Running and Load Management
Updated: Jul 28, 2021
Managing running load and volume is a very important component of your running program. Training errors are the single biggest cause of running related injuries that we see at the Evolved Physio clinic and so many of them are preventable with just a few tweaks and a bit of education.
Load management is important for all runners, but even more so if you are still relatively new to running. So what is "load Management"?
The tissues in our body - the bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons all have a “capacity” or load tolerance, that they can work at safely. This tolerance level is different for each type of tissue and varies between every person. If we suddenly or repetitively exceed the capacity limit of any individual tissue type, it can result in overload and subsequent injury.
When we exercises the repetitive movement and strain on the tissues creates micro trauma. This process is normal and not a cause for concern. The body is very adept at healing this micro trauma and the process of regeneration is what makes out tissues stronger and more robust.
But this process takes time and if the next episode of loading comes before the recovery process is complete, and this happens again and again we can end up with tissue breakdown and less capacity to withstand subsequent loads.
Tendons in particular are susceptible to sudden fluctuations in load, for example if you normally run 5 km and suddenly increase that to 10km or 15km this could be a higher rate loading than the tendon can cope with and there can be subsequent acute tendon pain.
Bone is more susceptible to repetitive load and can be vulnerable when there is consistent impact loading without adequate time for repair at a cellular level.
Our body is constantly adapting to load but it takes some time for this to occur so allowing at least 36 hours between one run and the next will allow sufficient recovery time and minimise the chance of overload.
When considering how much load you are putting into your body, think about more than just the running. Consider this list and how you could better distribute your training load.
Surface you run on
Other training loads - weights, walking, cycling etc
Work - do you stand all day or is your job very physical? Do you sit all day and then do sudden burst of high intensity exercise?
Rest days - do you have any? Are they balanced amongst everything else?
Sleep - good sleep quality and sleep hygiene is essential to tissue recovery - see out other post on sleep for more information
Add some variety to your running by mixing up the running variable such as pace, distance and surface you run on. If you always run at one pace consider adding some interval session or tempo runs into the mix. If you always run the same route try varying the surfaces, terrain or distance. Consider what else you do in a day or within the 36 hour recovery window that could be contributing to tissue overload.
Cross train with activities that provide the body with a different type of loading such as strength training, pilates, swimming or cycling. Set goals that are realistic and have sensible time frames for building up the kilometres - the suggested rate of increase in total volume per week is only 10%.
Most importantly - listen to your body! Our bodies are great at telling us when to stop or take a break.... we are just not always that good at listening.
If you do have any niggles or injuries get them seen to sooner rather than later. Often a slight change to the training program or additional strength exercises can have you back on track sooner rather than later with minimal impact to your program and goals.
Evolved Physio is a welcoming Physiotherapy clinic located in Maribyrnong-Footscray, Melbourne and servicing Melbourne's Inner West. With experienced physiotherapists and 45 minute treatment sessions our aim is to get you back to doing what you love as soon as possible.