Training load and effort: Apple’s newest workout metrics for the watch

Training Load on Apple Watch
Apple's Training Load metric is a calculation of training effort times workout duration

If you’ve ever wondered how (and if) your workouts impact your body over time, Apple’s newest Workout App and Activity/Fitness App metrics, Training Load and Training Effort, are for you! These metrics look at your individual and combined workouts to show you how much strain your body is experiencing from them (comparing the last seven days to the previous 28 days).

While it’s not exactly a measure of recovery or readiness that other wearables offer, keeping on top of your training load and effort can help you determine when to hit the brakes, take it easy, or ramp up your workout.

So, if you feel like your workouts are not progressing, you’re stuck at a plateau, you’re exhausted, or you are not getting the performance or results you hope for, taking a close look at your Training Load and Effort can help you identify what’s going on and how you can adjust your workout’s intensity or duration (or both) to maximize your training efficiency.

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Training Load starts with tracking each workout’s effort

Training Effort Apple Watch
After each workout, you’ll see a new effort score on a scale of 1 (easiest) to 10 (hardest)

To get to your training load stats, Apple starts by measuring each workout’s training effort. 

After completing a supported workout in the watch’s Workout app (most cardio-focused workouts are supported) or in a 3rd party app that’s integrated with WorkoutKit, Apple reviews that workout’s data (including heart rate, pace, elevation, age, height, and weight) and then assigns it an effort score on a scale of 1 (easy) to 10 (extreme). 

You can manually change that score if you disagree with Apple’s automatic assignment. You can also change a workout’s effort score later in the watch’s Activity app or the iPhone’s Fitness app.

Apple Watch training effort make a change manually in the Activity or Fitness app
It’s easy to change your workout’s training effort inside the Activity or Fitness app. Open the Training Load graph and tap your activity to make an update.

And if your workout isn’t supported (for example, workouts like Yoga, Pilates, or Strength Training aren’t), you can manually add in what you think your effort was using that same 1 to 10 scoring system.

Capturing a training effort score is one of the two critical components in determining your training load (the other being total workout duration). We recommend you toggle on the optional Workouts app setting for a Post-Workout Reminder so you never miss a workout without getting an effort score.

Post Workout Reminder for tracking training effort on each workout
Get a reminder to track your training effort in the Workouts app on Apple Watch. Find it in Settings > Workouts on your Apple Watch

Apple automatically creates an effort score for these cardio-intensive workouts: HITT, hiking, cross-country, skiing, elliptical, stair stepper, dance, kickboxing, pool or open-water swimming, plus both indoor and outdoor walking, running, cycling, and rowing.

If you don’t use the Workouts app to track your training, you can submit effort ratings for workouts tracked in Workout-Kit-supported third‑party fitness apps.

Training Load helps you assess your performance

Apple Watch Workouts app Training Load metric
Training Load considers your workout’s effort x duration to estimate strain.

Once your workouts have an assigned training effort score, Apple multiplies that value by your workout duration to determine the strain they place on your body (your training load).

Training Load graphs and information are available in the Activity and Vitals apps on your Apple Watch and the Fitness apps on your iPhone. 

You can then see if your training load has trended higher (above and well above), lower (below and well below), or stayed steady over the past seven days compared to the previous 28 days. In the Fitness app Training Load summary, you can further adjust these timeframes to show 1-month, 3-month, or even 6-month averages. 

Comparing these numbers helps determine whether you’re under-training, hitting it just right, or over-training. 

What’s unique about Apple’s approach to measuring training load is that it considers workout intensity (effort) AND duration, unlike many other wearable makers that base strain only on activities that push you into higher heart rate zones. However, the downside is that Apple does not consider muscular load, so it doesn’t automatically measure the effort for low-impact activities where your muscles work hard, like strength training and weightlifting.

Apple’s method for training load is especially useful for people who engage in relatively low-heart-rate-zone exercise for long periods of time, like walking, swimming, or hiking. 

If you are new to Apple Watch or have not used it in a while, you’ll need to capture about two to four weeks (14-28 days) of data before you can review your training load information. 

Final thoughts

Although we are still waiting for Apple to add a true Recovery metric, Training Load gets us closer to understanding how our workouts impact our bodies and how our latest training for the most recent seven days compares to our previous 28-day, 3-month, or 6-month averages. 

Armed with this information, we can see the current strain on our bodies, adjust our training efforts to meet our fitness goals and address our body’s need to rest and recover. 

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A. Beth Whittenberger
I started my love affair with computers way back in elementary school with the Apple II. Since then, I've worked with technology in my career as a media educator and videomaker. I have an MFA in media making from Temple University, where I also taught undergrads as an adjunct faculty member. Additionally, I was a writer, content producer, and editor on the popular tech blog AppleToolBox. So I know a thing or two about teaching others and creating how-to guides! After a cancer diagnosis, I turned to mobile technology like my Apple Watch to help me monitor my health throughout my chemotherapy treatment and later, to regain my wellness once in remission. I love sharing how to understand and use mobile tech, like smartwatches and phones, as a tool for empowerment to live our best and healthiest lives! Connect with me on LinkedIn!


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