With the return of sport hopefully not too far away, the reality facing a lot of coaches and athletes might be the temptation to make up for lost time when it comes to training. In this post, the reasons why this might not be the best thing to do will be highlighted along with some recommendations on what might be a better way of returning to play safely.
When it comes to returning to sport, many of us would be familiar with the high volume, high intensity pre-season running and gym sessions completed in an attempt to ‘get fit’ again after a break from training. Unfortunately with this, many of us would too be familiar with the countless injuries sustained during pre-season.
Why is this?
Pre-season is generally the three- or four-month period (depending on the sport) in the run up to competition following an off-season period where, for the majority of athletes, no or very little training is completed. Pre-season is seen as a time where all the ‘hard-training’ is done before competition begins. However, the problem occurs with how this ‘hard-training’ is prescribed. Many athletes go from zero training in off-season to training three or more times a week at very high intensities. Studies have shown that rapid increases in training load result in increased risk of non-contact soft-tissue injuries being sustained.
So what is a rapid increase?
A rapid change in weekly training load is considered to be a >10% increase or decrease in the training load than that of the previous week (Piggott et al., 2009).
Athletes with very high weekly loads (table below) are also at an increased risk of sustaining non-contact soft-tissue injuries in pre-season.
|Very High Load (AU)|
|1-week load||≥1500 – ≤2120|
|2-week cumulative load||≥5980|
|3-week cumulative load||≥9154|
(AU = session RPE x duration of session in minutes)
A study conducted by (Malone et al., 2017) noted that there is a requirement for coaches to prescribe appropriate training loads which will increase the players fitness whilst also reducing the risk of, and protect against injury. Below are adequate 1, 2 and 3 weekly cumulative training loads for team sport athletes (soccer).
|Appropriate Load (AU)|
|2-week cumulative load||<3250|
|3-week cumulative load||<7260|
(AU = session RPE x duration of session in minutes)
As always, prescribing training loads is not a one size fits all approach. Every athlete is individual and training loads prescribed to athletes must be individual if they are to be effective.
So, what is wellness?
Wellness has been defined as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” by The World Health Organization. Wellness is multidimensional, meaning it has many different aspects and includes more than just ones physical health. These different dimensions include physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, social and environmental health.
How is this important in sport?
In recent years, the monitoring of athlete wellness has become more prevalent than ever with wellness questionnaires being one of the most common methods used to monitor wellness. Such questionnaires are mainly used to gain a subjective insight into an athletes perception of their wellness. This includes their response to training, readiness to play, sleep, mood state, recovery, stress and energy levels. The use of questionnaires allows for non-invasive, quick and sport-specific athlete wellness monitoring.
Research suggests that wellness measures can be used as a predictor for injury and illness among team-sport athletes. The key to effective wellness monitoring is education. It is important that the coach has the ability to make necessary adaptations to training programmes based on wellness measures provided by the athletes. By doing so coaches can have a major impact; reduce time and money lost due to injury, enhance recovery and optimise overall performance.
How Actimet is helping coaches do this.
Actimet allows athletes to log their wellness quickly and easily in as little as 15 seconds via the mobile app. Athletes are asked a series of questions regarding their sleep, energy, mood, stress and upper & lower body soreness, with a comments sections allowing for elaboration if desired. This information is then visible to coaches and additional support staff via an online coaches portal. The athlete data is displayed in a traffic light system which highlights athletes that may need attention. This allows for a conversation to be started between the coach and athlete that may otherwise not have happened. Actimet simplifies communication between coach and athlete and allows for a personalised team experience with player welfare being forefront.
In last week’s post, the acute chronic workload ratio (ACWR) was mentioned as a method of monitoring training load.
What is the ACWR?
In simple terms, the ACWR describes the relationship between your current training load and the training load you are prepared for. Your current training load is described as your acute workload, otherwise known as fatigue, and the training load you are prepared for is described as your chronic workload, otherwise known as fitness. Simply, it’s a ratio that can provide insight into an athletes preparedness for training or competition. The ACWR can be used to calculate our training ‘sweet-spot’ to ensure we are as prepared as possible for competition.
What is our training ‘sweet-spot’?
Our training ‘sweet-spot’ refers to the optimal workload we can work at whilst maintaining the lowest relative injury risk. The theory behind the ‘sweet-spot’ is very simple. If the ratio between the acute and chronic workload is too high, the athlete is over-training, therefore increasing the risk of injury. On the flip side, if the ratio is too low, the athlete is under-training and will be unprepared to meet the demands of their sport, similarly increasing the risk of injury. The ‘sweet-spot’ lies between 0.8 to 1.3.
(Adapted from Gabbett, 2016)
To ensure we are training within this ‘sweet-spot’, it is essential to monitoring our training workload. By monitoring our workload, we can easily identify if we are under-training or over-training. This will allow for adaptations to be made to training programmes if necessary. However, it is important to remember that each and every athlete is individual. The ‘sweet-spot’ numbers will not apply to every athlete, however they do provide a guide to follow.