Hooper, S. L., MacKinnon, L. T., Howard, A, Gordon, R. D., & Bachmann, A. W. (1995). Markers for monitoring overtraining and recovery. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 27, 106-112.

Physiological measures (resting and exercise heart rates, blood pressure, oxygen consumption, blood levels of various enzymes and hormones), and subjective assessments of staleness, were monitored at five stages (early-, mid-, and late-season, in taper, and post-competition) of a six-month training program to determine if any were markers of overtraining and recovery. Ss (N = 14) were elite M and F Australian swimmers.

Staleness was defined as: a) a failure to improve in maximum effort training performance, b) a failure to improve in performance at the main annual competition, c) reports of excessive fatigue, d) a self-report of poor training response, and e) a self-perception of illness despite normal blood markers. Three of the Ss suffered all these symptoms.

Well-being ratings were recorded in log books. Evaluations of sleep quality, fatigue, stress, and muscle soreness were scored on a 1-7 scale with the high end being the worse recording. These ratings accounted for the greatest proportion of staleness measure variance. Late season stress ratings and plasma catecholamine levels at rest accounted for 85% of variance. During tapering, measures of well-being accounted for 72% of the variance in performance improvements.

It was concluded that self-reports of well-being may provide an efficient means of monitoring both overtraining and recovery. Plasma catecholamine levels at rest, the only blood/physiological variable to hint at a response, may provide an additional measure to cross-validate the psychological indications of the states.

Since physiological parameters change as a normal response to training, it is difficult to differentiate them from abnormal response associated with overtraining.

The authors observed the predictive validity of self-report psychological variables as being a major tool for assessing staleness. ". . . athlete's ratings of sleep and fatigue at the mid-season time point predicted the staleness score before the deterioration in performance became apparent several weeks later in the season." (p. 111)

Implication. Once again, psychological measures have been shown to be more sensitive and related to staleness and overtraining in swimmers than physiological and biochemical measures. Monitoring psychological variables is a more fruitful and accurate direction for training stress assessment than using physiological measures. Psychological self-reports predict the occurrence of eventual performance declines.

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