Managing your training load above all else could be the most important consideration for all runners, or any sports persons for that matter. Up to 70% of all runners sustain an overuse injury in a given 12 month period. Therefore, given that overuse injuries are primarily due to tissue overload and overuse, managing your running load safely is paramount to minimise your injury risk.
Safe load management essentially means ensuring increases are done so in realistic increments. Challenging our tissues is essentially what brings about improvement, but ensuring this does not exceed their recovery capacity is vital. This is certain to be different between runners, and initially it can be difficult to gauge where your tissue capacity stands. Therefore, I encourage all runners in the early stages of running, to start conservatively and make gradual progressions so that these boundaries are tested beyond their capacity.
To effectively manage running load it is important to firstly understand what contributes to increases in load. The following are some examples of load characteristics with running:
- Running distance / time / duration
- Running pace / speed
- Running frequency
- Running technique / form
- Terrain (hills, camber, paths, grass etc.)
- Footwear / running shoes (including overall mileage)
- Muscle strength / power / flexibility
- Previous injury history
- Sleeplessness / fatigue
The trap a lot of runners fall into is unknowingly completing runs that make multiple load increases within a single run, therefore accumulating to a large loading spike. E.g. Running an equal distance, but slightly faster and inclusive of some hills / change of surface, after a stressful week and less sleep.
In summary, being aware of the factors that lead to increases in training loads, and ensuring that only one element is progressed in realistic increments is most important for injury prevention purposes in the early stages of running.