Study highlights the benefits of subjective self-reporting measures in training

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Metrifit Athlete Monitoring Software

The benefit of subjective self-reporting measures in monitoring an athlete’s training response has been highlighted in a report published just last month.
The British Journal of Sports Medicine, carried the report which was conducted by Anna E Saw, Luana C Main and Paul B Gastin. From their systematic review they concluded that when it comes to monitoring the athlete training response, the subjective self reported measures are superior to the commonly used objective measures.

athlete_stretchingThe results of this study back up similar findings by Mladen Jovanovic’s conclusions in “Subjective Indicators in Monitoring pt 3” and Jill Borresen and Michael I. Lambert in “Quantifying Training Load: A Comparison of Subjective and Objective Methods” as they underline the importance of an athlete providing feedback as a means of ensuring athletes get the best out of their training programme. However, they also concluded that while here was negligible evidence for an association between subjective and objective measures, there are also benefits to analysing objective measures. The report suggests that monitoring of athletes should not be restricted to either subjective or objective and it is beneficial to use both approaches as they complement each other.

 

The need for monitoring

At the outset, the study noted that monitoring an athlete’s well-being is vital in helping structure training in order to avoid health issues and a decline in performance levels. The authors outline the need for monitoring as being essential in avoiding fatigue and ultimately, over-training syndrome.

“Training imposes stress on an athlete, shifting their physical and psychological well-being along a continuum that progresses from acute fatigue to overreaching, and ultimately overtraining syndrome.  While overreaching may be carefully incorporated into a periodised training plan, progression towards overtraining syndrome is undesirable. Athletes should be closely monitored to ensure training elicits the desired effects on athlete well-being and performance.”

It is accepted that this monitoring can be conducted through subjective measures (eg mood or stress), or by objective measures (eg blood markers, heart rate, oxygen consumption, heart rate response).

 

Findings

The research was conducted on 56 original studies which reported both subjective and objective measures of athlete well-being from May 2014. What the authors discovered was that their evaluation pointed to the ability of subjective measures to reflect acute and chronic training-related changes in athlete well-being, as they state:

“Subjective measures, particularly measures of mood disturbance, perceived stress and recovery and symptoms of stress, responded with superior sensitivity and consistency compared to objective measures …Within studies (i.e., under the same conditions), sensitivity, consistency and/or timing differed in 46% of studies and 85% of these favored subjective measures. Superior responsiveness of subjective measures over objective measures has been noted previously in experimental overload and observational studies.”

While the research concluded that subjective self-reported measures trump commonly used objective measures, the report acknowledges that there is value in objective measuring, when stating:

“While a lack of responsiveness is a limitation of objective measures for monitoring athlete well-being, their utility lies in measuring certain constructs which are related to athlete wellbeing……Athlete monitoring is not limited to either subjective or objective measures, instead they can be used to complement each other. Combining both types of measures is common in applied settings, as evident by the large number of studies included in this review and a recent survey of high performance sports.”

 

Summary

In reviewing their findings, the authors provide the following summary:

“Subjective well-being responded consistently to stress imposed by training, deteriorating with increased and chronic training and improving with reduced training. There was negligible evidence for an association between subjective and objective measures.
This was likely due to superior responsiveness of subjective measures over objective measures. Given that subjective measures reflect changes in athlete well-being and provide a practical method for athlete monitoring, coaches and support staff may employ self-report measures with confidence.”

 

Benefits of the study

The findings of the report are beneficial in that it highlights the importance of subjective measuring and in turns means that they can be implemented with confidence by practitioners. It also points to the benefit of using subjective measures in conjunction with other methods of monitoring. The report also reveals that subscales which evaluate non-training stress, fatigue, physical recovery, general health/well-being and being in shape are responsive to both acute and chronic training.

 

Other studies

The findings of the study by the Br J Sports Med are supported by Mladen Jovanovic’s conclusions in Subjective Indicators in Monitoring pt 3 when he states:

“Based on the research provided, subjective indicators of acute and immediate training effect provide excellent and simple feedback data that coaches can use to adjust training workloads to achieve pre-defined goals and to avoid overtraining, injury, underperformance and illness.”

He acknowledges that more data is required to develop means of using subjective indicators in planning, programming and adjusting training, but adds that they are useful in both the research and practical application. Meanwhile Jill Borresen and Michael I. Lambert in “Quantifying Training Load: A Comparison of Subjective and Objective Methods”, provide further evidence of the benefits of subjective measures. Following their 2008 study aimed at establishing the relationship between subjective and objective indicators, they conclude:

“The session-RPE (subjective) method provides reasonably accurate assessments of training load compared with HR-based (objective) methods, but they deviate in accuracy when proportionally more time is spent training at low or high intensity”.

Metrifit allows for the collection and collation of both subjective and objective variables as well as allowing for that all important feedback through various communication portals and in turn promotes education, motivation and improvement.

 

References
Monitoring the athlete training response: subjective self-reported measures trump commonly used objective measures: a systematic review – Anna E Saw, Luana C Main, Paul B Gastin
Subjective Indicators in Monitoring pt 3 by Mladen Jovanovic
Quantifying Training Load: A Comparison of Subjective and Objective Methods,
Jill Borresen and Michael I. Lambert