Measure your training load

What is training load? Training load is the work that you’re doing while you’re playing or training for your sport. Now, depending on your sport, this could be the amount of running, swimming, lifting, skills etc that you complete in any given session. For example you might be doing a skills and running session where you complete 10km worth of running distance, this is your training load. However, you don’t need a GPS or fancy tech to measure training load, there are simpler methods which we’ll cover below. Why should you measure training load? Because it’s a great way to monitor whether you’re doing enough training, or too much training.


What Goldilocks can teach us

The story of Goldilocks is a great way to depict training load – too little training and you get an under-stimulus. The risk with an under-stimulus is that 1) you’re not improving your performance, and not actually getting better. 2) You’re putting yourself at risk of injury for when you go and play your competition. If your competition is significantly more intense and arduous than the training you’ve been doing, then the risk of getting injured goes up, because you’re not physically prepared for that load. Too much training, and you start to delve into over-training, where the training amount is greater than your ability to recover. What happens is, instead of getting better, you actually start getting worse because the fatigue is greater than your ability to recover and improve your fitness or your general performance. You want to hit that sweet spot, just enough training load to get a stimulus, but not so much that you can’t recover from it. The best way to hit the sweet spot is keep your training consistent and avoid large spikes and drop-offs. You’re not always going to get injured, but doing too much load in a week, and then doing too little in a week, can definitely put you at a higher risk of getting injured.


How to measure training load

A simple way to measure your training load, very low-tech, little bit of math, but pretty straightforward is RPE x Time = Arbitory Units (don’t worry we’ll explain what this is). First you need to understand how to measure rate of perceived exertion or RPE. RPE is how hard do you think you worked in that session, you can use a simple scale of one to ten. One being your at-rest and ten being the absolute hardest you can possibly work, and that’s probably only for a short period of time. Think of a session where you might have vomited from, or the hardest training session that you’ve ever done. That’s a 10. Once you’ve established your rate of perceived exertion, you can put that against the time, or how long it took to take that session, so if your training session went for 120 minutes and your RPE was at a 8/10, you now get an arbitrary unit of 960 (it’s arbitrary because the number doesn’t really mean anything, but it is something that we can still measure and monitor against itself).


Monitoring yout training load

Now that you know how to measure training load you can start to monitor it as well. Simpy plot this over the sessions for the week, and accumulate that total for the week, and then you can start to measure it week to week. Ideally you only want increase or decrease your training load by 10 to 20 percent. Any higher than 20 percent, and your risk for injury increases, it becomes too much of an increase/decrease in training load. This isn’t necessarily saying you’re going to get injured, but increases/decreases bigger than that can be a bit of a risk. The higher your chronic training load gets, the lower those increases should be. Alternatively if your training load’s quite low, making 20 percent jumps isn’t too much of an issue just try to avoid decreases in load by more than 20 percent. By measuring and monitoring your training load you’ll be able to get more of an idea of whether the amount of training that you’re doing is enough to get better or if it’s not too much that you’re getting worse. It’s also useful for when you get injured, to look back at those training loads, and to see if it was a training load error. If you want to learn more about how to monitor your training load check out one of our other articles –Training load management.

Download your FREE Simple training load doc spreadsheet here.