Stress + Recovery = Growth

A powerful equation that is equally applicable to all areas of your life.

The key to injury prevention is a sensible training structure with a planned gradual progression.

It is important to find the balance with this equation. One of the common mistakes seen in highly motivated runners is they push themselves too hard too often in training and end up over reaching.

The 2 most common risks for injury are

1) Load

2) Previous injury

As runners, we are inherently impatient, It’s a fine balancing act. The structures in our musculoskeletal system, especially tendons and bones, are very sensitive to load. Both structures require controlled and gradual exposure to load to strengthen and adapt, but too much of it and too much over a short period will often lead to overload and inevitable injury. Our musculoskeletal system like varying loads. Not dramatic, sudden changes in load, but varying loads.

Dont rush the process of development and expect results too quickly or you will end up disappointed over and over again.
Progress in running involves accepting where you are, training within your capabilities at present, not where you think you could be, not where you want to be, not where you used to be but where you are right now!

~~Let it come-don’t force it~~


The key is to find a fairly stable balance between stress and recovery that will allow you to achieve max adaptation, running at the correct intensities (ie easy is easy, mod is mod, threshold should be at threshold etc. The temptation for many is to push the pace too often when they are feeling good turning easy runs into moderate runs, mod to threshold runs become all out workouts and intervals become all out races. We need to become more disciplined to hold required intensities so that we can sustain training in the long term and not have to take unplanned time off. Its ultimately about adapting to the work you are putting in. We need to allow our physical and mental battery to recharge.

Be careful about how frequently and how hard we push ourselves. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking if you don’t maximally fatigue yourself in every workout that you won’t have done enough to stimulate improvement.

If you are pushing yourself into reserves too often and going to the bottom of the well, it is highly unlikely that you are going to be able to absorb the training that you are doing in the first place- going to the bottom of the well should only be done very sparingly.
Its also unlikely that you will be able to sustain decent quality workouts consistently over a period of months and this sort of consistency is one of the key ingredients to successful training.

Always keep sustainability in mind, playing the long game in terms of intensity and volume in your training- training hard but at a level that is appropriate in order to maintain consistency and mometum.
Know when to back off during training in bigger workouts in order to sustain what you are doing.

Keep something in the tank at the end of the majority of your workouts. Don’t force the session, err on the conservative side of your pace ranges- feel your run rather than being held ransom to data all of the time. There are too many variables that can affect a given intensity on a given day!

By doing this, you are not adding additional risk of injury or prolonged fatigue. So either running at a slightly lower intensity than what you could sustain for the vol of the workout or finishing the session knowing you could add nearly 20% more volume at the same intensity. When you do this, you are achieving most or all of the benefits that the session can offer and your form won’t suffer as a consequence of straining!!

So, the aim is not to push yourself to the max, rather work on areas of performance such as lactate threshold, aerobic capacity etc.
If you are running in a fatigued state very often(unrecovered, maybe stressed) you are likely to increase tissue load as you are exceeding what your body can cope with. I see this with a lot of runners following short aggressive plans that will only get them short term gains..

Its a case of working within your limits and not pushing your training beyond what your body can cope with.
What you accumulate week after week, month after month has a much greater impact towards your performance than 2 or 3 heroic efforts in workouts.

Tissue load is dependent on training





If we are looking at mileage only for monitoring training load, we are underestimating the total training stress.

Training load is the product of external(mechanical-distance and duration) and internal (physiological and psychological-RPE, HR, blood lactate) loads. So duration and distance but also the response to the duration and distance!

Frequency is another factor that we need to monitor as load, knowing the deeper details on someone’s training is important.

Another hugely important aspect in training to monitor is recovery strategy. If the proper recovery isn’t in place, then you will not adapt to the training load.

We need to allow sufficient time between really tough workout days.

Without ample recovery, we are more likely to see fatigue creep in, impairments in performance and potentially the development of injury.
Have your recovery days/week planned as part of your training also.
Move things around to get the most out of your training.

Rest and recovery is what makes you stronger and faster.

Also, why not get used to the RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion)scale, the 10 point scale, what the levels of the scale feel like, you will then get better more accurate results and continue to use it as part of your training load assessment.
RPE tends to be quite responsive- if we are feeling run down, fatigued, stressed, that perception of exertion can increase so it can give you an indication that more recovery is needed.

Subjective wellbeing and perception of effort are the best ways to monitor training loads and identifying over- training and if you are headed for burnout.

Nothing beats listening to your own body, your own thoughts, intelligence-gut instinct rather than using all of these gadgets and piling up on too much data unnecessarily.

Using measures of perceived exertion can sometimes provide more benefit over hr monitoring.

Dont over complicate things. Just enjoy the process of running.
To truly connect with your running, disconnect with all of this data surrounding you. Reflect during your run time, switch off from the world and take ownership of your run.

Michelle Greaney (National Level 2 Athletics Ireland Endurance Coach)


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