If you watch almost any form of professional sport you may have heard the term ‘Load Management’ in recent years. Often the conversations on this topic are led by cranky former athletes tut-tutting that ‘back in my day we didn’t have load management, we just played!’
Yes, the term Load Management has been popularised in recent years. This is not because the athletes of today are soft compared with their predecessors. This is because those charged with preparing athletes to be at their best when they need to perform are now armed with a vast and growing body of evidence that supports Load Management.
And the evidence supporting Load Management is not confined to team sport athletes, or elites in individual sports. Published research shows that recreational, even novice runners should be considering how they are managing their training loads.
Show me the evidence!!
- A Systematic Review by Drew and Finch (2016) that included 35 studies found that across many sports, training loads were predictive of both injury and illness.
- A Systematic Review by Damsted er al (2018) found that runners were more likely to develop an injury if they; suddenly altered the velocity, distance and/or frequency of their running; increased their average weekly running by >30% versus <10%; and/or they had a sudden spike in their training volume the week before the injury occurred.
- In a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis by Videbaek et al (2015) (13 articles included) that looked at injury incidence per 1000hrs of running, novice runners were likely to experience more-than-double the amount of injuries per 1000hrs as recreational runners.
- A Systematic review by van Gent et al (2007) found that the most common site of injury in the runners in the included studies was the knee, but that training plans that gradually increased loads were protective against knee injuries.
I have provided the complete citations for each of these Review Articles for those that want to dig deeper into the evidence. I warn you though that this search is an absolute rabbit warren- like I said earlier, there is a vast and growing body of evidence on this topic!
Evidence is important in health. In this particular area though, the evidence is just reinforcing what common sense should already be telling us.
Stress > Recover > Adapt > Repeat
Running is a form of physical stress. When we allow adequate recovery our body gradually adapts to deal with this stress.
A well-structured training plan is really a balancing act between imparting a ‘dose’ of physical stress, then encouraging recovery strategies to enhance the adaptation process. Stress > Recover > Adapt. We repeat this cycle over a given period of time so that you can be as well prepared as possible for the event you are training for.
The evidence tells us that if we try to rush this process, if we build load too quickly and impart too much stress at any time point we can tip this balance and create injury. And if not injury, we can end up just becoming run-down and sick which can be terribly frustrating if you have an event looming on the calendar.
Load Management and Goal Setting
If you are training for a specific event do you have enough time between now and then to build load gradually?
Actually, I’ll be more precise than that. From your current training load, can you build upon that total load by no more than 10% per week up to when (if) you plan to taper?
Does your time-frame include some rest weeks and additional weeks for unforeseen circumstances?
If you can confidently answer YES! to those questions I don’t need to wish you good luck, as you are probably managing yourself impeccably.
If you cannot answer yes, then I recommend you seek something more reliable than luck. I suggest finding a good coach, experienced in Load Management for runners.
About The Author
Damsted, C., Glad, S., Nielsen, R. O., Sørensen, H., & Malisoux, L. (2018). Is there evidence for an association between changes in training load and running-related injuries? A systematic review. International journal of sports physical therapy, 13(6), 931.
Drew, M. K., & Finch, C. F. (2016). The relationship between training load and injury, illness and soreness: a systematic and literature review. Sports medicine, 46(6), 861-883.
Van Gent, R. N., Siem, D., van Middelkoop, M., Van Os, A. G., Bierma-Zeinstra, S. M. A., & Koes, B. W. (2007). Incidence and determinants of lower extremity running injuries in long distance runners: a systematic review. British journal of sports medicine, 41(8), 469-480.
Videbæk, S., Bueno, A. M., Nielsen, R. O., & Rasmussen, S. (2015). Incidence of running-related injuries per 1000 h of running in different types of runners: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports medicine, 45(7), 1017-1026.
At iNform we take the word ‘goal’ seriously. A ‘goal’ is different from an aspiration, desire or intention. For us, a goal is a specific outcome that you have a strategy for, and determination to achieve.
The well-known Goal Framework acronym SMARTER is a framework that we as Exercise Physiologists use to help keep us accountable to creating a great strategy to help you succeed. You can read endlessly on this topic from authors more qualified than me, but if you are unsure of what SMARTER stands for it is as follows:
I won’t delve deeper into the specifics of each of these domains in this article. Rather I want to talk to you about an aspect of living within a goal framework that I enjoy the most. I am talking about the concept of Daily Wins.
