An Injury can be a major limiting factor affecting your ability to train, perform at your best, or even compete in the upcoming games. There are many types of athletic injuries and many reasons why we develop them. Leading up to the games we will discuss the different reasons we develop injuries and how we can reduce your risk of developing those injuries.
One of the more common risk factors for injuries among athletes is a spike or rapid change from their normal training load.
What is your normal training load?
Training load is the physical stress your body (muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, joints) endures during training and competitions and will vary depending on your sport. Training load can include: the duration (how long you train in a session), the frequency (how many training sessions a week) and the intensity of your training. Intensity includes speed and distance (kilometres, accumulative distance in a game or training session), resistance (forces or kilograms) and repetitive movements (number of tennis serves, golf swings or soccer kicks). Your ‘normal’ or chronic training load would be a combination of the factors mentioned above within your regular training without significant variation from your weekly training routine.
What is a spike or change from your normal training load?
Any rapid change in your normal training load without giving your body enough time to adjust to this new load, is considered a change or spike in load that may increase the risk of sustaining an injury. An injury could be a anything from a mild strain to tears and fractures. A half marathon runner, for instance, normally trains twice a week (frequency), runs 6-8km each time (duration) at an average of 9 km/h (intensity). If this runner suddenly increases his/her training to 4-5 training sessions a week, 15km per session at a speed of 11km/h that would be considered a very significant spike in all his/her training loads. A spike does not have to be in all three components of load. Two or even one load out of the three may be enough to put him/her at risk of injury.
External factors can also change your training load. For the runner, these could include changing running shoes to a different style, running on different terrain (grass, sand, uneven ground), or running a different course that has more hills compared to running on a flat.
What can we do to make sure we do not increase our load too rapidly?
The most important way to minimise your injury risk relating to rapid increase in training load, is to have a structured and detailed training program and stick to it. There are numerous resources to help develop a training program. You could consult with a coach, sports physiotherapist, exercise physiologist (with experience in your field of sport) or visit credible information websites. If you have enough experience, you can do it yourself. One way of going about it is to set end goals and work backwards to the present. Coming back to our runner, he wants to be able to run 21.1 km under two hours (faster than 10.55km/h) at a competition in 4 months. Working backwards means he can now spread the load over the next 4 months by gradually increasing his training load from 8km to 21.1 (duration), 9 to 12 km/h (intensity) and from 2 to 4 sessions per week (frequency).
In summary, the body requires time and consistency in load to adapt positively (improved performance) to demands brought up by training towards a competition. The important components of minimising the risk of injury should include clear performance goals, structured training program, gradual increase of load in your training program and enough time to implement your program so START NOW!
If you have any specific issues you would like to discuss or further questions regarding training loads, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org