There are two clearly defined methods for gauging the effort required or used when running for those who do not use a heart rate monitor. Although both methods achieve the same aim, the means is slightly different.


For fitness boot camps and military fitness, clients are normally split into blues, reds and greens, which is simple enough to provisionally measure running ability.

Another aid to estimating that the running session is working and demanding enough is to apply the following:

Table 1: Levels of Breathing Effort
Level Description
Chat Level This is as it states, members should be able to run at an easy pace and be able to chat to one another (60%-70%).
Puff Level Most runs should be done at this level (70%-80%), members should still be able to talk but have difficulty in speaking.
Pant Level Heart rates will be about 80-90% at this level, which means runners are now working anaerobically and, in turn, means oxygen deprivation and the build up of waste products. This will affect member’s ability to run at a continuous pace and this level will predominantly be used for reds and greens.
Gasp Level This level will see heart rates at about 90-100% and normally this would be at the end of a hard run session.For example, coaxing a last ditch sprint for the finish, although members should not be in this zone to often.

Effort-based Training Correlations Chart

This chart is designed to help runners who do not use heart rate monitors, but prefer to use perceived exertion to determine appropriate pace.

Table 2: Perceived Extertion
Number Purpose of this Workout Phase(s) % Effort Perceived Exertion Feels Like
1 Maintain aerobic endurance while getting maximum recovery before a race. I / III / IV Slowly jogging at 60-65%
  • A very easy pace, like no work is being done.
  • Awkward to jog so slowly; might be difficult to work up a sweat.
2 Help muscles recover glycogen stores by burning fat as a primary fuel. I Thru IV Just jogging at 65-70%
  • It is a fast jog and you are not tired at the end unless you run many miles.
  • You can carry on a full conversation even though you can hear your breathing.
3 Develop and maintain local muscle endurance and mental patience. I / II Loping long and easy at 60-75%
  • It is a slow run; still easy to talk.
  • You will be tired after long runs and you might want a nap to recover, but it never feels difficult.
4 Prepare muscles to make the transition from aerobic to anaerobic running. II / III Striding steadily at 75-80%
  • A faster pace but still easy enough to sustain “forever.”
  • You are breathing harder and are conscious of the faster turnover.
  • You can talk in short sentences between breaths; it is your half marathon pace.
5 Improve anaerobic threshold and learn to run while fatigued. II / III Running rapidly at 80-85%
  • You’re huffing and puffing too hard to talk except in words or very short sentences.
  • It is uncomfortable but sustainable for 3-4 miles and close to 30 seconds slower than your 5 km race pace.
 a Increase your VO2 max and improve mental toughness. II Thru IV Determined dashing at 90-95%
  • It is very fast but not all out. No talking here!
  • You must consciously work to run this fast.
  • However, you have enough left to kick the last 100 metres.
7 Improve lactic acid tolerance, get very, very tough mentally and learn to relax as you tie up. III / IV Serious sprinting at 95-100%
  • It is significantly faster than race pace.
  • Your legs are full of lead; you are tying up as you near the finish.
  • You are close to full sprint speed.
  • For longer intervals, it’s very painful.

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