If I am training for an event in 6 months time I should have a rough idea of what the next 6 months will look like. The next month should be quite clear, but the following week is spelled out in BOLD UNDERLINED font. This means I know exactly what I need to do each day this week to help take me closer to my goal.
Every day that I complete my task for that day, I win. If that task is my long run and I get it done, I give myself a pat on the back for the win I earned. If the next day my aim is to recover and that includes a leisurely walk with the dog, a warm bath and a gentle stretching session, guess what? I win again. It is incredibly satisfying to pat oneself on the back for taking a bubble bath I can tell you!
It is not essential for a runner to have a goal at all times. In fact I encourage all of my runners to spend at least some of the year deliberately goal-less (I will tease this topic out in a future article).
A SMARTER Goal is a serious commitment. And truly committing yourself to a Goal can become burdensome. If you have an intelligent daily plan you can eliminate the sense of burden by celebrating your Daily Wins.
About The Author
Did you know that if you start running, there is a 30% chance that within 6 months you will stop.
But evidence from studies such as this one from Fokkema et al (where I pulled that number from) can help people like me understand why, so I can share it with people like you!
So firstly, why do people stop. For the participants of the study linked above, the main reasons were:
- Development of an injury.
- A low perception of physical capability prior to commencement.
- A lack of direction following an initial intro-to-running program.
The good news is that these pitfalls can be avoided if you acknowledge the fact that they exist before you start, and you implement strategies to get over them.
So here is what I recommend before you start running.
- Listen to your body. Running is hard on the body, but this is not a bad thing. Our body responds favorably to loading but if this load crosses a threshold injury can occur. So build gradually. If you start getting sore, walk it off. If you pull up sore the next day, roll your legs over on a bike. Prioritise sleep as that is when our body heals itself. Drink lots of water and eat nutritious food. Basically treat yourself well.
- Get Strong! If you doubt your physical capabilities, improve your physical capabilities. Getting stronger is simplest way to do this. Consult with a trusted Exercise Physiologist or Strength Coach and they can help you get stronger in a safe and appropriate manner.
- Think long-term. Most running programs for beginners aim to get you from 0 to 5km in about six weeks. Plan a six month goal. A 10-12km event is appropriate for that time frame. Search for an event that you would like to do in six months of around that distance and commit to it. Seek out a reputable Coach who can help you plan from week-6 to month-6 and beyond. Running gets easier with increasing experience. And the easier it is, the more enjoyable it is and more beneficial it will be to your long term health.
For more information on this topic check out these blogs:
Running is NOT bad for your knees
My 5 favourite types of running
Don’t run anymore? Who do you think you are?
About The Author
Whilst reading Stephen Lunn’s article in the Weekend Australia this past weekend, ‘How to live well in your final decade’ I couldn’t help but think of many of iNform’s wonderful clients aged 70+.
If you didn’t get a chance to read this article here is a synopsis:
- Australian’s are living longer than we ever have, but the length of our ‘quality years’ is not increasing proportionally.
- This means on average we are spending more years in a state of ill-health, dealing with disease and/or disability.
- To narrow the gap between years lived and quality years the following is recommended: Get fitter and stronger; eat well; keep you mind occupied; be part of a community; remain useful.
Many of the people aged over 70 that I have worked with over the past fifteen years tick all, if not most of those boxes.
I guess that is to be expected. As an Exercise Physiologist I do see a biased sample of Australia’s population.
The only people that access my services are people who are wanting to take control and action over their health and to be brutally honest, have the means to do so.
I never see people who are passive in their health- that are allowing the deterioration of their health to just happen to them. Why would they seek out someone like me?
Unfortunately I also don’t get to see many of those who have the will to take control, but just lack the means (location/transport; finances; awareness etc etc). That is a massive topic for another day- for now I would like to focus only on those I do see.
When I think of the men and women of 70+ years that I have trained, the following things come to mind:
- An unwillingness to write things off as ‘it’s probably just old-age. No, if your knee is sore, there is a reason for it that may well be changeable.
