What Does Load Tolerance Mean?



As it turns to fall here in the mountains, it means skiing is just a few short weeks from beginning. Many people wonder what they can do to prevent injury during the season. Ski conditioning classes are popping up all over the valley. Which is fantastic.

The concept of load tolerance is a great thing to understand when trying to prevent injury, and one that many people don’t understand very well. A quote I heard recently about this is “Many injuries occur after doing too much too fast after doing too little for too long.” This brings into play 2 concepts for training and recovering from injury load tolerance and grading.

Load tolerance, which I will address in this post, is the ability for your tissues to handle a certain amount of stress and deal with it. Grading is the concept of building up your tissues to handle more stress.

We innately understand load tolerance. Everyone has a limit. Its just sometimes we minimize it or forget about it in our daily life. If I told you without any training, how would your body handle running an ultramarathon or doing an ironman, you would understand that you wouldn’t be able to do it, or you would have some serious issues. We also understand that people who train for these events can do them.

When we don’t understand load tolerance this can lead to issues in understanding and prolonging injuries. Many activities we do here in the mountains are seasonal because of our climate. We ski in winter. We bike and hike in summer. There are other examples of course. Even if we are relatively active and staying in decent shape these various activities can places different demands on our body. Sometimes we finish a season of one activity and don’t do it for months then expect to pick it right back up again like we never left. If we do this too hard or too fast we can run into load tolerance issues. Our body is telling us it may be stressed too much in that way and may give us tightness, fatigue, or pain.

The problem in not understanding load tolerance, is that we can misdiagnose problems easily. Many times we assume if something is painful, it must be damaged, broken, out of place, or somehow off. We can focus on trying to “fix” things. We reason I have done this before without pain. Now it hurts. It must need fixing. Sometimes the way we increased activity changes. Sometimes we have changed our other activities. Sometimes our bodies change. Its worth looking if something has been damaged of course. But, many times what needs to occur is we need to look at our activity level. This could mean anything from backing off a bit, to resting, to altering a training plan.

I see many people who are convinced something must be very damaged because it hurts when they do their sport. Once we tweak their training plan, and work on a way to build it back up, they are able to get going again. This involves grading and we I will address this in another post.

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