The Lighter Load

Load management for non-professional athletes

Winter is well behind us, and many people who slowed down - or even stopped - their exercise routines during the colder months are hitting the trails, hopping on their bikes, and heading for the gym to get back into shape.


There are a myriad amateur sporting events to get ready for, trails to explore and roads waiting for your feet or wheels. It’s a fun, exciting time, and with December and its holidays just around the corner, loads of free time to really get into the action. It’s also a very good time to sit back for a few minutes and get to grips with the concept of load management.


Load management is something that primarily occupies the thoughts of professional athletes, their coaches and their physiotherapists. The training load refers to the amount and type of exercise an athlete engages in to get ready for the competitive season. Pro athletes do not maintain the same levels of activity throughout the year and during their downtime between seasons they will maintain a slower pace and a reduced training load. Once it comes time to prepare for the season again, they will dramatically increase the amount and types of exercise they do in order to be in peak performance condition.


Just like a truck’s axle will break if you overload it and don’t distribute the load properly, you can cause serious injury if you overdo one type of exercise, or don’t balance it out with a variety of workouts. Unlike a truck, however, the human body can be trained to tolerate heavier loads over time, and that’s where load management comes in. It’s the principle of systematically increasing the training load, and balancing it with recovery periods, while ensuring every part of the body receives the necessary amount of attention. After all, an injury to a professional sportsperson can be a career ender. But do these principles apply to amateur athletes? Absolutely!


All too often, amateur sports enthusiasts are in a hurry to get back to their preferred events as quickly as possible once the season starts. They will assume that they will be able to pick up right where they left off, without having to build back up to it… and that’s when people get seriously injured. The reason for injuries is usually attributed to being insufficiently prepared to take on the rigours of your chosen sport. That’s why it is super important to allow your body to build its stamina and strength back up before leaping straight into half-marathons and 90-odd kilometre cycle races.


While professional athletes have coaches and physiotherapists at their beck and call, non-professionals may need to seek out advice to ensure they’re balancing their load properly. Take the time to do this, as half an hour of good advice can prevent a lifetime of chronic pain from injury.