A runner’s life can be measured by the miles…or should it?

A “quick” google search for a running training plan can generate thousands of results. What started as an innocent idea to get back into running has led to an overwhelming game of numbers. How many miles should I run each day? How many days should I be running? And the holy grail of them all: How many miles should I be running each week?

Unfortunately looking at only the numbers may be an oversimplified way to develop your training plan around. It is important to track your daily and weekly mileage, however it is only one piece of the puzzle to a thousand piece set. An often overlooked and easy tool to create your training plan around is rate of perceived exertion (RPE). In other words RPE is asking how difficult did that exercise feel? The rate of perceived exertion can be ranked on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being the easiest exercise and 10 being the hardest.


Very Light




Light Activity


Can carry a conversation


Moderate Activity


Can hold a short conversation


Vigorous Activity


Can speak a sentence


Very Hard Activity


Can speak only a few words


Max Effort


Complete out of breath and unable to talk


Imagine this: You head out for your usual Saturday morning run. You’ve done this run hundreds of times before but this time you notice that your typical route seems tougher today, like your legs are made of heavy lead. And then you feel it. That little ache and pain in your right knee. What the heck is that? You have run this same route at the same time every weekend and no issues before. Why is this time different? Let’s rewind a bit and glance at what happened leading up to the run.


Last night was a long one filled with crying kiddos at home and restless sleep from stress at work. Instead of an 8 hour night sleep you were able to squeak out a mere 4 hours. This is an example of increased stress to the system. All the other variables have remained constant but by increasing the stress on the system, the body is going to have to work harder with the exact same tasks. In fact there has been evidence to show that running fatigued can increase the amount of stress and specifically training stress load compared to running fresh.


We all have a tolerance for a certain amount of stress in life and once we hit our boiling point something is going to give. This concept is the same in the running world. Our body can handle a certain level of stress, and if we exceed that threshold our body lets us know and often presents in a form of pain. By tracking only the weekly mileage, training stress can be significantly underestimated.1


So the next time you head out the door for your run, rely on more than just a generic google running plan. Instead of having you hard tempo runs at the end of the work week maybe trade them out for an easy run and change that harder run for the weekend when you are more recovered. Adapting your training to your life and it’s overall training stress load may help decrease your risk of injury. And a happy runner is one that can keep running!


Tune in next time for the next controversial topic in the running world that may enhance your training and reduce your chance of injury. If you have any questions regarding your running mechanics, training plan, or would like to finally address those pesky aches and pains that are stopping you from getting out there, stop by Edge PT! 


1.Paquette MR, Napier C, Willy R, Stellingwerff T. Moving beyond weekly “distance”: optimizing quantification of training load in runners. 2020. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. 50 (10):564-569.