Image source: Garmin

Garmin’s Acute Load training metric explained

Introduced a few months ago, Acute Load is a revamped version of Garmin Training Load score. Here’s everything you need to know about this newish training metric.

Training Load

Let’s start off with the Training Load feature. It is also referred to as the 7-day Load feature. The company has had this on a select group of its watches for a while now. Garmin defines this as the “sum of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption or EPOC measurements for the last 7 days.”

Basically, the goal here is to quantify if you are training enough for your current activity level. Slack off on your training and you might see your fitness decline. Push too hard and you risk injury and fatique. The goal is to find a balance – which means you want to aim for the Training Load optimal range.

Garmin Training Load

You might be a bit confused as to what EPOC represents. Put simply, it is a measure of how much your body’s normal state was disturbed by exercise. The fancy term for your normal body state is homeostatis. Which is a self-regulating process by which biological systems maintain stability while adjusting to changing external conditions.

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When you train your body burns a lot of oxygen to fuel muscles. And this excess consumption continues after you’ve finished with the activity. EPOC is a measure of this. The reason why you consume more oxygen even after training is because you have disturbed your body’s natural state. Now your body needs to put in extra work to recover, build muscles and adapt. Which that is the whole goal of training.

The process is refered to as “supercompensation”. Done correctly, it results in you getting fitter and stronger over time. EPOC measures how much work your body needs to do in order to get back to its normal state.

The best way to test this is in a lab with expensive equipment. But we are not all professional athletes so this option is not realistic for most of us. So the next best thing is an EPOC estimate. Garmin’s Training Load uses heart rate data gathered during your workout to calculate EPOC.

Here’s an example of what this might look like in a real-life training scenario.

Garmin Training Load

Lots of Garmin devices support Training Load. The list includes:

  • D2 Delta series, Mach 1
  • Descent Mk1 & Mk2 series
  • Enduro
  • Edge 530, 830, 1030 series, 1040 series
  • epix (Gen 2)
  • fenix 5 and above
  • Forerunner 245, 255, 645, 745, 935, 945, 955 series
  • Instinct 2 Series
  • MARQ Collection
  • quatix 5, 6 and 7 series

Also worth noting is that you need a week of training data for the metric to appear. But it is only after four weeks that the Training Load will be more acurate.

Acute Load

Acute load is a revamped version of the above. The definition is the same – it is just the calculations that are a bit different.

Just like for Training Load, your training history and current fitness level are used to work out if you are low, optimal, high or very high. The change is that this is now a weighted sum of your EPOC over the past week.

Which means the training load now burns off dynamically. Acute load weights the exercises loads, the older ones have less impact than the news ones. A hard workout that you put in a 5-6 days ago will have less of an impact than a workout of the same intensity that you put in yesterday or today. The old metric treats all the workouts over the previous week the same.

Use this in combination with Training Readiness, HRV Status and Recovery Time to tweak your training schedule and stay injury free while doing enough to improve your fitness level. Garmin has provided you with plenty to be able to balance your effort.

Acute Load can be found on the Forerunner 255 and 955 series. Recent firmware updates have also brought the metric to other watches such as the Fenix 7, Epix 2 and more.

Load Focus

Another closely related training metric is called Load Focus. It shows which category your training effort falls in. On select watches, you will get this post exercise and there’s also a nifty 4 week chart which shows your history. The categories here include:

  • Anaerobic – your training is mostly intense activity which leads to high fitness gains.
  • High Aerobic – these are activities that improve lactate threshold, VO2 max, and endurance.
  • Low Aerobic – easy workouts which provide a solid foundation.

Simply running all out each and every time is not ideal. It could lead to injury which will ultimately result in you going slower. So you need a balance. Garmin prescribes how much of each of the three categories you need as training targets.

This table from Firstbeat gives an overview of which types of activities fall into each of the three categories. See where you are deficient and do more of these types of workouts.

Garmin Acute Load

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Marko Maslakovic

Marko founded Gadgets & Wearables in 2014, having worked for more than 15 years in the City of London’s financial district. Since then, he has led the company’s charge to become a leading information source on health and fitness gadgets and wearables.

2 thoughts on “Garmin’s Acute Load training metric explained

  • Yeah but when will we see these algorithms take into account known menstrual cycle fluctuations in these systems and learn based on your individual cyclic data?

  • Thanks for the description and insight, but I’m wearing a Fenix 6 Ultra and it won’t capture the data accurately due to flaws in the device.


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