Load management is the most effective tool that the Australian Institute of sport has implemented in the past 30 years, according to Mick Drew, an epidemiologist employed by the AIS. It's reduced the likelihood of injury dramatically and with methods that can be measured.

The concept is simple. It starts with athletes monitoring their load, easily done with a GPS system like that pictured in the above photo.. There are two categories of extrinsic load, acute and chronic. In runners, this would be the total number of kilometers run in a given time period. Let's say a week. A week's worth of kilometers is the acute load.

Then there is the chronic load. This is what you often hear runners refer to as their "base" load. This is the volume runners normally capable of running over a given period of time, and averaged out for the previous four weeks.

The ratio of acute:chronic load is a key number, and can predict how exercise should be progressed.

A simple way to think about this is an example. Say you ran 10 Kilometers in a week. Your acute weekly load would be 10Ks. Now say you ran 10 Kilometers each week for four weeks. Your chronic load would also be 10Ks (10Ks x 10Ks x 10Ks x 10Ks/4weeks). This brings the equation acute:chronic to 10Ks:10Ks, or 1.

What if in the next week, the runner wants to run 15 Kilometers? Their chronic load would still be 10Ks x 10Ks x 10Ks x10Ks/4 or 10Ks. However their acute load would be 15ks. The acute:chronic load is now 15:10 or 1.5.

It turns out, this ratio can predict the likelihood of injury quite well. And the ratio you want to maintain is somewhere between 0.8 and 1.3. Beyond 1.3, the relative risk of injury increases dramatically, and at 2, the probability of injury is very high.

Chronic loads are protective to some effect, meaning they create a level of adaptation that is physiologically beneficial and protective of injury. If you train consistently, this is beneficial, and protective and will lead to better results.

However, to run further or faster, you need to increase this load. How you get there is key!

If there is a sudden change in the acute load, or a spike in the data, this is a red flag warning sign for injury especially beyond the acute:chronic workload of 1.3 in the above graph. These spikes might occur for different reasons, and might be positive, meaning an increase in load ramping up for an event or training camp. Or it might be negative, from a missed week's training, return from injury or holiday or travel.

The point is to collect the data and look out for spikes in training.

To drive this point home, Michael Drew recalls looking at the data for the AIS and noticed that the time with the greatest injury rate for their athletes always followed the return from the Christmas Holidays in January. This was the big spike in their data.

They now inform the athletes and have them either continue to do some training over holidays, or lower their re-introduction to heavier training loads for up to 6 weeks.

They have also done away with training camps, where athletes might be encouraged to suddenly double their weekly loads. Or, if they still do the training camps, they have athletes complete homework that is akin to 'pre-loading', so that the acute load is not more than is safe. They also remove exercises that create unnecessary demands on athletes. For example, there is no need for Judo Athletes to suddenly complete sprints at a training camp. It's not specific to their sport, and, in fact, has led to more AIS hamstring injuries in Judo than anything else. Removing sprints, and adding acceptable load increases, prevents injuries and allows for consistency in training!

As for a return to activety from time away from sport, there is no simple solution. Regarding injury, rehabilitation needs to be functional. The Athlete needs to be prepped, also, so that the demands their body is put under do not exceed its capacity. But what about time away from training? For example, holidays? An interesting concept also emerged from the AIS' work that computes an equation about holiday down time, and how quickly one can return to full training loads.

What if in the next week, the runner wants to run 15 Kilometers? Their chronic load would still be 10Ks x 10Ks x 10Ks x10Ks/4 or 10Ks. However their acute load would be 15ks. The acute:chronic load is now 15:10 or 1.5.

It turns out, this ratio can predict the likelihood of injury quite well. And the ratio you want to maintain is somewhere between 0.8 and 1.3. Beyond 1.3, the relative risk of injury increases dramatically, and at 2, the probability of injury is very high.

This concept is a game changer for any coach, athlete or program that wants to develop a results oriented training program. Results will come from consistency in training avoiding any down time lost to injury. There are also other loads which I have not discussed, such as internal loads. (These are important variables, for example a fit athlete and an untrained office worker would have very different internal demands/loads when running the same external load of 5ks). The take home message here is that monitoring your training loads is a great start in preventing injury. Managing your training loads is actually capable of giving you positive gains, and preventing your chance of injury.