- A desire to travel. And I don’t mean on a Greyhound Bus with an occasional stop at a local ‘famous bakery’. I mean hiking holidays in Peru, Nepal or Switzerland; expeditions to Antarctica by ice-breaker boat; solo driving around Australia in a Camper-van; Ski holidays in Japan; water-skiing on the Murray River. I have helped people of 70+ years achieve all of these things and many more.
- A drive to get stronger. Not just to help bone density or cardiovascular health. But to feel empowered, independent, capable. One of my clients, a woman aged 71 takes great pleasure helping younger women put their bags into overhead lockers on her many flights to far-flung destinations around the world.
- Improving strength and fitness to help them complete their first marathon, or long-distance cycling event.
- A conviction to live independently. Not just exist, or survive. I am talking about hosting parties and other social events; or fixing things or even renovate by themselves.
It is a great privilege to help people achieve these types of things after their 70th birthday. You are never too old to get started, unless you believe you are.
About The Author
High-Intensity Interval Training is all rage right now. I have come across stacks of tabloid articles and television programs recently espousing the virtues of HIIT training, and for good reason.
There is good evidence to show that training in short bursts of high intensity can yield all sorts of wonderful benefits towards our metabolic health, body composition and fitness markers. My colleague, Hunter Bennett, wrote a great article on this topic that you can read here. This has lead to the creation of Fitness Franchises and individual businesses that focus solely on the HIIT principle.
In my opinion, such businesses offer fitness training to the masses much in the same way that Fast Food Chains delivers nutrition. Cheaply, poorly, and with an unacceptable level of health risk to their patrons.
So what’s the problem, hater?
There are a few, but I will focus on the two major ones that I commonly see:
1) The lack of pre-exercise screening and assessment.
Before you start training at a fitness centre, the staff (who should be adequately qualified) are required to take you through the ‘Adult Pre-Exercise Screening Tool‘ so that the appropriate level of exercise can be prescribed for you based on any metabolic or physical risk factors you may have.
This is in your best interest as if you have a health concern, either diagnosed or undiagnosed you should ease your way gently into an exercise program. This process is a basic requirement for all accredited Fitness Businesses. If you have started training and you have not been adequately screened using this questionnaire I would be highly concerned about the people you have trusted with your health. They have let you down.
Following the metabolic screening questionnaire, we at iNform believe a thorough evaluation of Movement Competency should be completed, so that you can be prescribed exercises that you are able to complete safely and effectively.
Again, if you are thrust into a High Intensity Circuit class without anyone assessing you movement capabilities (and adjusting your exercise recommendations accordingly) then you have been put into a situation that carries an unacceptable level of injury risk.
2) Overly complex, diverse and advanced exercises.
The evidence to support the use of HIIT style training is derived from studies that generally use quite straight-forward forms of exercises- such as sprints on a stationary bike or rower. Or they use pretty simple resistance exercises such as squats, push-ups, bicep curls etc. Also the groups used in these studies tend to be quite homogeneous- males or females aged 18-23; type-2 diabetics; post-menopausal women etc etc.
So we have simple, yet vigorous exercises being prescribed to a group of ‘similar’ people (with unsuitable people being screened out in the participant selection process) to determine the effect of HIIT training over a period of time.
This does not sound like your average HIIT class- where you might find a 18y.o Netballer; a 48y.o. Accountant; a 32y.o. mother of a 9-month old baby, and god knows who else. Surely if you are putting together a session for a group as diverse is this, in the best interests of the participants you would be more conservative with your exercise selection than those conducting the studies are!
So what should you do?
This article probably comes across as discouraging towards group based HIIT classes. That wasn’t my intention. Rather than discouraging, I hope this article can help you make informed choices about who you trust to guide your exercise programming. If you are thinking of undertaking some HIIT training, here are some things to look out for:
- Do qualified staff screen you for metabolic risk and movement capability prior to entering you into a class. If the answer is no, DO NOT TRAIN THERE!
- Are the exercises require a lot of jumping, throwing, swinging etc. If the answer is yes, BE CAREFUL!
- Do your joints hurt during and/or after the exercise session? If so, THIS IS NOT WHAT WE WOULD CALL GOOD SORE!
- Did the staff conduct a thorough one-on-one evaluation of your metabolic health and movement capacity- then prescribe exercises that were appropriate to you level of fitness and capability with a view to gradually build intensity? If the answer is yes, THIS SOUNDS LIKE SOMEONE WORTHY OF YOUR TRUST!
About the Author