Lately, Patrick Ward, has been hell bent on understanding the stress response, stress resistance and how it all applies to training. He’s offered a great series of blogs in the past few days, including one he was kind enough to share with you all reading this blog on quantification and qualification of stress in the training process. Enjoy!
In response to Monday’s blog post, Stress!!, the following question was asked
Getting into some of our conversation from yesterday, is there any way we can quantify this stuff without extreme ends? Have you used anything like the Profile of Mood States?
Carson, great question. Quantifying whether or not the athlete is under high amounts of stress and ready for intense/high quality work that day can be done several ways.
First, on my general intake form there is a question regarding the clients own subjective stress levels. This is something that I further enquire about when talking with the individual, as I want to try and determine where they are at before I start adding more stress. I’ll ask them about their sleep, their overall daily mood, and times when they feel the most stress.
Having a stress profile as you suggested can be helpful. Having the individual jot down and/or rate how well they slept the night before, how they feel today, are they sore, how hard would they rate the last workout, etc, can provide you with valuable information to plan training on a specific day. Additionally, resting heart rate and blood pressure can be taken and compared to previous tests to determine if they are at or around their general norm.
If you don’t want to have the athletes fill out paper work every time, you can also just talk to them and observe them during the warm up. Being a good observer is an important aspect of being a good coach. Notice how the athlete(s) look when walking into the gym. Are they looking sluggish? Do they look down? What is their overall posture like (this can tell a lot about a persons general mood)? From there, during the warm up, you may notice the athlete(s) moving in a slower or uncharacteristic manner. When I see things like this, I immediately start asking more questions. If I feel that the athlete is not prepared for intense/high quality training that day, based on what I see and the feedback I am getting, then we go ahead and do a back off day or we just do some soft tissue work and mobility exercises. I have also sent people home on certain occasions when I felt that taking a full day of rest would be the best thing for them. Additionally, knowing when stressful periods of the year are coming up can help you plan training. For example, you work with several collegiate athletes. Midterms and finals time would be a good time to turn down the training stress as the athletes are usually staying up late to study or write papers, and under high amounts of stress from taking tests all week.
Finally, performance measures can be used if you have a base to measure them against. A vertical jump or a broad jump (following a good warm up of course) can help to determine if the athlete is ready for strength or power work on a given day. I believe in Fleck and Kraemer’s Optimizing Strength Training, they recommend taking the average of three jumps. That number should be roughly 90% or greater than their normal vertical or broad jump if you are going to train power or strength that day. If it is below 90%, then the athlete is not prepared for high quality work that day and should take a back off day to allow for more recovery to ensure they are ready for the next intense workout.
Those are a few “low-tech” ways of evaluating the athlete, others may have additional ideas, so hopefully they leave the in the comments section. Of course you can also try and go more “high-tech” with things like the Omega Wave (which I confess I don’t know much about at this time) or even a Polar watch/heart rate monitor that can take your heart rate variability (HRV).