The current sports science buzz term is ‘training load’. An easy way to think about the concept of training load is to consider a common question or discussion point amongst coaches and athletes – ‘how hard was practice’? And you’ve surely heard “Practice was easy today. Just wait ‘til tomorrow”.
This type of response is a subjective rating or feeling. Sport scientists refer to this as an indicator of ‘internal load’ or how strenuousness the athlete felt the practice or training session was. Obviously, many factors (temperature, sleep, mood, fitness level, and even trustworthiness) can influence one’s perception (and reporting) of how hard a training session was. And, two athletes doing the same physical work can respond quite differently. Some say practice was easy and others find it hard.
On the other hand, the ‘external load’ is the actual physical work performed (e.g., total distance, number of sprints, etc.) that can be objectively measured by a GPS device. These are the “hard” numbers of what actually happened, instead of the subjective rating or feeling of strenuousness.
The purpose of this blog is to provide a brief introduction to the concept of training load and how to use GPS data to monitor it.
Which GPS metrics to use?
As highlighted in a previous blog, the key running and performance metrics provided by the SPT2 GPS device are – Total Distance, Total Time, Top Speed, Speed Zones, Hard Running, Sprint Efforts, Work Rate, Impacts, and Intensity. Of course, each one can be a piece of the training load puzzle; however, the time-starved coach just wants a quick look or glance to know how things are going. So, which one or two metrics do you choose?
Most GPS users will focus on Total Distance, the distance covered at high speeds (Hard Running or High Speed Running), and Sprint Efforts. But if it is boiled down to one metric, most will choose the overall physical exertion or work load index such as SPT’s Intensity metric. Simply and generally, how hard or physically intense is the athlete working?
The key metrics mentioned above are all part of the GameTraka dashboard so that the coach has an easy-to-view and easy-to-understand glance at any athlete.
Training load management
So how is the weekly (or acute) training load managed over the course of a week or across a season? For now, let’s keep it simple. Here are a few rules:
- Monitor key metrics on a daily and weekly basis and across the season.
- Progressively increase weekly training loads.
- Avoid spikes in load – less than 10% increase per week as a rule of thumb.
- Alternate between hard, moderate and easy training days during the week to avoid over training and monotony (boredom or flatness).
- Don’t ignore personal feedback (oral or written) from the athlete on motivation, enjoyment, stress, fatigue, injury, etc.
Finding the right numbers can take time. Generally, sport scientists or coaches need to collect enough data (at least 1 full season or year of training load and injury data) to build an in-house model for the team. In the meantime, one can compare a) one player’s data over multiples days, using historical data (i.e. intra-player trend) or b) a player’s data to the rest of the team. You can also find some published data on the game demands of your sport – stay tuned for future sport-specific blogs.
Hopefully, this was a good overview and starter on the concept of training load for those coaches not familiar. There’s a lot more to consider when examining the training load of athletes and we will continue to provide insights. In the meantime, here are a few articles from leading experts that provide great information on training load management in athletes.