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The rating of perceived exertion (RPE) normally grows as a scalar function of relative competitive distance, suggesting that it may translate between the brain and body relative to managing fatigue during time-trial exercise. In nonstandard pacing situations, a reciprocal relationship between RPE and power output (PO) would be predicted. To determine whether PO would decrease when RPE was forced above the normal growth curve during a cycle time trial. Well-trained cyclists performed randomly ordered 10-km cycle time trials. In CONTROL they rode at their own best pace throughout. In BURST, they made a 1-km "burst" at the 4-km mark and then finished as rapidly as possible. CONTROL was significantly (P < .05) faster than BURST (16:36 vs 17:00 min). During CONTROL, responses between 4 and 5 km were PO, 240 W; RPE, 5-6; and blood lactate [HLa], 8-9 mmol/L. During BURST PO increased to 282 W, then fell to 220 W after the burst and remained below CONTROL until the end spurt (9 km). RPE increased to 9 during the burst but returned to the normal RPE growth pattern by 6 km; [HLa] increased to ~13 mmol/L after the burst and remained elevated throughout the remainder of the trial. The reciprocal behavior of RPE and PO after BURST supports the hypothesis that RPE translates between the brain and the body during heavy exercise. However, the continuing reduction of PO after the burst, even after RPE returned to its normal growth pattern, suggests that PO is regulated in a more complex manner than reflected solely by RPE.


Jacob Cohen, Bridgette Reiner, Carl Foster, Jos J de Koning, Glenn Wright, Scott T Doberstein, John P Porcari. Breaking away: effects of nonuniform pacing on power output and growth of rating of perceived exertion. International journal of sports physiology and performance. 2013 Jul;8(4):352-7

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PMID: 23070854

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