What is training load?
And why do we collect this data in the AMS?
Coaches and high performance staff use measures of an athlete's training load and recovery/wellness to review how an an athlete is responding and adapting to their training programs. There are a number of different ways that a coach or the support staff may measure training load and an athlete's response to training and competition. This may include an understanding of not only the physical load placed upon an athlete in training and competition, but also how the load will effect the body in other ways such as the level of fatigue, sleep, nutrition requirements, stress and mental well being.
These measures are used to assist in the planning of future training sessions with the aim to maximise the athlete's individual training response to improve performance. As well as striving to get the best possible improvements in performance, measuring and monitoring an athlete's training load is also used to reduce the risk of sustaining an injury or illness. These measures are also often used to the medical team when planning the rehabilitation of an injury to ensure that the athlete can recover as quickly as possible without increasing the risk of re-injury.
When initially designing athlete monitoring the process can be can potentially be overwhelming, due to the multitude of variables that can be used, however the initial process can be simplified by determining “what do you want to achieve with athlete monitoring?”
- More accurately assess the positive effects of training response against the negative impacts of fatigue
- Potentially manage/reduce risk of injury and illness
- Make more informed decisions on the design and prescription of training and recovery strategies.
- To be able to manage athlete better individually by gaining insight of athlete’s internal response to external training loads
- Quantify individual strengths and weaknesses
- Track the trends in athlete’s progression and performance
- Assess the athlete’s preparedness for training and competition
The primary outcome of effective athlete monitoring is that it is administered as a method of promoting training and improving performance, not restricting it.
Once you are clear on your reasons for monitoring athletes you need to consider what information you want to collect and analyse.
How do I train 'just right?'
Did you know that big changes in how much you train from week to week can cause injury and illness? Athletes who train several hours per day must work up to that level gradually over time.
Linda is an elite swimmer. She trains 14 session a week (10 pool session, 3 gym session and 1 cross-training session ). Linda has increased her training volume gradually over time so her body can cope with this training load. However, if Linda had been training 5 session a week and then suddenly started doing 14 sessions a week, she would be at a high risk of becoming ill or injured.
So it's not the fact that Linda is doing 14 session a week that makes her likely to become ill or injured, but that big 'spike' or inconsistency, in her training load.
Athletes who train too much, too soon, are at a higher risk of injury and illness than athletes who have a consistent training load and work towards larger training volumes.
A few simple guidelines to help athletes are:
- Low training loads may not prepare you enough for the demands of your sport;
- Be aware that very high training loads may lead to injury or illness;
- Breaks in training are fine, but athletes should take their time getting back to full training;
- Consistent levels of training are associated with lower rates on injury; and
- Large spikes in training loads may lead to injury and illness.
How do I train consistently?
- Here are some simple guidelines to help you train consistently and minimise the risk of injury and illness.
- Avoid inconsistent training patterns. Avoid large week-to-week changes in training load. Example: if you start playing a new sport or you have been selected into the state team and so have extra training or competitions, that would lead to a large increase in your training load. It is a good idea to communicate to all your different level coaches what your training looks like so they are all aware of your training and you don't do too much too soon.
- Avoid doing high volume weeks after low volume or no volume periods. Example: If you have had a few weeks off training to study for exams, think about the effect of going from no volume to high volume and how you work back up to a big training load.
- Be aware that break in training do not mean you come back "fresher" and ready to do even more training. Example: if you go on holiday with your family for a few weeks, be aware that going straight into lots of training will put you are more risk of injury and illness. You can not make up for missed training days as this will put you at increased risk.
- Understand how hard you must work in your competitions and make sure you are able to cope with this safely. Example: if you are going to Nationals and will play 8 games in one weekend, ensure that you have trained enough to meet the demands of competition. If you must increase training to meet the demands of competition, do it gradually.
- If you are planning to do high training loads ensure that you prepare for this over a longer period. Example: If you know you will be training or competing several times a day at an upcoming training camp or tournament, increase your training volume over a gradual time period.
- Listen to your body - if you are feeling tired or fatigued you may need to miss a session and have a rest and that's ok! remember to listen to your whole body - this includes how you're feeling mentally as well as physically. Example: at exam time you may not do any training because you are studying, and you will likely be under a lot of stress. Be aware that this mental stress can affect how you train and how your body reacts.
- If you increase training loads, be aware that you may have to increase your food intake to meet your increase energy demands. For more information see the nutrition page below.
You have just been on a 3 week holiday with your family. During the holiday you did not train or do much physical activity at all. You enjoyed the break and feel refreshed, and are keen to get back into training for your next big competition.
Your coach has said that you have come back so fresh she is going to do a few 'big' training weeks to get you back into it and get your fitness back as quickly as possible.
Stop! Why is this not a good idea?
- Do not try and 'make up' for training days missed.
- The spike in training load will make you more likely to get injured or ill.
Take Home Messages
Breaks from training do not protect athletes from injury or illness. However, they are crucial to ensure good mental health and employment. Equally important to taking a break is how you return to training. How many times have you or a fellow member sustained an injury when you come back from a break?
Note that this doesn't mean you can't take breaks - of course you can! Complete breaks can be good for mental health. The key thing to remember is that if you are having a break, you should gradually build back up to full-training and not come back with a massive week just because you're coming back 'fresh' after a few weeks off!
And remember that doing lots of different activities also helps prevent injuries (even unstructured activities such as backyard cricket or playing around with your friends).