Monitoring the athlete training response: subjective self-reported measures trump commonly used objective measures

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Abstract

Background

Monitoring athlete well-being is essential to guide training and to detect any progression towards negative health outcomes and associated poor performance. Objective (performance, physiological, biochemical) and subjective measures are all options for athlete monitoring.

Objective

We systematically reviewed objective and subjective measures of athlete well-being. Objective measures, including those taken at rest (eg, blood markers, heart rate) and during exercise (eg, oxygen consumption, heart rate response), were compared against subjective measures (eg, mood, perceived stress). All measures were also evaluated for their response to acute and chronic training load.

Methods

The databases Academic search complete, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, SPORTDiscus and PubMed were searched in May 2014. Fifty-six original studies reported concurrent subjective and objective measures of athlete well-being. The quality and strength of findings of each study were evaluated to determine overall levels of evidence.

Results

Subjective and objective measures of athlete well-being generally did not correlate. Subjective measures reflected acute and chronic training loads with superior sensitivity and consistency than objective measures. Subjective well-being was typically impaired with an acute increase in training load, and also with chronic training, while an acute decrease in training load improved subjective well-being.

Summary

This review provides further support for practitioners to use subjective measures to monitor changes in athlete well-being in response to training. Subjective measures may stand alone, or be incorporated into a mixed methods approach to athlete monitoring, as is current practice in many sport settings.

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