Load Management in Adolescent Rowers

Written by Megan Fraumano

Coaches: Have you ever planned a great session, only to realise that your crew is having a flat day, and completely adapt what you had planned? This is the sign of a coach who is tuned in to their athletes.

Load management is how we describe the balance between training enough to be fast/strong/technically competent, vs overtraining and injury. This line can be a thin one that requires a coach to be finely tuned to their athletes.

With school rowing, we commonly see injured rowers in our clinic in term 1. In Ballarat, in particular, we have an extremely short amount of time between term 1 rowing resuming, and Head of the Lake. This puts our rowers at a high risk of injury during this period.

The AIS has produced a White Paper on Training Load that states:

* If an athlete trains at 60% of their normal volume and intensity, it takes two weeks to progressively return to full training load and reduce injury risk.

* Athletes are at a higher risk of injury on returning to training after a prolonged reduction in training load due to planned rest, tapering, illness or injury.

* The time taken to return to full training, should be proportional to the length of break, and the amount of training achieved during this break.

* Camps or intensive training blocks should not be planned within 4 weeks of a training trough due to rest or injury.

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Obviously, these recommendations do not fit with our traditional school based training programs that often include and enforced break from water training over the summer holidays, commonly followed by an intense rowing camp just before term 1 begins. With this knowledge, there is a responsibility for coaches to ensure that their rowers maintain a high (but safe) level of training over the holidays (proportionate to their term 4 training load), and adapt rowing camp and term 1 training loads accordingly.

Adequate rest and recovery is extremely important throughout the season, but so is ensuring that our rowers don’t experience extremely sharp increases in unaccustomed load in order to minimise injury risk.

If you would like to know more about rowing injury prevention, check out my notes on common rowing injuries, injury prevention in teenage rowers, and overuse injuries in paediatrics and adolescents.