To compare the effects of a standardized endurance-training program with individualized endurance training modified based on the cumulative training load provided by the Polar training-load feature.
After 12 wk of similar training, 24 recreationally endurance-trained men were matched to a training-load-guided (TL, n = 10) or standardized (ST, n = 14) group and continued training for 12 wk. In TL, training sessions were individually chosen daily based on an estimated cumulative training load, whereas in ST the training was standardized with 4–6 sessions/wk. Endurance performance (shortest 1000-m running time during an incremental field test of 6 × 1000 m) and heart-rate variability (HRV) were measured every 4 wk, and maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max) was measured during an incremental treadmill test every 12 wk.
During weeks 1–12, similar changes in VO2max and 1000-m time were observed in TL (+7% ± 4%, P = .004 and –6% ± 4%, P = .069) and ST (+5% ± 7%, P = .019 and –8% ± 5%, P < .001). During wk 13–24, VO2max statistically increased in ST only (3% ± 4%, P = .034). The 1000-m time decreased in TL during wk 13–24 (–9% ± 5%, P = .011), but in ST only during wk 13–20 (–3% ± 2%, P = .003). The overall changes in VO2max and 1000-m time during wk 0–24 were similar in TL (+7% ± 4%, P = .001 and –9% ± 5%, P = .011) and ST (+10% ± 7%, P < .001 and –13% ± 5%, P < .001). No between-groups differences in total training volume and frequency were observed. HRV remained statistically unaltered in both groups.
The main finding was that training performed according to the cumulative training load led to improvements in endurance performance similar to those with standardized endurance training in recreational endurance runners.
Schumann, Botella, and Häkkinen are with the Dept of Biology of Physical Activity, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland. Karavirta is with Polar Electro Oy, Kempele, Finland.