Image source: Garmin

How to balance Load Focus on a Garmin

A common problem some Garmin users face is a shortage in Low Aerobic Load. In this article we explain how to balance your Load Focus, with a particular emphasis on the Low Aerobic category.


Garmin Load Focus – what is it?

Most Garmin watches have a Training Load metric, or in the case of newer watches – an Acute Training Load. This shows if you are doing enough exercise for your current fitness level. The goal is to be in the sweet spot, not doing too much and risking injury, but doing enough so that you are pushing yourself hard enough to make gains.

Some watches also show something called a Load focus. This goes into a bit more detail by quantifying which category your exercise effort falls in. To display a value Garmin needs at least four weeks worth of training data.

Devices that support Load Focus include:

  • D2 Mach 1
  • Descent Mk2 series
  • Edge 530, 830, 1030 range, 1040 range
  • epix (Gen 2)
  • fenix 6 & 7 series
  • Forerunner 255, 745, 945/945 LTE, 955 series
  • Instinct 2 series
  • MARQ Collection
  • quatix 6
  • tactix 7 and Delta series

The benefit of an exercise can be Anaerobic or Aerobic.

The first is activity that is short-lasting, but high-effort. Think high intensity interval training, weight-lifting and similar. It is the type of exercise that quickly leads to a build up in lactic acid which causes fatigue. Occasionally doing anaerobic fitness activities leads to high fitness gains. It helps build lean muscle and teaches our bodies to burn calories more efficiently.

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Aerobic training, on the other hand, is working out at low to moderate intensity. It is also called cardio or endurance training – a steady-pace effort that you can maintain for a medium to long distance. This type of training helps to burn fat and slim down.

Garmin further splits the Aerobic category into Low and High Aerobic. And this is the area where some people struggle.


Low Aerobic Load – a shortage is a common problem

Devices with Load Focus provide a little chart which shows how much of each of the above-mentioned three categories you need – Anaerobic, Low Aerobic and High Aerobic. The goal is to hit the optimal range in each. This is a rolling 4 week average.

Do a quick 5K or 10K run and most of this will lead to High Aerobic category points. And while that is perfectly fine, you do not want to be spending all your time in the Anaerobic and High Aerobic categories. A balance is what is required.

A common issue that many users face is a shortage of Low Aerobic. It might look something like this:

Garmin Low Aerobic shortage

So how do you increase Low Aerobic?

Garmin says “Try working in more easy runs or rides to balance your higher intensity activities”.

For those that train with heart rate zones, it means spending most of your time in the 2nd zone. That’s about 60-70% of your maximum heart rate. So make sure your heart rate zones are properly set.

Zone 1 will clearly not be worth many Low Aerobic points – an easy hike or a brisk walk will simply not do it. It is too low in terms of sustained effort. You need an extended zone 2 workout. Spending most of your time in the higher zones, on the other hand, will only lead to gains in High Aerobic and Anaerobic points.

So find an activity that keeps you in the low-intensity Zone 2 – the one that is coloured in Blue. These should be exercises that last a while, such as a steady pace 60 minute run. They are labeled by Garmin as Recovery or Base activities. Another example is rowing at a mild to moderate effort. You’ve got to experiment a bit to find what works for you.

Training Load Focus

Low Aerobic exercises aren’t hard, as they produce strain at a much slower rate than high-intensity efforts. But they do take up a lot of time.

This Firstbeat table shows a bit more detail as far as the options.

Low Aerobic Load

Do some slower stuff – high-intensity workouts are not the only ones to go for

Put simply, you need to do some slower stuff to balance your Load Focus. Don’t push yourself hard each time you head out. It is too easy to slip into the thinking that higher-intensity efforts are the only ones to go for.

Slowing down might feel awkward and might not come naturally for some. You could even find you have started a lower-intensity workout, but gradually increased intensity as the workout progresses. We’ve all been there.

Finally, there is some good news for those who like to push themselves. The Recovery Time for Aerobic Low activities is short. So the Training Load drops quite a bit after one or two days of no activity. Which means you can head out again shortly after a Low Aerobic workout, and give that 5K personal best another go!

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