• Dr. Pat McSweeney PT, DPT

Burning the candle at both ends.


“How can I lower my risk of getting injured while training?”

It’s a common question that I get as a Physical Therapist and Endurance Coach. Although aches and pains can happen, there are ways to structure our programming in order to reduce our overall risk of injury. The two most common answers that I give are: avoid doing too much, too soon, or going too hard, too often.


Before we jump into these two principles, we have talked about the benefits of strength training (here) and the impact that it can have on reducing injury risk. This is a big piece of the puzzle when it comes to reducing injury risk, but typically the first place to start is with dialing in proper training load and recovery. Before we assess mechanics, strength etc. a lot of insights can be pulled from the volume and intensity of training that an athlete is completing on a weekly basis.


Too much, too soon:


This refers to a significant ramp in volume or intensity in an athlete’s workouts. This is typically seen in athletes coming off of an extended break in training or in those who are brand new to training.


Looking back at my injury when I first started triathlon training, this was definitely the culprit. I basically doubled my running mileage within the span of 2 weeks. Not the smartest move and had to learn a tough lesson the hard way.


What to do: Avoid increasing your training volume by more than ~10% in any given week. This allows for a steady ramp in training volume and adequate time for your body to adapt to the new training stimulus you are putting it through. 10% is not a hard and fast rule and can vary from athlete to athlete, but this is a solid general reference point.


Too hard, too often (without adequate recovery)


This refers to too many training sessions performed at a hard effort or high intensity with not enough time allowed for recovery in between. This is another common training error that I see when athletes are consistently pushing high intensity efforts without allowing the body to recover and absorb the training stimulus.


The analogy of burning the candle at both ends comes to mind. As intensity is built into a training plan, sleep and recovery become more and more important. A quality night of sleep is the best recovery tool that we have at our disposal. 7-9 hours of sleep with roughly half of that as quality sleep (deep non-REM sleep and REM sleep) is the gold standard according to the most recent research.
















What to do: 80/20 principle. 80% of training done at low to moderate intensity and 20% at high intensity.

Prioritize recovery especially as your training load ramps up. If possible, track your sleep, resting heart rate, and heart rate variability closely in order to make more well informed decisions on when to push intensity (we will talk more about these concepts later).













Dialing in both our intensity and volume in our training plan can go a long way to reducing our risk of injury. Strength training and adequate mobility/stability/motor control are important pieces as well, but nailing the proper training load and recovery stimulus will allow you to train consistently while reducing your overall risk of injury.




Whether you want to cross the finish line for the first time or you are looking to set a new personal best, we are here to help. For more information on how you can reach the starting line of your next race healthier and fitter than ever, email pmcsweeney@pro-activity.com or message us directly on Instagram @pro-activity_ohio.



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