Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) and performance during repetitive maximal effort 40km time trials as well as after an intervention which aimed to decrease certainty about the remaining distance of the exercise bout. In addition, we examined the ratings of perceived exertion during exercise bouts of markedly different duration.
Methods: Part 1: 12 well-trained, competitive level cyclists completed five 40km time trials. During the final time trial all feedback was withheld until the final kilometre. In addition, to cause confusion about the remaining distance, they were asked to report their RPE at random intervals from 18km to 38km. Part 2: 6 well-trained, recreation level cyclists randomly completed a 5km, 10km, 40km and 100km time trial.
Results: Part 1: Mean ratings of perceived exertion increased during the first 4 trials and decreased during the final trial. The rate of RPE progression increased in linearity during the first four trials and became more conservative in the final trial. These changes were directly related to performance. Part 2: Mean ratings of perceived exertion for longer duration trials (40km, 100km) were lower during the first half of trial duration but matched those of shorter trials in the final 20%.
Conclusions: Increased familiarity of the exercise bout and certainty about its end point are associated with a more aggressive RPE strategy that produces a superior exercise performance. Certainty about the endpoint and the duration of exercise affect both the RPE strategy and performance.