Training load is different than training volume, which indicates the number of hours or distance you train. Two athletes can have the same volume of training (e.g., 400 hours per year), but have a very different training load and cumulative training load, because one is training at higher intensities. Basically it means the harder and/or longer you workout, the higher the training load. Training load helps to compare shorter intensive training with longer training that is less intensive. Training load can also be the cumulative load if measured over time. Add the training load of each day over a week, and you have the training load for the week. Training load can be defined as Volume x Intensity. However there are numerous ways how to do it. The most easy way is to do it exactly as a formula: 60 minute workout with average HR of 148, 60 x 148 = 8880. However, this method works rather well during continuous workouts with rather constant intensity. If the intensity changes during the workout you should rather use training intensity zone based load.
Why training load is important? Training load refers the impact of a training to athlete. If a coach or athlete does not pay attention to training load the training program may result in being too stressful or too easy which both result in inpropriate adaptation. Probably it is quite easy to manipulate trainings without load during high volume phases, but if trainings will move towards higher intensity the coach must design a plan that has higher load trainings alternating with lower load that favors adaptation.
The importance of training load can be also described by the effects of training load. Based on the amount of load in single session, training load can have:
- No effect at all – useless load
- Recovery effect – load used for recovery sessions. If used for longer periods performance decreases.
- Maintaining effect – no increases or decreases in performance can be seen
- Developing effect – training load is high enough to result improvements in performance
- Overload effect – training load is too high that results in performance decrease.