Kamell, K. S., Ekkekakis, P., & Sharp, R. L. (2006). Salivary cortisol and affective changes during a swimming training program. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 38(5), Supplement abstract 1549.

"Training overload is intended to improve performance but, in certain individuals, it may result in the overtraining syndrome, which is associated by a variety of psychological and physiological symptoms and even performance decrements". This study examined changes in salivary cortisol (C), Energetic Arousal (EA), and Tense Arousal (TA) during a structured competitive swimming training program. Male college swimmers (N = 21) were tested prior to the start of a 12-week competitive swimming training program (NCAA Division I) and at the end of weeks 4, 8, and 12. Saliva samples were collected at rest in the morning upon waking, and analyzed for cortisol. The Activation Deactivation Adjective Check List, a 20-item self-report measure of the bipolar affective dimensions of Energetic Arousal (ranging from Energy to Tiredness) and Tense Arousal (ranging from Tension to Calmness), was also completed on test days.

Changes in energetic arousal during the study were significant, being to both a decrease in Energy and an increase in Tiredness. At week 12, Energy was significantly lower and Tiredness was significantly higher than at the outset of the program. Changes in Tense Arousal and Cortisol were not significant. At week 12, when Energy Arousal was at its lowest and Tiredness was at its highest, Energy Arousal exhibited a negative (r = -0.47) and Tiredness exhibited a positive (r = 0.50) correlation with cortisol.

Implication. Self-reports of affect, particularly those related to reduced energy and increased Tiredness, are useful and convenient, non-invasive indices of training stress. Once again, psychological factors emerge as the first stage of a complex, hierarchical response to excessive training stress. The appropriate coaching response to such indices should be a reduction in workload for the athletes reacting in this way.

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