New Years Resolutions – Check yourself before you wreck yourself

New Years Resolutions – Check yourself before you wreck yourself

New Year’s resolutions are born from the hope and optimism that naturally comes from the clicking over of a new calendar year, and in this case a new decade – “New Year, New Me!”. But strapping on your wheels and hitting KP Cliffs for 10 sets of stairs is sure way to shut down those fresh feelings and replace them with pain and pessimism and leave you lamenting, “Why me?”. 

For all those taking on new physical activity and fitness-based goals, there are two scenarios that occur over the holiday period, either: 

  1. You haven’t been active for sometime and are super keen to start back up again after months or years on the sidelines
  2. You have been exercising semi-regularly but are keen to pump it up a notch and work out a lot harder to get into even better shape 

When confronted by the physical challenges ahead, I introduce to you, LOAD MANAGEMENT.  Whether you’re a beginner or consider yourself advanced when it comes to physical activity, the tools we’re about to discuss are all very important when it comes to keeping you training.

It also doesn’t matter whether you’re taking up gym, running, swimming or simply a new walking program, it is still relevant. It is also extremely relevant this time of year for your kids getting back to sport after a period of rest. Often they get an acute load spike as soon as school starts with both school and club trials getting in to full swing simultaneously. 

But firstly………..what is load?

Load has long been monitored in professional sports and there is a growing body of evidence surrounding these concepts in athletes training programs.  Load’ is a term that is used to describe how much training/competition an athlete undertakes over a designated period of time. One way to measure it involves calculating your Arbitrary Value: 

Arbitrary Value (a measure of load) = Minutes of Exercise x Perceived Rate of Exertion (1-10 on an RPE Scale)

Example: Run / Swim / Gym Session: 60 mins x 5/10 = 300

The benefits of being able to calculate load, is that we can monitor what you’re doing compared to what you have done previously, and program appropriate future exercise involvements. Training a lot isn’t a bad thing, and this is a common misconception when it comes to load management. High absolute loads of exercise isn’t particularly bad in it’s own right, with multiple studies suggesting it can actually be protective of injury. Training a lot may actually improve the robustness of your body and your ability to avoid injury. The most critical element is HOW YOU BUILD YOURSELF UP TO TRAIN AT THESE HIGH LOADS.  As a result, Physiotherapists have developed rules and  tools to effectively manage an athlete’s load to safely increase their training and fitness. 

Load Management – How do I monitor and manage my load?

So what do you do once you have your total amount of training load? We can compare and manage load in 2 ways, and we will go through them both today: 

  1. Week to Week – comparison of two consecutive ACUTE loads only. 
  2. Week to Month – comparison of the ACUTE load (current week) to the average of the previous 4 weeks (i.e. The Acute: Chronic Workload Ratio) 

Week-to-Week Comparisons

There have been multiple studies across different sports in Australia identifying the most appropriate way of safely increasing your training.  Piggott et al, showed that 40% of injuries were associated with a rapid change (>10%) in weekly training load in the preceding week with AFL players. This was also supported in rugby union. With regards to specific injury risk, players who maintained a relatively constant training schedule (maximum increases of 5-10%) demonstrated a <10% risk of injury. If there was a training error and the load was increased by ≥15%, injury risk increased dramatically to between 21% and 49% (see graph below). 

This leads us Physiotherapists to always recommend increasing training load by <10% in order to minimise the risk of injury. 

Gabbett, T. 2016, The training—injury prevention paradox: should athletes be training smarter and harder? Br J Sports Med, Vol. 50, Pgs. 273–280. 


Chronic load represents the average amount of load of the preceding 4 weeks of activity. I like to think of this as your current level of fitness! The ratio which represents the comparison is called the Acute:Chronic Workload Ratio. Put simply, it’s your current week of exercise compared to your previous 4 weeks of exercise. 

There are established relationships between training too little (detraining) and training too much and an increased injury risk. The clearest picture that represents this relationship is from Tim Gabbett below. 

  1. The ‘Sweet Spot’ represents a change in current load of 0.8-1.3x compared to the previous 4 weeks. This area has the lowest risk of injury!! 
  2. The ‘Danger Zone’ represents a change in current load greater than 1.5x compared to the previous 4 weeks. This area has a higher risk of injury. As you’ll see to the left of the graph, your injury risk increases a little if you’re doing a lot less than normal (0.5x) – this is called a detraining effect. 

Gabbett, T. 2016, The training—injury prevention paradox: should athletes be training smarter and harder? Br J Sports Med, Vol. 50, Pgs. 273–280. 

DIY Calculations

I have put a little table below of my workings in order to make these small calculations make sense. As I mentioned earlier, it doesn’t matter what type of exercise you’re doing, we can still calculate and therefore monitor the load placed on the body. The weeks below range from 2-3 bout of exercise per week, and with a subtle increase of activity in Week 5 we can see the ACWR is 1.17. Which is well within our happy range!

Week 1

Run:  30 mins x 6/10

Gym: 75 mins x 5/10

Walk: 60 mins x 1/10

Week 2

Run:  15 mins x 8/10

Gym: 75 mins x 2/10

Week 3

Run:  25 mins x 9/10

Gym: 75 mins x 2/10

Walk: 60 mins x 1/10

Week 4

Run:  45 mins x 4/10

Gym: 60 mins x 4/10

Week 5

Run:  30 mins x 6/10

Gym: 75 mins x 2/10

Run: 30 mins x 5/10




TOTAL = 615



TOTAL = 270




TOTAL = 435



TOTAL = 420




TOTAL = 510

CHRONIC LOAD:   1740 / 4  = 435 CURRENT 


= 510

Acute : Chronic Workload Ratio (ACWR) = 510 / 435 = 1.17

These calculations above can easily be tabulated in an Excel document. 

Take Home

Now that you have a simple tool to calculate the amount of exercise you’re doing and a few little rules to follow, you’re ready to kick off your new year’s resolution, and hopefully avoid hurting yourself! 

  1. Don’t do too much, too soon!! Make gradual changes to your load/training (e.g. 10% progression each week)
  2. After extended periods of detraining (e.g. life being hectic, injury/illness, holidays), start your gradual build again. Don’t assume you can start where you left off. 
  3. Once you’re exercising frequently again, try to avoid significant drops or increases in exercise – try to stay consistent. 
  4. Plan your training to match your goals and your abilities – remember to include some rest or ‘down’ weeks for recovery. Your body needs to adapt physiologically to the training, so it needs appropriate recovery time (even if your brain is telling you to keep going for your resolutions-sake).

Jarred Edwards, Physiotherapist

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