This is the time of year where we see a lot of our ‘Resolutioners’ in the clinic – people who have set big exercise goals and stuck with them, only to find that a month or two in their bodies are just not holding up to the stress. This can often lead to people abandoning their goals; either quitting altogether or switching to a much easier task.
However, recent evidence suggests that people whose training load is higher are actually less likely to be injured, poor training regimes that increase intensity too quickly are more likely to lead to injury .
So what is the right amount? To explain this, we need to talk about chronic versus acute loading.
Shown in the graph above, you can see each training event either one session or one week’s worth of training. The “loading” part of the training event is based on your individual fitness: for someone who runs marathons a 5km run is a warm up, but for someone who is just starting a 5km run may seem a bit overwhelming. This level of effort for each training event represents the acute training load. The chronic load is the average load over the last 6 weeks. If your acute load is equal to or greater than 1.5 times your chronic load, your risk of injury is significantly increased . This means that to increase your chronic load average without risking injury, you need to train within the “sweet spot”, which is 0.8-1.3 times your chronic load .
However, as I just tested for myself, this can involve some tricky maths and makes it difficult to put into practice especially if you are a social exerciser like myself.
An easier way to progress without increasing your injury risk is to pay attention to your “Rate of Perceived Exertion” or RPE. This is normally measured on a scale from 0-10, where 0 is no exertion (laying still) and 10 being the hardest you could possibly work. To progress safely, you should try to increase your overall effort by 10% on this scale, not much more. That could mean running 5km 10% harder/faster than you usually do, or it could be run/walking 10km at a lower intensity.
What to take home from this? High levels of regular exercise protect you from injury risk as long as you get there at a steady rate. If you have any questions, the best thing to do is seek advice from our friendly physios at TPMC, or your health care professional!
 Gabbett, T. J. (2016). The training—injury prevention paradox: Should athletes be training smarter and harder? British Journal of Sports Medicine Br J Sports Med, 50(5), 273-280