Categories: Training

Training Load | Let’s Talk Polar

September 29, 2017

This post is part two in our three-post superset about heart rate training and Polar Smart Coaching. Part one gives you the nitty-gritty on heart rate variability and R-R recording, and in part three we talk about how you can track recovery with Polar products. But before heading to the world of rest, we need to take a look at monitoring the work – this post introduces the fundamentals of monitoring how training affects your body with Polar Training Load.

Show of hands: how many of us have at some point of our exercise lives held a training diary? The need to track and monitor workouts is often prompted by an event that we’re systematically training for – a very first marathon, a long cross-country skiing event, or a multi-day hiking trip in high altitudes. Suddenly, we feel like we need more than just our general, loosely planned and executed weekly rhythm of roughly two cardio workouts, two strength training sessions, and one stretching class. We realize that in order to be ready for the ambitious goal that lies weeks, or sometimes months, ahead, we need a game plan (such as the Polar Running Program). To improve performance in the long run, we need to progressively increase the volume and intensity of our training, and also be able to monitor the progress to make sure that we are gradually getting fitter and more ready for The Big Day.

The troublesome part about training diaries isn’t just the paperwork and the slightly complicated tracking system, which leads the mathematically inclined visual learners among us to draw convoluted charts and diagrams in an attempt to see where we are in the training process. The really hard part is knowing when to deviate from our finely crafted plan.

Even more important than making a great training plan is to know how and when to adjust the training based on where your body really is on any given day. If the plan says it’s Speedwork Day, but your legs hurt just thinking about exercise, surely the smartest thing isn’t to force yourself on the track?

Or what about the time when you’ve injured a body part which prevents you from training your specific sport, but doesn’t stop you from doing something comparable: how do you know if the duration and intensity of your substitute session was adequate? If your achilles tendon stops you from going on the two-hour long weekend run which aims at preparing you for the marathon in a month, how can you tell if your exercise bike ride was demanding enough?

Enter Training Load

Wouldn’t it be great if you could compare two completely different training sessions? Training Load, a in-built feature on Polar V800 and Polar M430, for example, helps you quantify your training. It monitors your training load from each training session, helps you recognize your personal limits and adjust the intensity and duration of your workouts. Training Load also shows you how the training you do affects your body.

With Training Load you can compare the loads of different workouts, so that if you do end up having to substitute your original workout with something else, you’ll know if you got the intended results. For example, Training Load makes the effort of a short, high-intensity session comparable to that of a long, low-intensity one, so that on the days when you just don’t have the hours to spare, you can see how your shorter training session compares to your intended longer one. Polar Flow gives you textual feedback on the load of each session and shows you the load on a scale of 1 to 5. To help you further compare two different sessions, Polar Flow converts your training load into an approximate recovery time estimation.

Monitor your progress

Another perk about Training Load is its way of displaying your development. As the weeks go by and you tick off runs from your Running Program, you notice your fitness improve. Suddenly, the same exact workout, like your regular 10k jog on the trail, feels easier than it did at the beginning. Training Load notices it, too, and because the workout now creates less training load compared to what it did earlier, Polar Flow tells you that you will recover faster and are ready to go again sooner.

How does it work?

Training Load is calculated by measuring the consumption of critical energy sources (carbohydrates and proteins) during exercise and it gives the user feedback on the strenuousness of a single training session. Training Load is based on heart rate measurement and on the consumption of critical energy sources (carbohydrates and proteins) during exercise.

Since our heart rates aren’t fully indicative of the muscle fatigue our bodies experience, though, Training Load also adds in a sport-specific factor to improve the calculation accuracy. If you’re training without heart rate (read: you forgot your Polar H10), your training load is estimated from your arm movements. Finally, the calculations are affected by the user’s personal information, such as age, sex, weight, VO2max, and training history.

The bottom line

Training Load is great tool in determining the intensity of a training session and making different training sessions comparable. It’s particularly useful in endurance training, so if you’re into endurance sports, Training Load will really help you follow the intensity of your training and estimate the time you need for recovery.