Quantification of Training and Competition Loads in Endurance Sports: Methods and Applications

Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2017 Apr;12(Suppl 2):S29-S217. doi: 10.1123/ijspp.2016-0403. Epub 2016 Dec 5.


Training quantification is basic to evaluate an endurance athlete's responses to training loads, ensure adequate stress/recovery balance, and determine the relationship between training and performance. Quantifying both external and internal workload is important, because external workload does not measure the biological stress imposed by the exercise sessions. Generally used quantification methods include retrospective questionnaires, diaries, direct observation, and physiological monitoring, often based on the measurement of oxygen uptake, heart rate, and blood lactate concentration. Other methods in use in endurance sports include speed measurement and the measurement of power output, made possible by recent technological advances such as power meters in cycling and triathlon. Among subjective methods of quantification, rating of perceived exertion stands out because of its wide use. Concurrent assessments of the various quantification methods allow researchers and practitioners to evaluate stress/recovery balance, adjust individual training programs, and determine the relationships between external load, internal load, and athletes' performance. This brief review summarizes the most relevant external- and internal-workload-quantification methods in endurance sports and provides practical examples of their implementation to adjust the training programs of elite athletes in accordance with their individualized stress/recovery balance.

Keywords: external load; intensity; internal load; monitoring; training adaptation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletes
  • Athletic Performance / physiology*
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Lactic Acid / blood
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Physical Conditioning, Human*
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Physical Exertion*
  • Sports / physiology*


  • Lactic Acid