Training load management

(5 mins read time – grab a drink!!!)

The first point to make in this article is that ‘injury prevention’ is an unrealistic expectation as we cannot truly ‘prevent’ injury….

We can however reduce the ‘risk’ of injury by being aware of certain risk factors that are associated with specific types of injury common to runners….

The focus of this article is the relationship of training load to injury risk…..

When you perform any form of activity such as running or resistance training you apply a ‘load’ to your body… This is termed the ‘training load’. In a normal response to training the body adapts to this load and becomes more load tolerant and the outcome is typically the ability to run longer, run faster and recover more rapidly. This all sounds very positive and most runners would sign up for that!!!

However, for many years we have seen that approximately 30% of runners suffer injury and this is particularly prevalent in those new to running.  The basis of the majority (75%) of these injuries is the cumulative effects of training which subsequently ‘overload’ tissues and this results in injury. Common runners’ injuries such as gluteal tendon pain, shin splints (MTSS), knee pain, achilles tendonopathy and plantar fasciopathy all have their basis in cumulative tissue overload……

So, what is the relevance of this for you???  And how can you use the information in this article to reduce the risk of sustaining one of these common running injuries???

Well…. If you have an understanding of how to manipulate and alter training load then we can also reduce our risk of injury by making informed decisions about your training…. 

There are certain factors highlighted from running related research which are known to be linked with injury risk.  I have outlined these below ….1. Increase training load 10-20% per week 

Training load modification – you need to collect some information on your training for this to be effective. The easiest form of this is mileage per week (MPW). This tells us about your weekly training volume. 

Research informs us that if you increase training volume by more than 20% per week your injury risk spikes.  This doesn’t mean you will definitely sustain injury but there is a significantly increased risk that you may do so. 2. Add intensity after volume 

The majority of evidence we have regarding training load suggest that we build a ‘foundation’ of endurance/strength endurance and then from here work towards higher intensity levels.  By this I mean build aerobic zone fitness (you should be able to talk to a friend during your run) before you work your way towards fartleks, interval training, hill repeats and HIIT type training (where you are very breathless during each interval).3. Allow sufficient recovery ….

This factor is so important and often overlooked and/or neglected. You need to strike a balance between work and recovery. Both during your training sessions and in between them. 

So, for example and using a rule of thumb the higher the intensity of the effort the longer the recovery you will require in between. For example, sprinters often have 1 min of recovery for every 10 metres of maximal intensity sprinting (5 mins for a 50 metre max effort sprint). 

Also, it is important to look at how your training load looks throughout the week and allow sufficient recovery in between sessions for the tissues to ‘adapt’ and ‘recover’ before the next loading bout from training. 4. Don’t redline every session….

It is important that you understand that to achieve optimal results from training you need to vary the training intensity. There are 3 common types of training runners perform  

1. High intensity intervals 

2. Lactate threshold training 

3. Aerobic zone training 

It is very important that you understand these forms of training intensity and know how much time you are spending in them each week. Again, as a rule of thumb it has been suggested that 80% should be spent in the aerobic zone and 20% at threshold or above.  

It is common to find many runners spending too much time at higher intensities which then results in tissue overload and failed responses to training. 

Don’t feel guilty for running at ‘recovery’ type pace and try and balance high and low training intensities through the week. 

So, you will see that having knowledge of how to monitor and manipulate your training load can not only reduce your injury risk but also enhance your running performance. 

In further articles I will discuss specific factors which might increase your risk of sustaining common running injuries such as ITB syndrome, MTSS (shin splints), Achilles tendon pain and Plantar Heel pain (or plantar fasciitis as it is more commonly known).  I hope with this knowledge you can reduce your injury risk and continue to enjoy your training …….

Active Therapy is a specialized clinic of The Running Clinic who are world leaders in the field of injury risk reduction and treatment of running injury. We have completed intensive training over several years and we are experts in running injury assessment and treatment. We have a high level of clinical competence and serve as a reference to other health professionals and contribute to advancing knowledge through scientific research and education.


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