Achilles pain training errors: Large increases in weekly mileage

Updated: Aug 19, 2019

Training Error Series:

About 80% of overuse running injuries, like on-going Achilles tendon pain, can be attributed to training error. In this blog we explore why monitoring your weekly mileage is important for injury prevention. This article is part of our training error series where we’ve also looked at the Boom & Bust Cycle, Training Intensity and Recovery.



In this article:

  • Why is monitoring my mileage important?

  • How do I monitor it?

  • What should I be doing?


Why is monitoring my mileage important?


Weekly mileage is part of measuring the amount of physical work you are doing as part of your training. It is thought that if you increase the total volume (number of weekly miles) by 30% or more in a week, it can increase your injury risk.


Achilles tendinopathy is an example of an injury that might occur if you increase your weekly mileage too quickly. However, more research is needed to look into how it links to specific injuries.


How do I monitor it?


The easiest way of doing this is by simply tracking your mileage over the last few weeks, adding up the total each week and then comparing them. When you compare them what, percentage increase did you have each week?


For example:

Total mileage week 1 = 50km

Total mileage week 2 =55km

55 – 50 = 5

5 / 50 x 100 = 10% increase


Top Tip: Also look into the future and repeat this for the training you have planned.



What should I be doing?


The traditional advice has been to increase mileage by 10% increments per week. There is some debate over this, because when mileage is low 10% can be a minimal difference in your weekly mileage. However, when your weekly mileage is high 10% can mean a large increase.


So if you’re averaging a low weekly mileage e.g. 0-10km, a maximum weekly increase of 30% could be an option. If you’re averaging a higher weekly mileage e.g. 20km or more, sticking with the recommended 10% increase may be more sensible. Between 10-20km per week, a 20% increase may be appropriate.


The idea is to help your body adapt to your new endurance exercise stimulus and not fatigue, whilst also reducing injury risk.


In strength training, a training plan where you increase your weights for 3 weeks and then decrease them for 1 week (to allow your body to fully adapt and recover) has been shown to be beneficial. The same strategy is also applied in running to help reduce the risk of injury but still gain the maximum from training.


Top Tip: On every fourth week consider dropping your weekly mileage by 5-10% to allow your body to recover.


When designing or tweaking training programmes at TreatMyAchilles.com we take into account not only your mileage but also the intensity you train at, your symptoms and how they respond over 24 hours, your sleep and recovery, other weekly activities that you have to do e.g. work and childcare as well as those you like to do e.g. other sports. This combined allows us to design a tailor made programme to keep you training whilst also rehabilitating your Achilles problem.


Let me know if you have any questions. You're welcome to consult us online via video call for an assessment of your injury and a tailored treatment plan.

Best wishes

Alison


About the Author:

Alison Gould is a chartered physiotherapist and holds an MSc in Sports and Exercise Medicine. You can follow her on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.




References:

  1. Gabbett, Tim J. "The training—injury prevention paradox: should athletes be training smarter and harder?." Br J Sports Med 50.5 (2016): 273-280.

  2. Nielsen, Rasmus Østergaard, 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.

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