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Achilles pain training errors: Too much high intensity training

Updated: Sep 28, 2019

Training Error Series:

  1. Common Achilles pain training errors: Boom and Bust Cycles

  2. Achilles pain training errors: Not enough R & R

  3. Achilles pain training errors: Large increases in weekly mileage

  4. Achilles pain training errors: Too much high intensity training (this article)

If you’ve been following the Training Error Series you’ll know by now that ongoing Achilles pain can often be caused by errors like pushing your training volume too quickly, following a Boom and Bust cycle and not getting enough quality recovery between sessions. In fact, research has shown that 80% off ALL overuse injuries can be traced back to mistakes in training volume, intensity or frequency. In this post we explore how to monitor your training intensity and why that’s important.



In this article:

  • What is high intensity training?

  • What should I be doing?

  • How do I know if I’m training at the right intensity?

  • How can I organise my training better?


What is high intensity training?


When looking at running, high intensity training is your faster shorter runs or speed work (e.g. track session, interval training, and hill workouts). The lower intensity training consists of your longer slower runs. If you look at other activities / sports you do, can you classify them as high intensity (for example a circuit training session or HIIT workout), or low intensity (for example a walk or yoga).


Achilles pain can be linked to increasing your overall activity too quickly, but also to sudden changes in intensity (speed/ intervals / hill work). We tend to run more on our toes (in plantarflexion) when we do high intensity runs which makes our calf and Achilles work very hard. If we have a robust calf and Achilles tendon they can withstand the load asked of them. If we have an Achilles tendinopathy or less robust muscles and tendons in the rest of our legs, this can aggravate or create symptoms.


What should I be doing?


The ideal balance is 80% low intensity to 20% high intensity training to provide the optimal conditions for endurance adaptations to occur.


How do I know if I’m training at the right intensity?


If you are training for an event and are unsure what minute per mile you should be running to hit a target time in an event, there are free online tools to help you with this. A good measure of how hard you are working is the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE).



It allows you to score yourself out of 10 depending on how you are feeling and allows you to work out if you’re working at the right intensity for you at this given moment. The recommendation is that:

  • on long slow runs your RPE score should be between 0 to 4;

  • on tempo runs between 4 to 6.5;

  • and for speed and high intensity sessions more than 6.5.

If you have wearable technology like a watch or chest strap, you may also be able to monitor your heart rate and therefore work out a percentage of age related maximum heart rate. However, it may be worth taking into account that these measuring devices may not be entirely accurate and we also have daily variations in our heart rate of up to 6.5%.



How can I organise my training better?


Your training intensity needs to reflect where you are now and where you want to go. Keep in mind the 80:20 guideline and make sure that you also look at all the other high intensity activities that you’re doing when you plan your training. Remember not to increase your mileage too quickly and allow enough quality recovery time.


Let me know if you have any questions. Need more help with your Achilles injury? You can consult us online via video call for an assessment of your injury which includes a detailed analysis of your training programme and all other factors that may be contributing to your pain. This enables us to create a tailored treatment plan which is aligned with your goals and fit in with the other aspects of your life.

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. Dantas, José Luiz & Christian, Doria & Rossi, Huber & Rosa, Gabriele & Pietrangelo, Tiziana & fanò-illic, Giorgio & Nakamura, Fabio. (2014). Determination of Blood Lactate Training Zone Boundaries With Rating of Perceived Exertion in Runners. Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association. 29.

  2. Seiler, Stephen, and Espen Tønnessen. "Intervals, thresholds, and long slow distance: the role of intensity and duration in endurance training." Sportscience 13.13 (2009): 32-53.

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