The festive season can be a time of year where we ask a bit more from the body than what it is used to; namely our drinking and eating levels. Most of us have some time off over the Christmas/New Years’ period, so there is always an excuse to have a few beers on a Wednesday night, or indulge in multiple left-over ham sandwiches. If you’re a seasoned veteran, your body will be trained to handle these excessive loads, for others however- the intake on Christmas day may have been such a surprise you’re still feeling the effects! These patterns can be quite similar when it comes to getting back into your exercise/sport training, however poor training management can lead to keeping you out of playing, rather than Boxing Day kick-ons.
Sports science and medicine is continually progressing and playing an integral role in team sports, particularly in the prevention of injuries.
“A common misconception is that training at high levels will increase your injury risk, however there is evidence to suggest that higher training loads can help prevent against injury.”
In turn, under-training can increase injury risk. To get your head around this, it is first important to understand what ‘training load’ actually means. Training load can be categorised as either external load (the physical work done), and internal load (how it feels for the athlete). For example, an external load would be how many km’s a footy player ran in a game, and the internal load could be a 1-10 rating on how hard they feel they worked (commonly known as ‘RPE’). If you were measuring your training load for one week, this is known as ‘acute’ load, whereas your ‘chronic’ load is the average over a longer period (usually 3-6 weeks).
But what does this mean for the local-level athlete? Simply put, if you want to decrease your injury risk going into the season/leading up to an event, you’ll have to track these numbers yourself. Unless your club has a sports scientist, or a very dedicated sports trainer! An easy approach is to multiply your time of training/play (minutes) by your 1-10 rating, and you’ll get the acute load for that session, add them together and you’ve got your number for the week. After a few weeks- you can get your average for those weeks. But how do I use this information?
The reason to monitor these numbers is to reduce your injury risk- by making sure your training in the ‘sweet spot.’ A study on elite fast bowlers showed that if a bowler bowled 1.5 times more bowls in a week than their average, there risk of injury is 2-4 times higher over the next week, compared to if the kept their bowling levels ‘normal.’ In general, your acute load should stay around 10% above or below your chronic load. This would mean during footy pre-season (for example), you shouldn’t decide to throw in extra sessions and bump training up by 30% to be ‘ready’ for the practice match. On the other hand, try and not get lazy and not rock up for 3 weeks in the middle of July (and decrease training by 80%). In summary, there is some responsibility on you, but using some easy tools to monitor your training levels can help keep you on the track!
IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT HOW TO BEST MANAGE YOUR TRAINING LOADS
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AUTHOR: JARRYD CROXFORD - Physiotherapist
Gabbett, T. J. (2016). The training—injury prevention paradox: should athletes be training smarter and harder?. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 50(5), 273-280.
Hulin, B., Gabbett, T., Blanch, P., Chapman, P., Bailey, D., & Orchard, J. (2014). Spikes in acute workload are associated with increased injury risk in elite cricket fast bowlers. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 48(8), 708-712.