Training loads and monitoring

A new year, new goals to be set. How have you gone with that? Read more about how to smash out some new year goals here.

It’s so exciting isn’t it? Looking at the calendar, plotting and planing what you might achieve this year. Road trips with friends and family, small goals, large goals, BHAGs (big, hairy audacious goal) – the ones that scare you a little. To reach goals, however, we all know they need to be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time- bound – read more about that here, For fitness goals, that means you also need to smart about your loads.

What are “Loads”

LOADS are the stressors you apply to your body. These are made up of external loads – what we understand as training. Applied at the right amount they will allow us to get fitter, faster, stronger. Applied incorrectly and we end up in injury land – and pretty grumpy. The other type of load is known as an ‘internal load. This is mental stress, fatigue, illness. Both need to be considered with any training program

An injury occurs when the loads placed upon the body is greater than the ability to adapt.

How to monitor loads

This system allows you to factor in how hard you found a training session (monitor of internal load). If you are not very well, or tired, or stressed at work/ with kids, a session may feel harder, and require much more effort than the same session on another day.

PRE chart copy

For each training session, rate your workload, giving it a score out of 10:

This is known as the ‘rate of perceived exertion’, or RPE.

Then, multiply that number by the number of minutes you were working like that.

A 30 minute easy run might be 3/10, thus scored at 3×30=90.

A hard 60 minute gym session might be 7/10, thus 7×60=420

If you have a session where you warm up for 20 minutes easy, then did 30 minutes of hard work, then cooled down gently for 15 minutes, you might record that as:
(20x 2) + (30×7) + (15×4) = 310 for the session.

A 150 minute long slow run on the weekend might be 150×4 = 600. After a late night, or in your peak training weeks when you are very tired, it might be fairer to record it as 150×7=1050. It’s up to you.

Sample week copy

Do this for every training session through the week, then calculate the total for the week. A spreadsheet is probably the easiest way to keep track of this.

then look at the average of the last 4 weeks of training, and compare that to the plan for the current week. From this you will get a percentage. For improvement this percentage should be between 80 – 150%. However, the higher your percentage each week, the closer to the threshold of injury (overload) you become.

Research has shown that if you hit a percentage of 200% you are 3-4 times more likely to have an injury in the next 4 weeks.

For you maths nerds 😉

Graph copy
Training load monitoring graph

The blue line here is the Chronic training load – your 4 week rolling average, and is also known as your ‘fitness’. The pink line is your acute training load – your 7 day rolling average. It will also measure your relative fatigue. The yellow line becomes your ‘form’ – how ready to perform well you are, or fitness and freshness together.

You can see the benefit of a taper here – training load reduces, fatigue reduces, and you are more ready to perform. But a taper will reduce your fitness if continued for too long. When the yellow line is low, your ability to perform will be impaired.

Heavy training periods increase fatigue, and reduce your ability to perform in the moment, but improve your fitness over time. The sweet spot for competition is going to be when your form is higher than your fatigue – it makes sense!

How do you apply this?

When mapping out your next few months of events and training, aim for 3 weeks at that sweet spot (120-130%), then one week of active recovery at 80%. Cycle through the year that way.  The Vital Core MAP can be great for this – pick one up at the clinic.

Motivational and Accountability Poster (MAP)

Recent research has demonstrated that athletes don’t tend to sustain only one injury. Once injured, athletes will experience 2-3 injuries back to back, often related to resuming high training loads too quickly, with not quite enough rehab. 40% of all injuries seen are re-injuries.

The lag is very important here – the critical thing is that what you are doing is what you have prepared for.

If you sign up for a 100km Ultramarathon, but have never run more than 50km in a week, you are putting your body at risk. You need to plan ahead, and incorporate some big weeks in your training program, whilst still including adequate rest periods.

According to Peter Blanch, Physiotherapist at the AIS, Australian Swimming and Cricket Australia, “Load is the cause of and the solution to all of sports problems!”.

How does physio help?

This all might seem a bit complex to you. Understanding loads both external and internal is what we at Vital Core do. We can help you plan that training so that you successfully achieve those big goals set for 2019. If you need help please come and see us.