‘Training load’, the amount of exercise you are performing, has a significant impact on the risk of sustaining an injury. During, and especially after, last year’s lockdown, we saw a substantial increase in overuse injuries like Achilles tendinopathy, shin pain and knee pain. This was directly related to people getting out and being more active than normal. While being more active is clearly a great idea it is important to consider how quickly one should try to progress this.
Given that most of us are either not working, working from home or have more flexible working hours, many of us are walking, running or riding more. This means that we are exposing our body to a sudden increase in training volume. This is not always something that our body responds well to! The concept of acute and chronic training load is worth discussing and considering. A trained 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 or walking for 10-20 kilometres per week. This is because this relatively lower 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.
When talking about the concept of load, a relatively good analogy involves drinking alcohol, which many of us are also partaking in during lockdown. 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.
We hope that you can have a fun, productive and injury-free lockdown and enjoy some time with those in your bubbles. Remember that the team at Axis is here to help if you are having problems. We are running a range of virtual clinics over the lockdown period and are available to help with your load related injuries and to provide guidance regarding training volume!