The impact of an athlete’s training load on their risk of injury and illness was again the subject of much discussion in 2019. For those of you who joined us at the Sports Performance and Prevention Conference earlier this month you would have heard a lot about us from experts including Tim Gabbatt. If we can get an athlete’s loading right, we should be able to reduce the risk of injury.
Most of us are about to start/have started pre-season training. Unfortunately, this is a potential risk time for sustaining injuries. Not only are the grounds hard and the temperature hot, but most of us are also coming from a relatively inactive period over the summer months. As a result, pre-season training represents a sudden increase in training. During this period it is important to remember the concept of acute and chronic loading (made popular by Tim and others). Basically the thinking is that an athlete can tolerate a high total training load if they have slowly and progressively increased their load over a period of time. This habitual training volume is referred to as ‘chronic load’. A good example of this is the high training volume that an elite marathon runner is able to tolerate. These athletes may be able to run between 140-160km per week with no significant issues. On the flip side of this, a relatively sedentary ‘athlete’ might break down if they try to start running 10-20 kilometres per week. This is because this relatively low volume of training represents a proportionally high ‘acute load’. Similarly, if the marathon runner we described above tried to increase their training volume further, or added some unaccustomed speed work, they might then run into trouble because of the additional acute load to their busy schedule. To limit the risk of injury and illness it appears to be important to maintain a chronic load and to limit the number and volume of acute loads.
Communicating your concerns about your training with your coaches can be difficult and is often taken badly. As a result, it is important to be able to convey this message in a way that they can understand. When talking about the concept of load a relatively good analogy to consider involves drinking alcohol. This is often well received and well understood. For most of us, drinking a couple of glasses of wine here and there is a positive and enjoyable experience. This represents a low chronic load. If however we get a bit excited and drink too much (an ‘acute load’), we will suffer badly the following day. If however, we start to drink more (slowly increasing our chronic load) we will likely develop some tolerance to this and potentially suffer less.
Hope that you have a fun, productive and injury-free pre-season. Remember that the team at Axis is here to help if you are having problems.
By Dr Mark Fulcher on