Key to Avoiding Injury While Training: Load Management for Runners

How much should I be running? Am I overtraining? How do I know if I need to let my body rest? If these are the questions you ask yourself, it may be beneficial for you to consider a concept called “training load management” where training load can be defined as either the distance run or time spent running (1).

Often runners find themselves in a dilemma where they want to push themselves to achieve performance goals but also want to balance this with enough rest to allow their body to properly recover. In fact, there is a relationship between sudden increases in training load and the occurrence of injury (2). One of the most susceptible groups to progressing too quickly and sustaining a running related injury is the novice runner (3).

So what is optimal load? The idea is to give your body enough stimulation so that change can be created without exceeding your body’s capacity to manage this stimulus. When there is an optimal level of load that is applied to our body, we adapt to this and become stronger as a result.

The easiest way to manage this is by gradually increasing your distance or time spent running. A 2014 cohort study compared weekly running distances in novice runners and found that those progressing by greater than 30% were at an increased risk of injury than those progressing by less than 10% (3). It is recommended that, especially for novice runners, the distance be increased by maximum 10%/week to allow your body to gradually adapt (3). When in doubt, running more frequently at smaller distances can be an effective way to prevent injury (4). My recommendation is to follow a training program, keep a logbook to track your runs, and listen to your body! Load safely out there!

Written by:

Casey Goheen
Registered Physiotherapist, MPT, MSc, BSc
Allan McGavin Sports Medicine Physiotherapy at Twist (North Vancouver)


Casey is a Registered Physiotherapist at Allan McGavin Sports Medicine Clinic in North Vancouver. Casey received her Masters of Physical Therapy degree from Queen’s University, following a Masters of Anatomical Sciences and Bachelor of Science from Queen’s University.

As a long distance runner herself, Casey has a passion for treating running related injuries and promoting safe rehabilitation back to sport. Casey has a special interest in working with young athletes and recognizes the demands of high level sport in this population. Casey is also GLA:D (Good Life with osteoarthritis in Denmark) certified and enjoys working with those experiencing hip and knee osteoarthritis get back to the things they love to do! As a SportMedBC InTraining Clinic Run Leader, Casey is committed to helping you stay injury free, train to perform your best, and achieve your running goals!


  1. Bertelsen, M. L., et al. "A framework for the etiology of running‐related injuries." Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports 27.11 (2017): 1170-1180.
  1. Drew, Michael K., and Caroline F. Finch. "The relationship between training load and injury, illness and soreness: a systematic and literature review." Sports medicine 46.6 (2016): 861-883.
  1. Nielsen, Rasmus Ostergaard, et al. "Excessive progression in weekly running distance and risk of running-related injuries: an association which varies according to type of injury." Journal of orthopaedic & sports physical therapy 44.10 (2014): 739-747.
  1. Willy, Richard W., et al. "Patellofemoral pain: Clinical practice guidelines linked to the international classification of functioning, disability and health from the Academy of Orthopaedic Physical Therapy of the American Physical Therapy Association." Journal of orthopaedic & sports physical therapy 49.9 (2019): CPG1-CPG95.