Training During Isolation: A Guide To Load Management

I don’t know about you, but since my gym has closed due to isolation I have been keen to continue exercising regularly. Despite my years of experience being involved in sport both as a player and working as a physio I did not follow my own good advice! I dived into a running program too quickly and at a high intensity and as a result I have had a flare up of achilles pain and stiffness.

This is a great time to advocate the importance of load management when starting a new exercise program. Many people are keen to increase their daily activity while in isolation as a way to keep healthy both mentally and physically. Due to the closure of gyms and the proliferation of virtual workouts I have noticed many people out running or participating in online workouts such as HIIT (high intensity interval training). These are activities that can cause injury if the body does not have time to adjust.

Load management can be controlled by calculating an athlete’s training load. This is done by combining two measures:

  • External load: How much physical ‘work’ you are doing. Measured using metres ran, weight lifted, number of balls thrown as examples.
  • Internal load: Your body’s response to the load. This can be measured using the RPE scale (rate of perceived exertion) shown below, heart rate or lactate levels.

At the end of each training session an athlete can multiply their external load by internal load using RPE (score out of 10). The aim for effective training is to increase by no more than 10% per week to minimize the risk of injury.

For example:

Week 1: 

Run 5km, RPE 4.  Training load=20

Week 2: 

Run 5.5km, RPE 4.  Training load=22

This is an increase of 10% training load

However, if you were to run 6km in week 2 this would be a 20% increase in training load and will put you at a higher risk of injury.

Studies have shown that if training load is fairly constant (between 5-10% increase) per week the risk of injury is low (<10%). However, if training load is high (>15% increase) the risk of injury increases to between 21% and 49%!

So my message for those getting out on the running track during 2020 is this:

  • Take a measure of your training load at the start of your program
  • Aim to increase training load by approximately 10% per week
  • If you have pain or injury get assessed by a physio (telehealth and face to face consultations are available at Fitwise)
  • If you are postnatal: please see our previous blog on “Return to running after having a baby” 

If you would like advice regarding training programs for running, weightlifting, HIIT or any other type of exercise, our physiotherapists can help. We also have expert knowledge about injuries that may arise due to over training or poor load management and can help you to get back on track.

As for me I am going to follow my own advice and reduce my training load as well as focus on my strength and running technique over the next few weeks…

Please note that information provided in this article is general advice only. For individual advice, we recommend a consultation. For more information or if you are experiencing symptoms of osteoarthritis and would like to book an appointment, you can…

  • Contact our friendly reception team on 9822 4999 (Armadale) or 9486 0512 (East Melbourne)
  • Book online. Select ‘make a booking’ in the top right-hand corner of the screen and follow the prompts
  • Email us on

Source: Bourdon, P.C., Cardinale, M., Murray, A., Gastin, P., Kellmann, M., Varley, M.C., Gabbett, T.J., Coutts, A.J., Burgess, D.J., Gregson, W., Cable, N.T. (2017). Monitoring athlete training loads: Consensus statement. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 12:S2161-S2170.

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