grunting guttural shouts of anguish.

10: Aortic aneurysm, and obviously not talking.

Don’t worry; your high school coach wasn’t referring to the Borg’s Scale when he said, “Give me a hundred-and-ten percent!”

“Be in tune with your body while triathlon training…”

There is something that most experienced trainers and athletes find very important in training, and that is being in tune with your body. The Borg Scale is a great way to practice just that and is very helpful in planning and implementing a solid triathlon training plan. By using it, you have ask yourself questions about how you feel, listen to your body’s feedback, create a rating system to make sound judgments, make adjustments, and then cycle through the process continually.

Put the Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion into use next time you head out to train for your triathlon, and try it in your swimming, biking, running, and even your strength training program. Soon you’ll find yourself in better touch with your body and how it performs.

What are some ways that help you stay in tune with your body?

About Author

Trainer DaveyTrainer Davey is an Orange County personal trainer at heart, but has since moved to Nashville and taken on the new challenge of triathlon training. Of course, he misses his home of Surf City...but Music City ain't so bad either!View all posts by Trainer Davey →

  1. Valerie Richardson
    Valerie Richardson07-21-2012

    This is something I am just beginning to put into practice in my workouts. Thanks for making it simple and clear to understand. My triathlon is coming up in September so I will be intentional with the Borg!

    • Jess

      You go Val!!!